Media curiously silent on “Truthy”

posted at 8:41 am on August 27, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

It’s been a couple of days since the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington first reported on the three-year-old  federal grant from the National Science Foundation for the “Truthy” database, and … not much else has happened. Blogs have picked it up, including our own Mary Katharine, and Reason’s Bobby Soave did a good job of highlighting its inherent contradictions. Twitchy has collated a number of tongue-in-cheek attempts to kick-start Truthy. Other than that, the national media appears to have gone radio silent on this latest project; according to a Bing news search this morning, no national outlet has yet picked up the story from WFB.

That’s interesting, because one might have guessed that they would take notice of a million-dollar effort to encroach on their fact-checking turf. In my column for The Week today, I wonder why the federal government is spending a million dollars to create a mechanism that sounds like it could come straight out of Orwell when we have a perfectly good private-sector market for free speech:

The better question is this: Who makes these subjective judgments? At least at first, the answer would be the researchers who are building Truthy under a federal grant from the NSF. It’s not to hard to imagine a scenario in which the federal government would eventually find a use for Truthy, and would make the subjective judgments on how best to monitor political speech on social media.

Reason’s Bobby Soave points out the basic contradiction in claiming, as the abstract does, to support “the preservation of open debate” while attempting to apply labels to speech such as “suspicious memes,” “hate speech,” and “subversive propaganda,” as well as determining which arguments constitute an “organic meme” versus an “inorganic” one. “Those seem like conflicting goals,” Soave writes, “even if pursued in a totally apolitical way.”

Or an “inorganic” way, for that matter. Truthy is the very definition of a top-down determination of the legitimacy of public speech. In a free society, citizens make those determinations for themselves. That is the organic approach to political speech, stemming from those who wish to engage in — or become spectators to — the contest of ideas, arguments, analyses, and proposals. Instead of allowing people to reach their own conclusions about those ideas and arguments, Truthy and the NSF instead appear to want to delegitimize the people who engage in those debates, which would in any other circumstance become the very kind of political smear that Truthy is supposedly designed to protect against.

The fact-checking industry, for all its faults, at least uses a free-market approach to criticism and debate that “Truthy” would pervert. Citizens of a free nation who value political speech shouldn’t pay a dime for Truthy, let alone a million dollars. Its abstract describes an apparatus for state control of political thought, as though its proposers read George Orwell’s 1984 as a how-to rather than a cautionary tale.

The Inquisitr takes a look at the principals involved in this project, and wonders just how non-partisan this project really is:

The project website also says that while many memes are created in a “perfectly organic manner,” others are allegedly driven by the “shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns.” Free speech advocates say, “so what” to the organic vs. organized meme creation. If a political advocacy group makes a Barack Obama golf meme, will they wind up in the government-funded database? According to the description and focus of the Truthy database project, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

But speaking of “the shady machinery of high-profile … campaigns,” we have this:

The Truthy database project is billed as a non-partisan effort, but the “lead investigator” on the project is reportedly involved with a multitude of progressive or liberal groups, Filippo Menczer has reportedly uttered support for Moveon.org, Amnesty International, and President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, among other groups. Filippo Menczer is also a computer science and informatics professor at Indiana University. Links to the political and activists groups the Truthy database leader supports are posted on his bio page at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. Menczer’s page also says that he is on sabbatical at Yahoo! Labs for the 2014-15 academic year. The $1 million grant funded by the taxpayers runs during the same year.

But don’t worry … you’ll love Big Brother! They promise not to make that a “suspicious meme,” too.


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we have a perfectly good private-sector market for free speech

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Stoic Patriot on August 27, 2014 at 8:50 AM

I remember when the progressive left used to criticize J. Edgar Hoover for keeping track of these things.

KW64 on August 27, 2014 at 8:52 AM

They minute it interfers with their beliefs you will hear about it but not before. What is wrong with these people? Rhetorical.

Cindy Munford on August 27, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Truthy sounds like the brainchild of those in the federal government who truly look at outlets like The New York Times or CNN and see right-wing propaganda outlets, because every once in a while they stray from the approved ideological position.

It’s a given a site like Truthy would be designed to keep outlets like Fox News and conservative news/commentary websites in line. But the people drawing this up really want to keep every media outlet to the right of The Nation or The Daily Kos intimidated and in line as well.

jon1979 on August 27, 2014 at 8:55 AM

Filippo Menczer has reportedly uttered support for Moveon.org, Amnesty International, and President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, among other groups.

