Some years ago I pondered how it was that the elites of the world faced a dilemma in that there were so many problems going on simultaneously that being able to hold attention to more than one of them was a difficult proposition. It appears, though, that this is often a feature rather than a bug. Frequently, we see that the multiplicity of problems to deal with is often an excuse not to deal with them at all, and this is especially evident in problems which require delicate handling. Over and over again when it comes to matters of frozen conflicts, unless some side intervenes with massive force, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the contemporary global community as a whole is largely content to let conflicts freeze to the detriment of people caught up in the midst of these conflicts–witness, for example, Bougainville with the seeming inability of the government of Papua New Guinea to begin the devolution process, or the decades-long problems with the status of Taiwan, Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, or Somaliland where progress seems pretty non-existent.
As human beings we have limited attention spans, and so when people try to bring something to our attention, we have to question why this is done. We must always ponder the agenda of what is involved in a given effort of reportage. There are frequently aspects of anything that may catch our attention that are in fact worthy of attention, but there are also invariably other things that are worthy of attention, and it is worth asking what is it about the given current thing that is being promoted that is worthy of attention and simultaneously what reasons exist for wanting to distract attention from the previous current thing. Once we are aware of the fact that not only the specific framing but even the focus of attention on something are aspects of deception, we can view the press as being like a magician using sleight of hand to distract attention from an important place and putting it on a less important place where actions can be taken to avoid attention being put on the “wrong” things.
When we examine attention we must look at the timing of that attention as well as the ends to which that attention is put. Problems and crises, for example, repeatedly have long lead times where not a lot of attention is put on the preparatory efforts that create the crisis in the first place. During this phase actions are taken to lead to a desired undesirable outcome that will draw hostility and anger and fear but where attention has not been placed on a problem so that its preparation can go along without difficulties. It is only when a given planned crisis has reached a level of development that attention is placed to it, along with the goal of reducing freedom and giving more power to authorities to provide for peace and safety–which they are unable to provide but want the power to seek these ends anyway. Then, when it is time to look to the ends to which this power and authority are used, it is time to distract attention away from the messy and corrupt details once again, and so that attention is placed elsewhere so that people cannot see how the authorities fail to address the concerns and provide for the well-being of people with the power that they have gained.
Where is the dilemma in all of this then, given that the template is so obvious? The dilemma is that the pattern itself invites skepticism and examination, and the placing of attention into undesirable aspects of the process–namely in the lead-up where the hand of authorities in creating the crisis can be found, and in the aftermath, where the absence of meaningful and worthwhile action taken to resolve problems effectively and the corruption that can be found in how money and power are acquired and used can lead to a loss of trust and confidence in those corrupt authorities. If it becomes too obvious that reportage is being engaged in a fraudulent manner and that certain corrupt authorities are not being held accountable, the whole process of misdirection and misinformation engaged in by the political-media complex falls into disrepute and is called into question. And there is no good solution to such a problem except to try desperately to distract attention from the man behind the curtain.