‘Tis the Season

Picture of Santa on the phone

In the depths of the run up to Christmas it’s easy to feel like a hostage being swept along by the commercial juggernaut of a twenty first century Christmas.

Studies have shown that the harder people perceive a year to have been the more likely they are to overspend and 2016 will take some beating in the hardship stakes.

From the loss of several popular icons of entertainment to doping scandals to genuinely shocking election results, many people have endured an emotionally charged 2016 that has taken a toll and nowhere has the battering been felt more acutely than for our political leaders.

The telephone conference call between Hilary Clinton and the leaders of the Democratic Party when the reality of election results began to become apparent must have been one of the most difficult conversations in recent US politics.

We now know that during another conference call, Barack Obama pleaded with Clinton to concede in the early hours of the morning, a request that was obviously ignored – if any journalist uncovers the transcript of that conference call they will make a fortune.

True Lies

Some years pass by with relative ease, leaving little impact on our global conscious yet 2016 did nothing to change the recent trend of massive global shifts every year.

It seems that with every passing year our perceptions and understanding of the world is massively challenged and this year the challenges have come on multiple fronts. From our trust in institutions to our understanding of political will, the status quo seems there only to be challenged and usurped.

If any one area could be looked at as the defining issue of this year then it would undoubtedly be the right to privacy. With so many of us giving away so much of our private lives for public consumption it has skewed our understanding of privacy.

Of course, the uncovering of corruption and political skullduggery is never a bad thing, however some of the methods used raise difficult ethical questions that need to be seriously looked at.

While many applaud the revelations of corruption in politics, the fact that it has now become evident that many leaks came from Russian state sponsored groups to undermine the American election process must surely give us all pause. Truth and transparency should always be without agenda – anything else is purely propaganda.

A picture is worth a thousand words

We live in complicated times; trust in politics is at an all time low and we see ourselves as informed consumers yet in many ways we are incredibly naïve.

The fake news scandal that many feel played an important role in shaping not only the US election but also Brexit is nothing new, political commentators warned about its insidious nature back in 2014 during the Scottish Referendum.

Partly it’s down to confirmation bias and partly it owes much to how we arrange ourselves on social media, where our friendship and follow choices mostly lead to us living in an echo chamber with little to no dissent.

The internet and especially social media has opened up the world and made us all far more connected yet we all tend to inhabit a very small corner of that online space, rarely venturing out beyond our comfort zone.

As analysts and experts desperately try to make sense of our new political reality and focus groups work late into the night conducting conference call after conference call to plan future strategy the enormity of the task to combat the effect of social media in further driving ideologies and prejudice is beginning to hit home.

When a simple picture with a made up quote carries more weight than a hundred carefully worded speeches by our leaders it’s easy to see why panic has set in.

Statesmanship and oratory skills may well have defined the politics of the last century but conquering the online world is likely to be the new defining movement of our time.