Of course that would never get in the way of reporting the Truthy just like climate scientists who take government grants are completely neutral about their echo chamber peer reviewed papers.

Mark Boabaca on August 27, 2014 at 8:58 AM

That’s interesting, because one might have guessed that they would take notice of a million-dollar effort to encroach on their fact-checking turf.

The national media is not concerned. The only fact-checking turf they will be paying attention to is conservative turf.

Silly boy.

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 8:59 AM

The Truthy test drive will happen during the Nov election.

You realize that’s what it’s for, right?

Find the source, and kill it.

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:03 AM

I guess, like all police, Thought Police need a dispatcher.

RBMN on August 27, 2014 at 9:05 AM

I remember when the progressive left used to criticize J. Edgar Hoover for keeping track of these things.

KW64 on August 27, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Well, first of all Jed was not a “right-thinking person”. He was out to crush both our domestic Communists and any Red spies fool enough to cross our borders. He had little success at the former, but amazing success at the latter, mainly due to defectors.

Attempting to do either one to begin with put him eternally on the progressives’ shit list.

By comparison, progressives naturally believe that it is their right, as “enlightened, forward-thinking people”, to keep an eye on anyone who is not part of their Utopian combine. After all, to create Utopia they have to purge society of its “disruptive elements”.

And of course, being wonderful, enlightened people, they would never misuse such power. And anyway, anyone they used it against was Just Asking For It.

They are sure that they can run a police state benignly,”for the greater good”. And of course for their own self-aggrandizement, because they Just Deserve It So Much.

This is of course the Gill Fallacy on steroids. Except for those who know what the real result will be, and are salivating like a feral dog at the prospect of having the entire population at their mercy.

Not that they have every shown any evidence of same.

clear ether

eon

eon on August 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM

SWAT teams to follow.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 9:13 AM

So, will black helicopters arrive sooner now?

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

I remember when the progressive left used to criticize J. Edgar Hoover for keeping track of these things.

KW64 on August 27, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Like most of the rest of its “causes,” the left really doesn’t believe in it and just adopts it as a posture to win elections. It’s the same as how the feminist movement melted away during Monica Lewinski, how the anti-war movement melted away when Obama bombed Libya, and why “green” Democrats live in giant, power-sucking mansions and zip about in private jets.

The Democrats really only care about one thing. It’s not too hard to figure out what that thing is.

Doomberg on August 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

If Obama was in office on 9/11/2001, his instinctual reaction would probably be to lock up Pamela Geller, so she couldn’t criticize Islamic terrorists anymore. Problem solved.

RBMN on August 27, 2014 at 9:21 AM

So, will black helicopters arrive sooner now?
faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

White helicopters are just as bad racist.

Akzed on August 27, 2014 at 9:22 AM

If Obama was in office on 9/11/2001, his instinctual reaction would probably be to lock up Pamela Geller, so she couldn’t criticize Islamic terrorists anymore. Problem solved.

RBMN on August 27, 2014 at 9:21 AM

heh, and bicycle boy. hahahaha

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Truth is only what the Agitator says is Truth……”so let it be written”

Privatize It on August 27, 2014 at 9:28 AM

“So let it be done”

Privatize It on August 27, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Citizen, your tweets are….not in order. There will be punishment.

Bishop on August 27, 2014 at 9:30 AM

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.

George Orwell ’1984′

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 9:34 AM

So, will black helicopters arrive sooner now?

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

ANR. Color not important.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Should be called “Truther”, instead.

BKeyser on August 27, 2014 at 9:41 AM

This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.

George Orwell ’1984′

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 9:33 AM

.
REDSKINS.

ExpressoBold on August 27, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Fillipo said the order was Truthful

Privatize It on August 27, 2014 at 9:47 AM

What will happen is schools districts and colleges will require the use of “Truthy” as the required database search engine on the internet, and block all sites deemed to be less than 100% “Truth.”

rlwo2008 on August 27, 2014 at 9:52 AM

Liberals freak out over the use of words. Is it because they’re bad at understanding their meaning? I remember when the first President Bush looked down the beach and identified his grandson, saying “that brown one is mine”. Liberals freaked out that he called the half-Mexican child “brown”.

It so easy to freak liberals out with words. The hard thing is to NOT freak them out. A poster described it the other day (he said it better though), it went something like … to reach a liberal’s mind, you have to strip what you say of any “trigger” words, so that it’s emotionally palatable to them, so it can ring their emotional bell, so they can end up feeling like they’re a good person. But, slip some little trigger word in there, like calling a child “brown”, and their feng shui all goes to hell.

