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When All You See Is Nails

There's an old saying which goes along the lines of: "When all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail."

To get into the origins of it would lead to a tired place, where needless argument takes place about whether the expression is called the law of the instrument, or whether one chap -Maslow - made it up or if it was actually another chap, Kaplan. The rabbit hole leads to endless comments, and thesis, and counter-arguments.

None of this matters. The bottom line is: we have lost the ability to perceive risk because everyone is focused on all minutia simultaneously. People only see the heads of unbeaten nails everywhere and invest all efforts in leaping from one to the next.

Trump is a nail, his cabinet is a nail, Biden is a nail, America is a nail, Qanon is a nail, message boards are a nail, Twitter is a nail, Facebook, Parler, Brexit, Boris, Covid, terrorism, China, Russia, trade deals, the European Union, the far-right, the far-left, the centrists, grassroots movements, non-state actors...

Over the last few years, we've developed whole new industries dedicated to hitting nails: Fact-checking which actually amplifies disinformation to a wider audience than it ever would have reached before and subsequently introduces seeds of doubt into all discourse; mass data collection as a response to a problem created by mass data collection; research collectives which dredge the internet so they can speculate on angles and level accusatory fingers at innocent people by mistake, leaving the investigative waters turbid.

Nails exposing more nails.

And when you stop being able to discern one nail from another, you arrive at a point where domestic extremists storm Capitol Hill one week, and in the next you celebrate the removal of the mechanisms they used to organise, blissfully ignorant this means they are now plotting in the dark, damaged and angry. But off you go already, on the great nail hunt.

When all you see is nails, you are doomed not to see the knives, guns, fists, and bombs around you.

When all you see is nails, it becomes impossible to distinguish a threat from an irrelevance.

In the end, you see nothing at all and now is probably a good time to point something out:

When all you can see is nails stretching across the landscape you've crossed and onwards to the horizon, it simply means you don't have a hammer.

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This psychology not only continues to redefine our shared values, incorporating disinformation into our talking points and group behaviours, but profits the whole sector which both feeds upon and drives it. This is Disinfonomics.