A modern media fable

Not so long ago, in a place not too far from here there lived a conservative and very opinionated man named Master Osborn Stockdale.

Stockdale loved his country very much; so much so that he would regularly warn of its slow demise and impending destruction to anyone who cared to listen. “Society is coming to an end,” he would say. “We must resist the influence of foreign powers and the influx of foreign people,” he would cry.

Many did listen as they saw him as wise and knowledgeable, although many more just ignored him and said he was an out of touch fear monger.

Some time ago, growing from the concern he felt towards the way his beloved country was going, Stockdale decided to hold a weekly public meeting at which he would discuss the issues of the day and invite his like-minded friends and associates to join him in doing the same. Despite being somewhat controversial, Stockdale’s meetings quickly built up a large following with millions making their way to them every week.

However Stockdale, forever the patriot, knew he had to spread his message to more and more people. “The millions that already listen to me are not enough – everyone must hear my message if we’re to do anything to save ourselves,” he realised. Deep down, he also realised that the number of people who were coming to hear him speak was also declining and he secretly feared that in the future none would show up to his meetings.

He knew that it was not his oration skills that kept these potential followers away as they were perfect. He knew too that his opinions were flawless, so they weren’t the culprit for the lack of public interest.

Then it hit him – it was not that people didn’t believe his message to be true, it was that they just hadn’t heard it yet. So Stockdale set about finding a way to attract the millions who had missed out on his wisdom and he decided to call in a few favours from friends in high places to do this.

You see, Stockdale was extremely good friends with his beloved country’s King and had been for many years. He had remembered how his good friend the King was always talking about his son, who was an accomplished and apparently popular musician and figured he could use this to his advantage. “He is working on a new composition, my dear Osborn, that will amaze and delight in equal measures,” said the King at every chance he could find.

“Well if this boy is so popular and talented, perhaps he could draw in the crowds for my next public meeting!” thought Stockdale in a flash of brilliance, ingeniousness and wisdom all rolled into one.

And so he approached the King about this idea and while the King’s son had planned on debuting his new composition at the local theater, it was agreed that for the right price he could do it elsewhere.

Stockdale, being a wealthy man, saw money as no obstacle and he happily paid a sizable fee for the services of the Prince.

With his plan coming along swimmingly, Stockdale began to spread the word about his upcoming public meeting. He posted signs on walls and trees, he employed town’s criers and he printed the news in many pamphlets which were distributed across the land. No expense was spared, of course, as Stockdale saw it all as a worthy investment.

“Let it be known,” he said. “That anyone who comes to my next public meeting will be treated to the latest wonderful composition by the great Prince for free!”

The anticipation was huge. Not even the most reclusive of town’s folk could ignore the impending event. Most people were delighted too, indeed the only complaint came from the local theater owner who cried afoul of the entire event; “this is a disgrace,” he said. “Music is for theaters and nowhere else; the Prince is only interested in money!”. Few listened, even fewer cared.

When Sunday finally came around, Stockdale was delighted to see that his plan had worked – hundreds of thousands more people than usual were all there, waiting for the public meeting to begin.

Knowing that people had come far and wide to see him, Stockdale put the Prince at the very front of the event’s program so everyone could see him straight away; the Prince proceeded to debut his latest work and it was very well received by all. Stockdale instantly decried his latest public meeting as a success and began to brag about the hundreds of thousands of new followers he had attracted in his fight to save his country from moral bankruptcy.

The very next week Stockdale prepared the public meeting as normal but made sure to make room for the hundreds of thousands of new followers he had gained from the week before. When the crowds did arrive, however, he was dismayed and upset to find that they were no bigger than they had been before the previous week’s musical showcase.

His success turned out to be little more than an illusion, you see. While Stockdale was quick to note the number who turned out to see the Prince play, he was so smitten with himself he failed to notice those who left once the music was finished. It turned out that none of the new attendees were interested in what he had to say and left once they got what they wanted – which was a free music show. Had he paid any attention, he would have seen that it was just the same old faces that stuck around for the discussions that followed; the same ones that had come the week before and the same ones that would come the week after.

The moral of the story? Never assume that those who don’t listen to you just haven’t realised what they’re missing yet.

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