Society has a problem with “the useful idiot”.
The term, while mostly used in politics, is something useful to know because it can help you pinpoint when messaging has gone wrong.
A useful idiot is described as someone who supports one side of an ideological debate and at the same time is manipulated while unaware of the ultimate agenda driving an ideology they have subscribed themselves to.
It exists in politics because a candidate who attempts to win over large audiences may give out messaging that sounds appealing to some who then subscribe to their candidates thinking and end up sharing more opinions that can be harmful.
While the useful idiot is typically the person who is unaware of the manipulation and is being used as a stepping stone for a leaders backing, some who can spread messages are also the useful idiot who give off a message or idea that can be harmful whether they are aware of it or not.
Platforms have enabled a new wave of connectivity
With connectivity today, almost anyone has the chance of gathering an audience.
Some are not even attempting to obtain an audience but do so whether it be through being an appealing persona as an entertainer or stating opinions that then get large backing.
All leaders are position holders are not all trying to manipulate. It’s just the messaging used in some general conversation when one person has a higher view of another can help spread ideas an opinions that may not be the intended messaging.
There is a good side to the useful idiot if you consider loyalty a good thing, yet most useful idiots are part of a shared ideology that either do not benefit themselves or they would have not otherwise have believed before.
The term ‘useful idiot’ was coined in politics concerning controversy involved in communism, yet the term applies in this time where communication has never been larger.
The useful idiots today have more to deal with.
There are more ideologies to pick and choose and many end up choosing to follow in ideologies that have harmful outcomes, while not always having harmful purposes.
Yet as the term works now in a more general sense, there are two sides to the useful idiot.
The blind followers who feel the need to support a movement and those who spread harmful messaging without knowing.
Useful idiots existing in the audience
Mostly existing as yes men, audiences join in a community holding someone to a higher standard and take what they say with more importance.
A public figure that you look up to and obtain some ideologies from may have an intended message and may not convey it in the proper way and can cause more damage to their own movement.
By having everyone online and all spoken words visible to everyone on public platforms, those who gain an audience whether intentionally or unintentionally speak their beliefs and the useful idiots of their audience can become backers of a movement.
While there is manipulation being involved, the audience side may not see this and believe the leaders and figures they choose to gain ideas from may not be intending to shift audiences to back their movement.
At an even lower level it seems, public figures have more control and unintentionally manipulation over big audiences and can be useful toward certain movements and outreach, but do so in an idiotic way and can spread harmful messaging.
The side of manipulation over an audience exists more in politics where the manipulation may be more intentional, the messaging more rallying and an agenda being pushed through to vasts numbers of people.
Of course, to know whether a leader’s intentions are harmful may not be super clear, yet supporters backing a certain message can lead a message to be greater than intended and if harmful can spark an unintended idea that becomes greater than the leader’s control.
Useful idiots existing as online public figures
If an audience is gained and a person becomes an online public figure, whether their intentions are harmful or not wouldn’t be questioned by an audience.
Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the useful idiot to not be spreading an ideology that conveys a message with possibly good intent but through harmful messaging.
While the responsibility does lie in part within the audience to not be a useful idiot for a figure, responsibility in the public figure for their power over others needs to be considered by both sides.
For those who are attempting to gain an audience or already have one, what should be realized is how authority and speaking to an audience can give off persuasive messages that can have a big effect. And the ideas that become bigger than the first speaker need to be constructed in such a way as to not carry out ill intent if subscribed to by many.
A public figure with an audience making a joke can be enough to send a few people into an idea that was not intended and the malleable audiences can become a weapon outside of the control of the leader.
Even if only a small percent of an audience take a message or a joke to another level and subscribe to the extreme viewpoint, the percentage itself may be a large amount of people.
Platforms exist in plenty now and messaging gets carried everywhere by everyone. Subscribing to certain entertainers, politicians or whoever else you care about on the internet, messaging exists within what they say, whether they intend for it or not.
And when amassing an audience of your own, realize the damage that only a small percent of an audience can cause if messaging is felt by them as more extreme and what is said whether joking or not can be the spark that starts a wildfire.