Do not become distracted

If you have ever been in an uncomfortable spot — especially if you are beginning to suspect the person who has you cornered might be right — you have probably tried to come up with a distraction. My personal favorites are “Look, it’s Elvis” and “Ack! Gotta go; the cat’s on fire!”

I’ve used both, and the Elvis trick worked once.

Distraction seems to be the name of the game these days, making it even more important to be paying very close attention — even, perhaps, to news outlets that have not been curated to your tastes.

Take for example Walmart. Last week, the retail giant made a spectacular announcement. It was going to be raising its starting pay rate for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, and hand out one-time cash bonuses. All thanks to the brand new corporate tax cuts it was receiving, of course. Fantastic!

But hold on. At the same time, and with positively no fanfare — not even a news release — the company shut down 63 Sam’s Club stores — 63.

That is a whole lot of employees about to get no paycheck at all.

It is mind-boggling to me that no one at Walmart headquarters appears to have understood how quickly those fired employees would start letting the rest of the world know what happened. They seem to have genuinely believed “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” would work.

But those folks did talk, and once their story was confirmed, the news media reported it, along with a nod to the attempt to gloss over it with a little tax-reform cheerleading earlier in the day.

Walmart says it does not yet know how many employees will ultimately lose their jobs. The company is using the traditional schpiel about some workers being rehired at other locations, etc.

Of course, Walmart is not the only entity guilty of such techniques. Politicians have always used them. We see one or two per week these days, it seems. And the distraction doesn’t even have to be faux positive news. Sometimes it is something absolutely horrifying, on the surface, which doesn’t really matter nearly as much as the level of social media chatter would indicate.

That is why it is so important not to get caught up in the sensational stuff, but to dig deeper; to play Paul Harvey for a moment and look for “the rest of the story.”

Whether it be governors with a penchant for folksy political theater, presidents who do not guard their language as closely as previous leaders or corporations who should have us all remembering, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, we’ve got to pay attention.

And we’ve got to understand the difference between genuine news and the stuff that often appears in our social media feeds. Those posts can be distractions, too.

The kinds of people who believe these distractions will serve them well are counting on you not to notice.

Prove them wrong, ladies and gentlemen. Pay a great deal of attention to the man behind the curtain.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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