The Art of Misdirection

This is something we’ve all seen clearly, the waving of hands by a magician to direct our eye away from the hand palming the card or coin. It’s simple, but surprisingly effective. Writers do this, too. We throw red herrings at the reader, drop misleading clues, even create unreliable characters whose perceptions are skewed to keep the truth hidden.

This is nothing new.

In politics, it’s also the norm. So and so is a liar!  Oh, but so and so is just as bad!  So and so cheats people! Oh, but so and so uses the wrong email. The list of non-equivalent misdirections is endless and has caused untold obfuscation of the facts. Propaganda is rampant to the point where Google and Facebook are putting restrictions on “fake news sites.” There are even fake fact checking sites, now.

In social media, however, misdirection has become a huge proportion of responses to posts on any subject from racism, to politics, to the environment, to feline behavior, and frankly I’m sick of it.

If a post is about violent protesters, someone will say the other side is worse. If a protest is about racial intimidation by white supremacists, someone will say liberal thugs are worse. If someone posts about the crisis in the environment, someone will counter that the economy is suffering. If someone posts about sexism in the workplace, someone will counter that religious people have the right to discriminate on religious grounds.

I’m sick of the misdirection.

We can be entertained by the magician, but we shouldn’t have to tolerate this from our elected or appointed officials. We especially don’t have to tolerate this from posters on our social media threads. I encourage people to make valid arguments pertaining to the subject at hand. If someone tries to misdirect, call them on it, and tell them if they want to make that comparison on their own thread, that’s fine.

I’ll continue to use misdirection in my fiction, as a magician might in a stage show, but when I’m discussing problem A in public or social media, and someone says “Oh, but Z is worse!” I will call them for derailing the discussion, and tell them to stay on topic, or go away.


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