Dear Elon - We Can Build a Media Fact-Check Machine for You - We've Got the Know-How
We recently read that you are seriously considering building a fact-checking organization to hold the media to account.
It's a great idea, it's desperately needed, and we can help.
I started Russia Insider in 2014 for exactly the same reason - because it was clear to me that the US media wasn't telling the truth about the Ukraine war - with the New York Times and the Washington Post being the most egregious in pushing outright, manufactured falsehoods.
That was almost four years ago, and since then we have become veritable bloodhounds when it comes to sussing out media deception. We get 10 million views a month from a devoted following that trusts us to tell them the truth. They like what we do so much that we are entirely reader-funded with small donations. A section of our site is devoted to media criticism.
My colleagues and I talk and think about this incessantly, and I have myself thought about what one would need if one wanted to field a comprehensive system for stopping the lying. I would be glad to share my ideas with you.
You seem to admire Politifact, and they are great as far as they go, but they only begin to scratch the surface, and don't address the real causes of endemic corruption in our media. They are more a part of that system than a means to correct it, as are all the big journalism schools. For example, they are enormously proud of winning a Pulitzer, when in fact this award has become completely debased, regularly handed out for the very worst, most irresponsible, partisan and dishonest journalism. I recently wrote about this here.
Systems are great of course, but there is also the value of human expertise. The fact is, if you do this day in and day out, year after year, you develop a sixth sense about this, the way an experienced detective can ferret out a crime when others would be lost. For one thing, one develops a deep institutional memory of which editors, writers, publishers, and publications have been the most deceptive, and in what ways, what their signature issues and methods are.
There is the issue of government infiltration of the media, and not only which publications have tell-tale signs of this going on, but which writers seem to be compromised.
Then there is the problem of political bias and government infiltration of the big tech platforms, and their tendency to push untruth - and that gets us into the need to regulate them, which is absolutely essential if you want to restore honesty to the media. We follow this issue very closely and know who the best writers and thinkers on this are.
A huge part of what we do is to keep tabs on what is written in the alternative media, so we also have a uniquely good sense of the talent is. I could very quickly and easily present you with a list, a bi-partisan dream-team of absolutely brilliant people who could create a fair and objective media monitoring system which would make it impossible for current batch of liars to do what they do. The talent out here in alt-media land is extraordinary, and we know where the diamonds are.
If you want to rein in the dishonesty in the media, you also have to have a solid understanding of the neocon interventionist ideology, and understand how thoroughly it has permeated not only all of our biggest media outlets, but also the feeder and related systems - academia, think-tank land, and our diplomatic, security, and military bureaucracies, largely due to a massive amount of money supporting all this coming from finance and industry.
It is also important to consider how the people now doing the deceiving got to where they are, and why they deceive. While some of them consciously mislead, most of them do not. Most honestly believe that they are telling the truth when in fact it is the opposite. I have many good old friends, acquaintances, and schoolmates who have become influential journalists in the mainstream, so I have had to watch this phenomenon up-close and try to understand it. I know why it happens - and it is this understanding of the hiring and promotion rationale that puts these people in place that would be invaluable in devising a system for keeping people honest, and preventing similar people from getting ahead, which is how the system now works.
Another important thing you should understand is that the hope for journalism going forward comes not from reforming and fixing the existing, dishonest media, rather replacing them entirely with the best elements from the new, honest, alternative media. Your fellow technologist Ron Unz, the creator and editor of the Unz Review, has written brilliantly about this, and if you are serious about making a difference, you should read his article, Breaching the Media Barrier.
My favorite analogy is that our current media very much resembles the Catholic church at the dawn of the Reformation, i.e., so hopelessly corrupt and mired in delusion and the propagation of lies, that it was incapable of reform, to the point where half of Europe, and certainly the most honest people, simply gave up on it, and set about building something completely new. At that time, Catholics resorted to barbaric violence to try and stop the reform, much the same way our media pushes war, censorship, militarism and violence around the world. Today's disruptor, just as it was then, was an information technology revolution, giving people access to the truth.
Consider for a moment that the mainstream media is overwhelmingly hostile to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and uncritically supported the Iraq, Libyan, and Syrian wars, and you start to get a sense of the scale of the problem.
Once you start digging into it, it's a lot more complicated than you might think. If you want to crack this one, you're going to need smart people who have given this a lot of thought and know the landscape intimately. We can help with this.
It's what we do.
Founder, publisher, and editor - Russia Insider