The echo chamber feedback loop

“Everyone is talking about this,” says the outgoing president on more than a few occasions.. “Everyone knows this is true” or “Everyone knows” he might use as an alternative or add-on to the above, as he is prone to repeat himself. These are intentional phrases used to make the listener or reader skip past them and assume the statements are true. When you hear or read these comments, do yourself a favor and assume the opposite.

Why? Because you are hearing an echo chamber feedback loop. The echo chamber occurs when the same piece of information, rumor or conspiracy theory is repeated within limited sources of information. In fact, this is how disinformation is so easily shared, especially with an untruthful, unrelenting and unaware user in the White House. In fact, when a Russian, Iranian, Chinese or American troll hears the outgoing president repeat what they made up, it is like capturing lightning in bottle.

Here is how it works. One of these sources will concoct an outlandish story that has some link to the truth or preconceived notion. about a person or party. Hillary Clinton is a prime target, eg, she is imperfect and an easy foil for made up stuff. As of this writing, there is a North Carolina man who is in jail because he believed that Clinton was running a child trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington and took action armed for bear.

The concocted story is then picked up by one of the conspiratorial websites or a known sensationalist like Alex Jones, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. Since the outgoing president is on the look out for props to sell with (meaning a good story), he will latch onto it and retweet. Since he is president, the news agencies may pick up on the story he is espousing. As it gets repeated more, the lack of veracity of the story does not get repeated each time with the story, especially within the limited sources of information.

Then, the outgoing president will hear these stories and repeat them again. The story is still concocted, but now the White House incumbent believes it to be true and will punctuate statements with the phrases above. What is also interesting is even when the outgoing president makes things up on his own, he will begin to believe his own BS. This is what has happened with fraudulent claims of wide-spread voter fraud. He staged this story for months, but now believes it to be truth. Why? Because losing cannot be tolerated.

Years from now, historians will look back at this period and define the outgoing president as the most corrupt and deceitful US president. The voter fraud story is just a subset of his deceit, but the real story is how a person, well documented as untruthful, has convinced his followers every else is lying. That may be the biggest con in American history.

Two rules of thumb to remember. Read and listen to multiple sources. And, if the outgoing president says it or writes it, do not assume it is true. The odds are well in your favor to consider it false.

A lesson that continues to evade someone

A certain man in a global leadership position continues to avoid learning an important lesson. Not only does it hurt his efforts, but it is harmful to this country’s relationships around the globe and within its leadership ranks. The lesson is his failure to vet decisions and communications of such with key people before a broader announcement.

Yesterday, this man decided to walk away from a summit with North Korea without giving advance notice to a key ally in South Korea. As a result, the US relationship with South Korea is strained. Now, he may be whipsawing them again as he has done all week saying the summit may still be on.

But, this is not the first time he has done this. After pleas from our European allies, he walked away from the Iran nuclear deal. ┬áThe echoes of that change continue to strain relationships with our allies to the point an EU leader said “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

His first major change was so horribly vetted and communicated, it was pulled after two days. He failed to discuss with Congressional leaders in his own party that he was instituting a travel ban. He also failed to gain input and buy-in from affected agencies who had to implement the change. It was as he likes to say a “disaster,” but this one was on his shoulders. Soldiers often refer to poor decisions like this with a word beginning with “cluster.”

But, there are many more examples. What may turn out to be his Waterloo is he fired James Comey without telling him. Comey found out from a TV news report. Further, he failed to give advance warning to his communication team, leaving them to make plans in the White House bushes while the reporters waited. That may be the best metaphor for his Presidency.

Yet, for a man who used to have a faux-reality show where he fired people, he has a hard time doing this face to face. He fired Rex Tillerson without telling him. He had Andrew McCabe fired as he cleaned out his desk to retire, an especially vindictive move. Not telling people they are fired beforehand is extremely poor management. And, for someone who likes to talk tough, it reveals those words are part of a false bravado.

His followers like to say what a great businessman he is, but while he is accused of being a great merchandiser, he is rarely accused of being a good manager. Managing a multi-organization business or government is complicated. It requires diligence, input, time, communication, planning and a dose of compassion. For someone who makes decisions on the fly and bullies people, he is at odds with the tools for successful implementations or relationships.

But, as the man once said. “I, alone, can solve this.” With all due respect, no you cannot, but you sure can screw it up.