Pierre Omidyar’s new journalism is no truth serum for fake news
Combatting the rise of so-called fake news is billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who will pay $100 million to fund investigative journalism. Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, his philanthropic investment company, aims to give $1 billion to good causes.
The company could, of course, pay more taxes and let democratically elected Governments invest the money. In 2016, eBay paid £1.1 million tax on £1 billion of UK sales. But that’s another argument. Corporations pay tax on profits not revenues. And being tax efficient might be a badge of honour. This one is about fake news.
Omidyar aims to alter the “root causes of the global trust deficit”. Omidyar Network partner Stephen King adds: “A free and independent media is key to providing trusted information and critical checks and balances on those in positions of power.”
Good news, then. Free speech has a new champion. And he’s got very deep pockets and long arms.
But the Washington Post says the money is to “boost journalism and fight hate speech”. But hate speech is free speech. How can you talk truth to power it you can’t offend the powerful for fear of being called a hater? How can you encourage government accountability and transparency if you can’t say things they would rather no-one knew?
As for fake news, the incessant talk of its unbridled power to corrupt society speaks less of a mistrust in journalism (you can and should read more than one news source) than it does of the elite’s panic rooted in the popular vote for Donald Trump and Brexit. Unable to grasp the truth that the majority employed reason when they voted against the status quo, the condescending losers call them thick. No need to work out why the working classes grabbed their chance to revolt and say ‘enough’ when you can reduce them to pliable, unthinking goons. But the knowing are not without sympathy for the fools who got it wrong. “You deplorables didn’t understand you were voting badly because you were tricked by a Russian news bot and demented demagogues. We should take your right to vote away but let’s see if you can first be re-educated.”
The knowing should take care not to use any text book featuring dodgy dossiers about Weapons of Mass Destruction, Jews drinking gentile blood, Benjamin Franklin’s tales of platoons of “scalping” Indians working in league with King George III to slaughter patriots and the myriad other fake news stories the powerful have employed down the ages to prop up the establishment.
Nowadays anyone can pump out a bogus news story. The power has shifted.
So will a big investment in investigative journalism help us see the truth of things and reveal stories the powerful, famous, protected and criminal don’t want revealed? It can’t hurt. It’ll also be interesting to see which stories keep appearing at the top of Omidyar’s objective news cycle.
And amplifying alternative voices is a lot more attractive than any paternalistic regime acting as journalism’s gate-keeper, ‘checking the facts’ and telling us what is and is not true. There is always more than way to view a story. But if look hard enough, truth can be discovered. More news is good news.