Saturday, December 31, 2011

What do we do with public liars?

The Truth about Public Untruths : CJR
In the battle of public untruths versus fact checking, the forces of untruth have more money, more people, and, I would argue, much better expertise. They know how to birth and spread a lie better than we know how to debunk one. They are more creative about it, and, by the very nature of what they’re doing, they aren’t constrained by ethics or professional standards. Advantage, liars.

Every politician, pundit, press secretary, news analyst, talk show host, talk show guest, talk show guest host, etc. gets scored by an independent fact checking agency for the truth value of statements they make on TV, the radio, or in print when interviewed or in material they publish. (We can iron out the details of who oversees the agency, who works for it, how they are held accountable for their research and scoring ... they key thing is that they consider statements made by all public figures and media gatekeepers fairly and without political bias. If somebody says, "So-and-so never said any such thing," and So-and-So did, in fact, say such thing, then that person is marked as a liar, regardless of their affiliation, what was said, or by whom.)

The results of the scoring are then displayed as a badge or a banner that is digitally inserted next to their face and name whenever they appear on TV, in print next to their name when ever they are published in a newspaper or quoted, and plays before, during, after everything they say on the radio.

If someone is caught telling a lie, and they tell that same lie again, instead of just a badge showing their score, the words "Fucking Liar" will flash in bold over their face and next to their name. We could mix in phrases like "Mendacious Twat," "Unrepentant, Malicious Scumbag," and so on, as appropriate.

"Always On" accountability for pundits might look like this.

Now, some liars are very clever and merely shade the truth, misrepresent data, tap dance around direct questions with unrelated talking points, or use other means to disseminate misinformation without making bald-faced lies. These behaviors can be quantified, measured, and factored in as well.

It's also not always clear who stands to gain by advancing certain positions, "military analysts" who work for defense contractors, for example. These folks should also have the fact that they have a financial interested in one side or the other of debate made transparent.

Frankly, even labeling the pundits probably isn't enough, we probably should have our top scientists working on integrating speech recognition and search technology into broadcasting so we have the ability to flag lies and cite accurate information on the fly.

We can show player stats, digitally insert ads on the fences of baseball fields during live broadcasts ... heck, we even have eagle-eyed Redditors spotting giant North Koreans within hours of the release of a photo; you can't tell me we don't have the technology and talent to do all of the above.
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