The Weaponisation of Confusion

There is so much that is confusing in the modern world.  So much so that one well known insurance company has devoted their entire name and strapline to the idea.  And I’m not talking about Go Compare.

You only have to tune in to a typical vox pop broadcast on a TV News report, and it will not be long before one of the talking heads comes out with the opinion that “It’s confusing”.

There is seemingly almost no subject, which the British public doesn’t find confusing.  Brexit; coronavirus; local lockdowns; quarantine rules; school exam results.

But, are these subjects really that confusing?  Let’s do a little analysis.

Brexit.  More than any other period, the lead up to the Brexit Referendum seemed to be a time of confusion for a large number of people.  It was almost impossible to avoid hearing someone expressing the opinion that: “No one seems to know what’s going on”.  But was it really that confusing?  Surely not.  The choice was either Leave or Remain.  Even if you didn’t know the right answer, you could take a guess and you stood a 50/50 chance of being correct.  Not confusing.  Simple.

Now people are confused about local lockdowns.  But, once again, it’s really not that confusing.  Regardless of the specific rules, the basic principle is exactly the same: stay inside more and see fewer people.  Not confusing.  Simple.

Now, I’m not saying that everything in the modern world is plain and straightforward.  Undeniably, there are issues, which are utterly confusing.  Most flat-pack furniture instructions; the plot of the TV series Lost; why so many Americans thought that Donald Trump would make a good president.  But let’s not confuse between something that is truly confusing and something that just hasn’t been thought about.

The idea of confusion has become so widespread that now politicians are using it as their go-to insult when they want to deride their opponents: the opposition’s policies are confusing; the opposition’s guidelines are confusing; the opposition’s thinking is confusing.  Confusion has become weaponised.  It now comes with an element of blame attached.  Confusion is always someone else’s fault; never our own.

However, I think that in most cases of confusion, something else is at work.  Incompetence.  And, as I have said before, when it comes to incompetence, we are our own worst judges.

Perhaps a helpful meter might be useful to avoid further confusion?  The Turner-Tree Measure of Misunderstanding.  Once confused: normal.  Twice confused: okay.  Anything more than that and it is time to stop thinking that everything is so confusing and ask yourself: “Is it confusing, or am I an idiot?”

© Simon Turner-Tree


Simon Turner-Tree makes a good talking head.

Simon is the author of Watching Life Pass Me By and This Pedestrian Life.


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