Tuesday, February 22

Echo Chamber

The Echo Chamber Project is a virtual assignment desk for an open source investigative project that wants to reverse-engineer the public relations campaign used to sell the public on the war in Iraq. Hypothesis: the television news bought it lock stock and two smoking barrels.

Check out the project's media democratization model. It sounds a bit like the 9/11 commission. I'm a bit concerned about steps 8 and 9, though:

8. The journalist passes the open- and closed-source information to a panel of politically representative moderators who oversee and direct the official peer review process.

9. The panel of partisan editors collaboratively analyze the incoming factual evidence and agree on how to reform the preliminary conclusions. The reformed conclusions would incorporate the feedback from society and would be documented online. These reformed conclusions would be transmitted through additional objective news analysis articles or investigative reporting.

"Partisan editors" that "collaboratively analyze," and a "benevolent dictator" who organizes the whole process and issues the objective conclusions. Hmmm. Who's going to decide what "politically representative" means in selecting the panel of editors? As far as the open-source metaphor goes, this is a bit like handing Linux to Microsoft with a faulty GPL that allows them to patent the whole thing. We're assuming at the outset that the two major political parties are representative of the spectrum of political opinion in this country. Counterexample: Neither of them reflect MY Greenish, civil libertarian, fiscally conservative, "pro-regulation to keep the corporate scum from perpetrating more Enrons but let's subject the regulatory regime to Occam's Razor so's not to punish responsible businesss for the misdeeds of the Ken Lays of the world, on the other hand, let's nip those budding little Lays in the bud, not just throw the mob a merely technically guilty Martha once in a while to sate its bloodlust" evolving worldview. You?

Pundits are fond of saying the Republican strategy at the moment aims at one-party rule like that of the PRI in Mexico. The fact is that we already have it: It simply has two brands on the shelves, which compete against one another as a marketing strategy, like the World Wrestling Federation. It's not politics, it's political entertainment.

Why moderate it at all, if you want to be a constitutional monarchy with a benevolent Queen Liz at the top to take credit and read the ruling party's press release on Throne Day? Let the interested parties spin the data on their own time, and organize their own smart mobs to spam the forums. That's the problem with mob journalism: no accountability. You still need the moral equivalent of Sarbanes-Oxley to make sure that there's an accountable person making the tough, timely judgments and putting his or her reputatation on the line. An editor, in short.

Also sprach Zarathustra.


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