I’ll never forget what caused me to lose my once-unwavering faith in the American media. It was immediately following the Trayvon Martin shooting, when news broke that MSNBC had deliberately altered tape recordings of George Zimmerman in order to make him sound as if he was targeting Trayvon for being black.
Perhaps it was merely an honest mistake, but the very possibility that a major news source would intentionally tamper evidence in a way that would directly lead to increased racial tensions and social unrest pretty much shattered my youthful credulity.
What cemented my growing cynicism was a relatively minor occurrence that happened during my libertarian days. In a hatchet job on Rand Paul, The New York Times took one libertarian thinker so far out of context as to make it sound as if he was saying the exact opposite of what he had actually said in a blatant attempt at smearing libertarian beliefs without regard for the truth.
There have been plenty of other instances over the years where I’ve encountered the media blatantly lying or distorting facts in order to serve some ideological agenda. Needless to say, I took pleasure in watching the media squirm in the face of the widespread backlash against “Fake News.”
Of course, the reality is that most journalism is more or less trustworthy, and the kind of egregious twisting of the facts mentioned above is thankfully a rare occurrence.
Still, the fact remains that sometimes journalists will play fast and loose with the facts in a way that completely misleads their audience and distorts the public’s perception of the truth. For this reason, I think Elon Musk’s recent proposal to create a site that would assess journalists based on their credibility and truthfulness is a fundamentally good idea. The proposed site, pravduh.com, would serve as a sort of Snopes for journalism and track the credibility of individual journalists.
While critics might point out that this whole thing is just Musk’s petty response to the recent slew of negative media attention his company has received, the core idea is great. We trust the media to serve as a watchdog, exposing corruption and lies within institutions like the government and keeping the public up to date with the realities of these institutions.
Since it plays such an important role in society, shouldn’t the media also be subjected to scrutiny?
Journalists are not above lying or twisting the truth, and it is clearly important that those who do lie are exposed as the charlatans they are. Though I do have some qualms over having some corporate billionaire with clear vested interests like Musk running the site, I believe that the idea behind the site itself is worth being pursued. Like all other powerful institutions, the media need to be accountable.