NY Times faces backlash for report urging Biden admin to appoint 'reality czar' to combat 'disinformation'

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The New York Times is turning to the Biden administration to “help solve our reality crisis” and calling on the new president to appoint a “reality czar” to combat “disinformation.”

Times technology columnist Kevin Roose sounded the alarm Tuesday about the popularity of right-wing QAnon conspiracy theorists, the unsubstantiated election fraud claims President Trump pushed ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, and what he called “the baseless theory that Covid-19 was manufactured in a Chinese lab.”

“The muddled, chaotic information ecosystem that produces these misguided beliefs doesn’t just jeopardize some lofty ideal of national unity. It actively exacerbates our biggest national problems, and creates more work for those trying to solve them,” Roose wrote. “And it raises an important question for the Biden administration: How do you unite a country in which millions of people have chosen to create their own version of reality?”

“I’ve spent the past several years reporting on our national reality crisis, and I worry that unless the Biden administration treats conspiracy theories and disinformation as the urgent threats they are, our parallel universes will only drift further apart, and the potential for violent unrest and civic dysfunction will only grow,” Roose explained. 

Roose said he spoke with “a number of experts” who weighed in on what the Biden administration should do to “help fix our truth-challenged information ecosystem, or at least prevent it from getting worse.”

“Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a ‘reality czar,'” Roose wrote. 

Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy research director Joan Donovan suggested that the Biden administration set up a “truth commission” like the 9/11 Commission to look into what led up to the violence at the Capitol last month. 


Roose also shared a suggestion from Stanford Internet Observatory “disinformation researcher” Renée DiResta, who floated that the CDC and the FEC could set up processes to combat false information about the coronavirus and election fraud.

“This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems … And it could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis,” Roose wrote in support of the suggestion.

Critics blasted the Times’ calls for government intervention on behalf of the Biden administration, specifically the desire for a “reality czar.”

“So very many bad ideas here,” Reason magazine Matt Welch reacted.

“Looking forward to the Reality Czar deal with Joe Biden’s claim to have been arrested for trying to see Nelson Mandela,” The Nation correspondent Jeet Heer wrote.


“Am hereby nominating @MichaelAvenatti as America’s first Minister of Truth,” Grabien founder and news editor Tom Elliott quipped.

John Hopkins applied economics professor Steve Hanke quoted George Orwell, tweeting, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

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