Elon Musk has just been all over the Twitter game this week. He’s been trying to dunk on journalists left and right, and been collecting serious accolades from those who typically don’t trust the news. So, Trump fans! It’s hard not to blame them: reality has a way of being majorly disappointing. Elon’s also been busting out the techniques you tend to see the Donald employ: missing the point, mocking people instead of arguing, and trying to invalidate credibly. It’s a real great look for him. As the leading candidate for “up-and-coming supervillian,” it’s a little unsettling to be seeing such authoritarian tendencies in our future overlord.
Elon wants to make a new website in which he crowd-sources the definition of truth. The site will list various news outlets and use user rating to rank these outlets by their commitment to objective truth.
Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 23, 2018
He’s also gone so far as to attempt to buy the Pravda.com domain from Russia, who uses it for LITERAL GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA. Instead he bought Pravduh.com. Really missed the skill check on that pun, Elon. It was also clearly calculated to inflame, especially since Ol’ Muskie spent the rest of the afternoon wheedling journos on Twitter.
It’s never been harder to be a parody account.
— Bored Elon Musk (@BoredElonMusk) May 8, 2018
There are obviously no problems with this, but let’s play devil’s advocate just for the hoot. Who defines what the Truth is? What about bots? Russians? Actual humans with grudges? Journalism is an entire industry dedicated to trying to find objective truth. The main problem is that it requires humans, who have their own prejudices, biases, frames of reference and understandings of the world. Also, it’s possible to tell the truth without giving the complete story. All editing represents a possible deviation from the truth, but it’s impossible to practically include the entire universe in every story. There’s only so much reader attention you can occupy and only so many column inches one story can take up. So we end up approximating the Truth to the best of our ability. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s the best thing we’ve been able to come up with.
It’s impossible for a human being to “objectively” report the truth because objectivity is defined differently by different people. Trump fans won’t believe anything that clashes with their persistent insistence that the President is a super-powered god being who will save America from evil dark skinned menaces. Rachael Maddow fans won’t believe that Trump could ever do anything right. How can these people work together to rank the truth? The people most motivated to use this site would be those railing against the failing NYT and FAKE CNN. So, redhats and President Bone Spurs.
Truth cannot be rated, crowd-sourced or mechanically assessed. It takes work and talent to dig up the truth, and acting like journalists are willfully misleading the public because their reports don’t help reinforce your viewpoint is childish and pathetic. People will just have to use their long-withered critical thinking skills to determine that a story about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump is fake.
On second thought, maybe there isn’t much hope after all.