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Media? Who cares about those useless twits? Is Congress aware of this? This seems to me to be orders of magnitude worse than the IRS scandal.

Syzygy on August 27, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Ministry of Information. Where have I heard that? Hmmm.

Turn MD Red on August 27, 2014 at 9:58 AM

This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.

George Orwell ’1984′

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 9:33 AM

I didn’t read this until after I posted above. I called them “trigger” words.

Not important: the miracle of one human being, using his mind, taking his life experience and all other factors and coming up with a thought that he can express to other human beings
Important: avoiding undesirable words

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 9:58 AM

The Truthy test drive will happen during the Nov election.

You realize that’s what it’s for, right?

Find the source, and kill it.

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 9:03 AM

I DO remember the last election cycle or two, the thought crossed my mind, “WHERE is the Tea Party? They were such a force for awhile, and they’ve all but disappeared from these elections. How can that be? Where did they go? What happened?”

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Important: avoiding undesirable words

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 9:58 AM

You could have said that simpler. Doubleplusungood.

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Like most of the rest of its “causes,” the left really doesn’t believe in it and just adopts it as a posture to win elections. It’s the same as how the feminist movement melted away during Monica Lewinski, how the anti-war movement melted away when Obama bombed Libya, and why “green” Democrats live in giant, power-sucking mansions and zip about in private jets.

The Democrats really only care about one thing. It’s not too hard to figure out what that thing is.

Doomberg on August 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

World peace? The poor? Easing suffering? Am I close? No?

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Sooner or later “Truthy” will need an ENFORCEMENT mechanism. So where will the re-education camps be located?

GarandFan on August 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM

World peace? The poor? Easing suffering? Am I close? No?

LashRambo on August 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Nope, keep trying though! ;-)

Doomberg on August 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM

A further expansion of the Democrat War on Free Speech. That first amendment thingy is too dangerous for the commoners and we must be saved from ourselves.

Closet Optimist on August 27, 2014 at 10:29 AM

A further expansion of the Democrat War on Free Speech. That first amendment thingy is too dangerous for the commoners and we must be saved from ourselves.

Closet Optimist on August 27, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Can we quite calling them democrats now and call them what they really are? Fluking Marxists…

oscarwilde on August 27, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Goebbels orgasmed all over the media and they suffocated.

Schadenfreude on August 27, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Before V-J Day, Japan had the same thing, it was called the Kempei Tai.

You said something they didn’t like and you were forever picking your head up off the floor.

formwiz on August 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Look, we are at war with the Left.
Or I should say, the Left is at war with us (‘us’ meaning conservatives), since most on the Right don’t recognize or acknowledge it as a true war. The Left has been fighting the war for a century or more.
The main weapon in their arsenal has been the Media.

I, like many on the Right, fantasize about taking up arms against the Left, intervention by the military against these leftist domestic enemies, Texas secession, national divorce (New America vs. The Peoples’ Cesspool of Hopelessness and Despair), control of the three branches of government by conservatives, etc., but I realize that, for the present at least, those thoughts are pipe dreams.

A more realistic scenario would be to co-opt their primary weapon – the Media. If certain conservatives of financial means truly wanted to engage in the war, they would try to gain control of, or form new Media outlets. Those conservatives of lesser financial means would be battling the leftist media with protests, boycotts of sponsors, etc.

The Left is keenly aware of the power of Media control, thus investment in programs like this ‘Truthy’ abomination. Also witness their concerted attacks on Limbaugh and Fox News. Fairness Doctrine anyone?

The writing is on the wall for all of us to be living out 1984, Atlas Shrugged, or whatever other apocalyptic tale that the Left is using as a “How To” manual.

justltl on August 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM

So where will the re-education camps be located?

GarandFan on August 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM

With Truthy, they no longer need camps. Autocorrect and MS Clippy will merge and will re-educate you on the spot.

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 11:08 AM

The Peoples’ Cesspool of Hopelessness and Despair

justltl on August 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM

The People’s CHaD? Somehow that seems appropriate!

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

The Peoples’ Cesspool of Hopelessness and Despair

justltl on August 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Obama Legacy – Gloom despair and agony on me

faraway on August 27, 2014 at 11:27 AM

So where will the re-education camps be located?

GarandFan on August 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM


Scroll down…

SailorMark on August 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM

I posted on it as well here, Ed, building on a comment I left on MKH’s earlier post.

