Bill Clinton Thinks The Internet Needs A Taxpayer Funded Ministry Of Truth

from the politifact-not-good-enough-for-you? dept

Now, it’s certainly true that the so-called “fourth estate” — the press — often isn’t very good at fact checking. They’re especially bad at fact checking politicians, and the popular “view from nowhere” often means that rather than pointing out where a politician has lied, they feel that as long as they give “the other side” equal time, they’ve done their job. However, do we really need a federal fact checking agency? That appears to be the opinion of former President Bill Clinton who suggested such an agency would be a good use of taxpayer money:

“Let’s say the U.S. did it, it would have to be an independent federal agency that no president could countermand or anything else because people wouldn’t think you were just censoring the news and giving a different falsehood out,” Clinton said.

“That is, it would be like, I don’t know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors” he said. “And also, they would also have to have citations so that they could be checked in case they made a mistake. Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it’s a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money.”

But why would that be a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money, when others are already trying to do that? We have operations like FactCheck.org and Politifact, both run by respected operations, and both of which have done pretty well from what I’ve seen. Of course, this sort of thing could also already be considered part of the GAO’s mandate, as it’s pretty well respected for not falling for political spin in its reports, but for digging in and getting things right. Of course, that hasn’t stopped much of the government from ignoring the GAO’s position on things.

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Comments on “Bill Clinton Thinks The Internet Needs A Taxpayer Funded Ministry Of Truth”

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39 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

This is astounding...

You’ve got to love the kind hillbilly jackass that can dream up the idea of an INDEPENDENT organization and then suggest that they should be part of the Federal government. That’s the kind of logical two-step that makes my testicles retreat up into my perineum.

Other equally logical proposals include:

-An organization for promoting open source software chaired by Bill Gates

-A human rights council lead by Ghadaffi

-An educational TV show on the basics of healthy cooking hosted by Jeffrey Dahmer

-A monthly periodical on proper cigar ettiquette with Editor and Chief Bill Clinton

Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

I don’t think Clinton’s solution makes any sense, but you should know that both Politifact and FactCheck have been ripped by other factcheck orgs for being exceptionally establishment-oriented. Politifact seems to go well out of its way to give breaks to Republicans not named Michele Bachmann while very aggressively parsing statements made by liberals.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Jeez

> Taxation is theft.

“Hey look, I got all my taxes back! Finally, no more theft by taxation. Oh wait, the sewers are backed up and the road in front of my house is full of potholes. Hey guys, why don’t we get together, pool our money, and get someone to provide services to us at a reasonable cost. Thank god we got rid of the government so we’d have money to do this.”

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Jeez

You sincerely believe that the government can be trusted with this task? That there wouldn’t be any abuse or downside or unexpected consequences?

I’ve got an idea: let Bill Clinton pay for it. If he’s so sure the internet needs “truth” this badly, let him go ahead and front the money for it. If it’s such a great idea, why is he even bothering dragging the taxpayers into it? That’s only going to slow the implementation down.

Hulser (profile) says:

Info as an alternative to new laws

While I don’t think that we need a federally funded agency dedicated to fact checking the Internet, I don’t see a problem with the governement publishing and promoting the distribution of useful information, part of which could be debunking misnformation. In fact, it might even be a better solution than the default behavior of politicians faced with the latest issue “threatening” the public today, which is to create some stupid new law.

What if there was a new tool in their toolbox to allow for addressing these issues without a new law? I personally wouldn’t have a problem with a government agency that proactively tried to publish the results of the research that the government already pays for. For example, would you rather have a new law that bans texting while driving or some government agency buying some web and TV ads explaining the associated dangers? And yes, any organization can be politicized, but even a biased message is better than a ban.

ShellMG says:

Re: Info as an alternative to new laws

Hulser, do you really want money-dependent politicians to define the phrase “useful information”? What are the criteria used to define the parameters and which department would be responsible for posting said information? Or would there be one central department where everything is screened for “approval” or would each agency be responsible for its own postings…funded by the taxpayer? This could be a new government agency of massive proportions.

Sorry, I’m married to a red-tape entangled bureaucrat who tries to work in spite of the tape.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Info as an alternative to new laws

Hulser, do you really want money-dependent politicians to define the phrase “useful information”?

Absolutely yes. Because it’s the lesser of the two evils between stupid laws and biased PSAs.

What are the criteria used to define the parameters and which department would be responsible for posting said information?

Let Congress argue and bicker over which topics to promote or what misinformation to debunk. The more time they’re doing this, the less time they’ll have to create stupid new laws that have a direct impact on what I can and can’t do.

Have you head the expression, “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”? Well, this applies to Congress. The only tool that they have is creating a new law. In order to justify their own existance, politicians have to create new laws. After passing yet another stupid new law, members of Congress feel like they can go back to their home state and say, “See what I did! I helped! I passed a new law that solves [insert panic topic de jour here].”

This need for justification isn’t going to go away. Like children, we have to give Congress something to do to keep them occupied so that they don’t get themselves (and more importantly, us) into trouble. If this means creating a government agency, even a large one, the mission of which was to publish information and debunk misinformation, then so be it.

Michael Lockyear (profile) says:

It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is

Tax-payer funded agencies / departments always end up being controlled by the politicians! This would be no different. And herein “lies” the problem.

Bill Clinton demonstrated with his “not sex”, oral sex, sex scandal that truth, for politicians, is a matter of definition. (It was Bill Clinton after all who famously said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”).

A more scary example:
During the Bush regime, the definition of torture was adjusted so that that it required ?serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,? … punching someone in the stomach or asphyxiating them with a wet sack was okay provided that the victim didn’t die or suffer permanent damage.

In others words, torture was not torture because the US government said so… how would a US government fact checking agency deal with such “facts”? How would a US government fact checking agency deal with conveniently classified facts?

If the US wants a fact-checking agency they should just send a donation to Wikileaks and the people of the world can decided for themselves.

Craig S says:

Speaking of fact checking...

It disturbs me how many websites, including this one, have taken this story and run with it as if Bill Clinton has this on his agenda and is just out to cost taxpayers more money. Did anyone actually see the interview or read the transcritps? The whole thing was about business and media credibility, and how dangerously simple it is for troves of blogs and other sites to just post blatantly false stories which troves of people immediately consume as absolute truth.

In this case, he was just giving an on-the-spot hypothetical solution in response to a question. But here we are with news sites and blogs everywhere spinning it like he’s out there ready to waste our money and needs to be stopped at once! I’m definitely not a Clinton fan, but talk about fact-checking; the sheer irony here is making me dizzy.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Speaking of fact checking...

The problem here is that Clinton is still wired into Washington and his wife has expressed her displeasure with Wikileaks in particular.

There’s no reason to believe that someone in Washington won’t try to run with this spectacularly bad idea. And the fact that people are giving him a pass for even suggesting that the government start policing the internet for “facts” and “truth” is even more disturbing.

Hypothetical or no, this needs to be ridiculed into the ground and have a heavy coating of ridicule salt scattered all over it until the idea dies its deserving death.

The internet is fairly self-regulating. After all, you don’t believe every piece of chainmail forwarded to you, do you? So why would anyone even think that we need someone (especially an oxymoronic monstrosity like an “independent federal agency”) to help us steer clear of all the lies and rumors on the internet?

Using taxpayer dollars is worrying, but not nearly as worrying as the idea itself.

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