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Ender’s Game for Business and Social Media: Locke and Demosthenes

With Ender off in space attending Battle School and Command School, his older brother and sister were left behind on Earth. Peter chooses to capitalize on his brother’s situation by writing political diatribes and having his sister assist him in his bid for power on Earth.

In the population controlled world of Ender’s Game, parents are not permitted to have more than two children. Peter and Valentine are considered children of above average intelligence, but Peter is thought to have too violent tendencies and Valentine is considered too meek. The Wiggins are authorized by the military to have a third child in hopes of that the third child would be between the temperaments of his elder brother and sister.

When Ender is taken away from his family to attend Battle School, Peter realizes how children are being used as weapons and tries to find a way to capitalize on it. By creating tension through the media between different nations in ways similar to the Cold War, Peter sees that he can inflame geopolitical situations to his own gain.

Peter begins by writing political diatribes about attacking Russia under the political pseudonym Locke, naming himself for the 17th Century philosopher who believed that human nature was characterized by reason, tolerance and allowed men to be selfish. He pushed for imperialism and conquering Russia in order to ultimately create a global emergency allowing him to seize power. Since the book was written in the 80s, at the height of the Cold War, the US vs USSR conflict made perfect sense in context to the book. In modern times, Peter obviously would have been set against some other foe, like the War On Terror, to set his goals.

When Peter approaches his sister Valentine to write the persona of Demosthenes, she is reluctant. Knowing the cruelty that resides within Peter from watching her torture their brother, she fears for what Peter may do, but he ultimately convinces her to be the more diplomatic Demosthenes to counter his more aggressive writings with diplomacy. Like the historical Greek orator Demosthenes, Valentine wrote about remaining patriotic and being strong by being localized rather than diffusing the empire’s strength through expansion.

In modern terms, Locke would be considered a pundit of Fox News, a future Bill O’Reilly, who incites people through conservative rhetoric and playing to their fears of war. Demosthenes would be more akin to CNN’s liberal leaning Anderson Cooper, preaching peace through understanding and diplomacy. The difference between the current media and Peter’s constructs is that he orchestrates everything they say according to his grand plan, rather than the bi-partisan system of talking heads that speak only to their own goals.

With the prevalence of the Internet in our own era, it’s impossible to control the conversation the way Peter did. People are going to talk about you and your brand. You cannot speak as both the consumer and the proprietor. People see through false conversations and can tell when there are false reviews online in places like the iTunes store or Amazon. It is better to open a dialogue between yourself and your target audience and involve them in the discussion. In the 1980s, the media was a one way proposition. Television, radio and newspapers broadcast out to their audience and any feedback was controlled in things like Op-Eds and letter columns, where editors could control and address only the points they wanted to. The internet has opened everything up to a democratic process that anyone can get involved with, regardless of whether or not the media wants to address those points. It is better to be there, be involved and guide the conversation than to allow it to occur without you.

Peter was successful in his bid for power, eventually becoming the Hegemon of the world government that grew out of the Third Formic War, in which Ender lead the forces of humanity to victory over the Formics. By being part of the media and leading the conversation among the people you broadcast to, you can be just as successful, but if you aren’t part of your media, you are as prone being part of it as Ender as his classmates who were blissfully unaware that they were such a major point of discussion while in space.

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