It was Monday and I was leading a customer panel discussion on emerging technology. While discussing his reluctance to look at the new product, the customer used the phrase “no one ever got fired for buying Cisco.” This phrase, which also uses companies like IBM and Microsoft in place of Cisco and dates to the 1970s, is related to purchasing software, hardware and general technology.
The phrase is a product of the FUD phenomenon – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. FUD is the practice of forming needless uncertainties to create an altered outcome, often self-serving. We are living in a culture where this is an everyday tactic in business, politics and media. Media executives have discovered FUD works well for ratings, regardless of the impact this has on society. Fake news is a FUD ploy. While all politicians use fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their daily lives; Donald Trump is probably the best (or worse depending on your viewpoint) at leveraging the power of FUD. It is also the recipe for every scary movie and suspense novel.
It was Wednesday, when the phrase “no judge ever got fired for sentencing an African American youth to prison” came to my mind. It is not a phrase you’ll find in Wikipedia nor does a Google search bring up any hits. But the story I heard just days after the Cisco comment, made a connection for me, and the words flowed out of my mouth. A 17-year-old African-American youth, who in his rehabilitation from a crime he committed as a youth, was doing all the right things and headed in the right direction mentally, was remanded by a judge to adult prison.
I am not implying that the Purchasing Agent who buys Cisco or the judge who sentences criminals to prison are wrong. In many cases they are doing the right things for the right reason. What is concerning is when it becomes a default decision or just the “old trusted way of doing things” without sufficient effort to make the best decision. Or in a worst case, they let FUD deter them from making the harder, more nuanced and less popular choice.
A decision based on FUD can win the moment, maybe, but does not help in the long term. Cisco, as well as IBM and Microsoft, enjoy tremendous profit margins because of the lack of competition. A generation of atoning and aspiring African-American young males, along with their support system, will become jaded and lost without affirmation that their efforts matter. This phenomenon harms relationships. It creates a fundamental distrust and a decision-making process based on that distrust.
We need to constantly consider opening our minds to new possibilities. There are many bright people out there thinking about innovative technologies or ways to improve society. Decisions to maintain the status quo or advance one’s own agenda derail progress, preventing an individual, business, even society from moving forward. We cannot allow perception to be influenced by negative, dubious or false information; nor the creation of fear. Entities living in fear are no longer functioning to their full potential.
The Bible warns us about fear, uncertainty and doubt as well. FUD is a really old thing, is as old as humanity. One could argue that the devil is the inventor of FUD. It is the very tactic he has been using since the Garden of Eden, when he tempted Eve to doubt God’s truth, goodness and love.
One of the most common phrases in the Bible is “Do not be afraid” or some variant of those words. However, the Bible is full of fearing and doubting people, including the Apostles. The twelve of them locked in a room after the crucifixion, a group of them in the Calming of a Storm at Sea (Luke 8:22-24), and Peter with his doubt as he walks on water. Yet these men chose the right path despite being surrounded by FUD.
Several times the phrase “do not be afraid” is followed by “do not be discouraged.” In today’s world we cannot let the outcomes of FUD discourage us. It can be frustrating world, maybe even a little bit scary. However, we must be encouraged, filled with courage. We must act and act with purpose. We must take small steps forward instead of passive steps that go nowhere or worse backward. Someone should get fired for buying Cisco, if that decision is not the best one.
Customers, Judges, and even Politicians are going to make their decisions. We need to be influencing them to make better choices to create progress; moving technology, society and even our nation to a higher level. Like the Apostles, let us rely on the Holy Spirit, allowing God to work in the situation. The world demands it.