The Information Ecosystem

As Kissinger also noted, the most impactful and significant consequence of an information ecosystem that is dominated by the images, memes, and sensationalism of a “visual culture” which arises at the expense of book learning and the “erudition, learnedness, and serious and independent thinking” of a “print culture” that is perhaps on the verge of extinction is the abject and poor quality of the leaders and politicians which emerge from such an information ecosystem. In turn, the poor quality of these leaders and politicians means that these leaders cannot effectively respond to the information ecosystem which they are borne out of, which in and of itself is a paradox. Trump was a prime example of a leader who could not maintain a concerted and sustained effort in responding to the information ecosystem which produced him. Neither has the Biden Administration been able to effectively respond to the prevailing information ecosystem, and depending on upcoming midterm results, this information ecosystem can ensure that Biden becomes a lame duck president. 

And as mentioned before, the four inherent “biases” of the prevailing information ecosystem – namely, immediacy, intensity, polarity, and conformity – can explain to a certain extent why leaders and politicians cannot effectively respond to the prevailing information ecosystem, although as mentioned before, it is their poor quality which comes first and foremost in explaining their inability to respond effectively. In turn, the entire system is lodged into a state of dysfunction and disarray due to the reciprocal effect of the basic nature of the information ecosystem and the poor quality of leadership which is borne out of such an information ecosystem. 

As a matter of fact, these are points which I can affirm and corroborate as a result of my experiences as a six-months long assistant to a former Afghan ambassador in Washington in 2018, and these are perhaps the main reasons as to why I could tolerate working in Washington for no more than six months. What was most evident and manifest about the whole experience was that Afghan government officials were too busy getting frustrated about everything and thus their whole focus was to respond and react to everything that was coming out of the information ecosystem, given the rapid and lightning pace as well as the volume by which the information ecosystem was coming at them, which meant that there was a lack of focus on the actual work of governance and serving the people. 

Logically, the information ecosystem of images, memes, and sensationalism produces poor leaders. But in turn, poor leaders create and foster something which is far worse than just poor leadership, namely, angry populism and perhaps even angry fascism. Thus, the same public figures, politicians, and media talking heads who decry Trump and his minions are in fact either wholly or partially responsible for fostering the current political and social situation starting from when they were in control of the information ecosystem a couple of decades ago. 

At the very beginning, everyone in academia and the media should have foreseen or intuited that an information ecosystem that is reinforced and undergirded by a combination of censorship and stonewalling on one hand and flashy imagery and sensationalism on the other hand will translate into the dangerous and risk-ridden political and social reality which we are experiencing today. It follows that the only real alternative and perhaps the likeliest alternative to the status quo can only be more chaos and dysfunction in the political and social world, unless significant and substantial measures are taken in order to veer everyone in the political and social world off of the seemingly dangerous and risky course which they appear to be on at the moment. 

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