It’s good to see that the Gray Lady is sticking with their facts first, unvarnished lack of bias approach to covering the news now that Joe Biden has been sworn in. According to New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose, we’re currently in a “reality crisis” and something needs to be done. Not to worry. Roose isn’t the sort of guy who complains about problems without offering a solution. He believes that President Biden needs to appoint a “reality czar” to root out disinformation in this country. What this new czar would do about the aforementioned disinformation or the purveyors of same is not mentioned. There were some obvious references to QAnon included, but overall it really sounds more like a plan to go after thought crimes and root out those who say things you disagree with. (Fox News)
The New York Times is turning to the Biden administration to “help solve our reality crisis” and calling on the new president to appoint a “reality czar” to combat “disinformation.”
Times technology columnist Kevin Roose sounded the alarm Tuesday about the popularity of right-wing QAnon conspiracy theorists, the unsubstantiated election fraud claims President Trump pushed ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, and what he called “the baseless theory that Covid-19 was manufactured in a Chinese lab.”
“The muddled, chaotic information ecosystem that produces these misguided beliefs doesn’t just jeopardize some lofty ideal of national unity. It actively exacerbates our biggest national problems, and creates more work for those trying to solve them,” Roose wrote. “And it raises an important question for the Biden administration: How do you unite a country in which millions of people have chosen to create their own version of reality?”
We’ll just hand the microphone to Matt Welch of Reason Magazine for the initial response.
So very many bad ideas here:
"Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a 'reality czar.'”https://t.co/xONwDZsQhe
— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) February 2, 2021
It’s not as if Kevin Roose doesn’t have people in his corner on this. He summoned up the research director for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard who agrees. She went on to suggest that Biden set up a “truth commission” like the 9/11 Commission, but instead investigating the January 6th riot. If the phrase “truth commission” associated with the government doesn’t send cold chills down your spine, you’ve probably led a relatively sheltered life.
Is there disinformation out on the internet? I can hear most of you chuckling already. I can point you to any number of websites and discussion fora where people spend countless hours debating the best way to cleanse your house of ghosts. (I’m assured by reliable sources that it involves burning sage.) But particularly when it comes to politics, we should be careful not to conflate disinformation with misinformation. The former implies a deliberate attempt to mislead people, presumably for some nefarious purpose. But a lot of the material you run into turns out to be from people who are simply wrong about something. Being wrong still isn’t a crime in the country… unless I missed another one of Uncle Joe’s executive orders from the past couple of days.
When you bring in the specter of a government “truth commission” things become even more alarming. The media has a rather spotty record on fact-checking and that will demonstrate what I’m talking about. The press once declared that Donald Trump predicting that we’d have a vaccine against the novel coronavirus by the end of the year to be “mostly false.” It was a prediction, not a claim that something was factual. (And one that turned out to be correct, by the way.) The point I’m driving at here is that it’s all too easy to cross the line from facts and untruths into the territory of opinions and attitudes.
Flights of fancy that are passed off as facts aren’t the exclusive province of conservatives, by the way. You can do a quick search of our site and dredge up enough material about liberal fantasies to make your head spin. But that’s just life in the political fishbowl, I’m afraid.
Hopefully, Joe Biden is still well enough in control of his faculties to not start listening to nonsense like this. The government doesn’t get to tell everyone what’s real or not real. Reality is the only one that gets to make that call. But if we must have a Reality Czar, I’ll be willing to apply for the job if the pay and benefits are good enough and I can work from home. I’ll send my contact info to Jen Psaki if you’re interested, Mr. President.