The interesting thing to me was the similarity that this bears to the much earlier and much more direct Obama Administration initiative, launched 5 years ago right in the White House, to create what was dubbed as “Snitch Central.” You too wrote about back them.

The point is that this whole effort is a lame attempt to lend an aura of scientific authenticity to what is a blatantly unconstitutional political exercise — i.e., the dedication of significant federal governmental resources to the building of a database, and the employment of some form of internet trawler, for the illegitimate purpose of ferreting out allegedly “untruthful” political statements, claims and memes on the internet.

This would do no less than put an official stamp, or imprimatur of federal governmental approval, on purely political characterizations — constitutionally protected expressions — and it would do so on a systematic and massive scale.

It is inherently totalitarian in nature, and would likely violate first amendment rights of Americans on a hitherto unimagined scale.

Trochilus on August 27, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Readers may remember the Obama Administration’s “in-White House” employment of Linda Douglass (by the Mao-loving Anita Dunn) as the Director of an early Obama initiative intended to encourage Americans to use email to actually report what they suspected might be “untrue” statements being made about President’s Health Care initiative, which as we recall the Administration was then relentlessly pursuing in Congress. Linda was actually encouraging Americans to report any written statements made or sent to them by their friends and neighbors which they believed could possibly be untrue!

Shades of Uncle Joe Stalin and “The Whisperers!”

The point is that this Nat’l Science Foundation initiative is exactly that same sort of thing, but masked in a false aura of scientific authenticity. However, it has nothing to do with science.

This is all about branding and “gotcha” politics. Just in time for the mid-terms, I guess!

The real irony about all of this is that first Obama “Truthy” initiative, begun way back in August of 2009, and which is still prominently posted on the White House Blog — still contains what I would easily call “Presidential Lie Number One” (meaning the BIGGEST, though not necessarily the first) sitting right up there, pretty as can be, on a post taking as it’s title, a quote our second President, John Adams, when he reportedly said, “Facts are Stubborn Things.”

Yes … yes they are! And here is a direct quote from that Obama post!

“For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.

Yep! You bet they are. But apparently in accordance with the Obama Truthy Doctrine, so are big fat lies!

Trochilus on August 27, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Ever wonder what the average German in the 1930s felt like?

It felt like this. It feels like this because we have fascist making a big play for the country right now. Sadly, they are winning.

jukin3 on August 27, 2014 at 2:44 PM

t’s been a couple of days since the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington first reported on the three-year-old federal grant from the National Science Foundation for the “Truthy” database, and … not much else has happened.

“News” from conservative conspiracy site isn’t treated seriously by actual media…film at 11.

Tlaloc on August 27, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I, like many on the Right, fantasize about taking up arms against the Left, intervention by the military against these leftist domestic enemies, Texas secession, national divorce (New America vs. The Peoples’ Cesspool of Hopelessness and Despair), control of the three branches of government by conservatives, etc., but I realize that, for the present at least, those thoughts are pipe dreams.

justltl on August 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM

*applause*
I give you high marks for honesty. Most conservatives don’t have the balls to admit they fantasize about murdering their fellow americans for having different political views.

I appreciate that you are no longer even pretending not to be a monster.

Tlaloc on August 27, 2014 at 3:02 PM

This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.

George Orwell ’1984′

Walter L. Newton on August 27, 2014 at 9:33 AM

.
REDSKINS.

ExpressoBold on August 27, 2014 at 9:43 AM

BACON!!!

runawayyyy on August 27, 2014 at 3:41 PM

It’s been a couple of days since the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington first reported on the three-year-old federal grant from the National Science Foundation for the “Truthy” database, and … not much else has happened.

“News” from conservative conspiracy site isn’t treated seriously by actual media…film at 11.

Tlaloc on August 27, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Not sure what you mean here. Are you suggesting that the grant, from 3 years ago, isn’t real? surely not, but if it is real, are you suggesting that, because it was reported by the Washington Free Beacon, it can now be ignored?

Or are you, as everyone here including you believe, simply saying you love this idea because you know full well it will only ever be used against people you hate and want “reeducated”?

runawayyyy on August 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM

What’s the difference between “organic memes” and “inorganic memes”?

Inorganic memes don’t have carbon in them.

wagnert in atlanta on August 27, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Media curiously silent on “Truthy”

Because they either know or think they will be exempt.

I suppose they will be if they continue to be the mouthpiece for the Democratic Socialist People’s Party.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 27, 2014 at 8:53 PM