The Press needs to be Freed from the Tyranny of Money

in #busy3 years ago


An ubiquitous presence in modern commercial society, money can corrupt human nature itself, weakening or severing our social bonds. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and has been known throughout the centuries as an archetype of immorality. The repugnance of Judas' behaviour is in the severing of social bonds for mere money [1].
In [1], the authors show that even the activation of the construct of money through priming techniques increased the likelihood that the primed individuals would demonstrate unethical intentions.

Social (dis)approval is a key element in the enforcement of social norms. Therefore, the interactions between economic incentives and social approval also have implications for the enforcement of social norms. [2]

In particular, rewarding people monetarily for obeying social norms has been shown to weaken norm enforcement and led to a gradual erosion of norm-guided behaviour. [3]

These things are at play in Steemit as well, witness the hand-wringing about circle-voting, reward pool raping and other exploitative behaviour that a system regulated by money and money only generates. But here I'll talk about something bigger than Steemit, our free press.

Free press and democratic Society

The free press is one of the most important institutions of our democratic societies. Yet lately it has been less and less able to play a cohesive role and has been caught into the same whirlwind that menaces to rip apart the bonds that hold us together.

In the past, when the respect for social norms and hierarchies was higher, people looked up to quality content and saw it as something to aspire to. In the current society where individual freedom has significantly increased and the importance of social norms and values has faded, money has remained the sole yardstick.

High-brow content sells less than low-brow content. Measured in money terms, high quality content is less valuable than low quality shrill clickbait.

What follows is an adaptation of a comment I made on a post by @hansikhouse. He advised it should be a standalone post, hence this article.

The only feed-back loop that exists between the journalists and their readership is mediated by money. Journalists need money to live, they get those money from people reading their pieces, hence they need to adapt their writing to maximize the number of people reading what they write.

As the bulk of the readership would rather read titillating news about Bieber and the Kardashians, it all becomes a kind of Dutch auction with respect to quality. The journalists end up battling to be the best at exercising the worst instincts and the reptilian brain and the amygdala of as many people as possible.


Whatever we say, the whole idea of "my opinion is as good as yours" is scientifically-provable to be bonkers. Your opinion is provably better than mine because you are smarter, better educated, more knowledgeable and I'm a stupid guy with the IQ of a cobblestone.

The only thing we have in common is that we belong to the same species, but our cells harbour completely different gene combinations.

Thus AUTHORITY. You are an authority and I am not. You are entitled to say that "that content" is of higher quality based on clear criteria. And I should take it from you, because you DO know better.

This current era of "we are all equally bright and valuable and our opinions cannot be ranked in any way" is ruining the society. When push comes to shove, in order to advance, respond to a challenge or threat, make progress, if you say "to the right" and I say "to the left" there has to be some structure that says : "when in disagreement on this particular topic, your opinion prevails". And maybe on another topic it will be my opinion, and that's ok.

But if the journalists' bread depends on selling as much copy as possible then we are going to select the journalists that can write for the greater number, and the greater number wants to read about Bieber and the Kardashians.

That doesn't mean that money should play no role at all. But they must not constitute the only dimension along which "quality of content" is measured and ranked.

A Constitution for Quality Journalism

An acclaimed social scientist, Jon Elster has studied constitutions in the context of the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe [4]. He noted that they can serve as a "feedback mechanism" and "precommitment device". Insofar as they promote the values of stability, accountability and credibility, they have a significant influence on economic development. [5]

Here is where a system like Steem, based on a "reward pool" from which the journalists are paid, can help. But in order to not reproduce the same "spiral to the bottom" mechanics it needs to distribute the reward pool based on how close an article is to a "Constitution of Quality". Its structure should be guided, draw inspiration and incorporate the "norms, values, virtues, practices, identities, institutions, technologies and evolved psychological mechanisms [that] work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible."[6]

I am convinced the free press could greatly be helped by such a "Constitution of Quality Journalism", if to its elaboration the Kardashian-loving masses are invited to participate in order to obtain their wide acceptance and socially-enforced commitment.

  1. Seeing green: Mere exposure to money triggers a business decision frame and unethical outcomes M. Kouchaki et. al. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 121, 2013
  2. Psychological foundations of incentives E. Fehr and A. Falk, European Economic Review, No. 46, 2002
  3. Predictably Irrational Dan Ariely, Harper Collins, 2008
  4. The Impact of Constitutions on Economic Performance Jon Elster, World Bank, Washington 1994
  5. Elster for Economists Salomon Kalmanovitz, Lectura Finanzas, Banco de la Republica de Colombia
  6. Morality J. Haidt and S. Kesebir - in "Handbook of social psychology", Wiley, 2010

Some nice curation rewards which are explained by my previous posts
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or, in more detail:
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or in French:
"Communauté d'intérêts sur Steemit"


As explained in the above posts, these rewards for my curators are obtained through the use of bot promotion after 2-3 days of posting

I wonder: was press ever free? Since the invention of print, press depended on the holders of printing machines, distribution channels, seniors, sovereigns and church. Now they are at the mercy of owners, advertisers and numbers (as in sold copies, ratings etc.).

Freedom in press came more as short outbursts which were swiftly dealt with.

I agree authority should matter and be more strictly related to different fields of authority. On Steem there's the reputation score, which in my opinion has little to no use at the moment, which is the reason why I never bothered to boost mine.

As for proposing Steem reward system to adhere to the "Constitution of Quality" concept, by incorporating

norms, values, virtues, practices, identities, institutions, technologies and evolved psychological mechanisms [that] work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible

how would such a concept be implemented?

"Freedom" (as little as there is) can come from having two masters (instead of just one). Because then you get a little bit of wiggle room and choose to position yourself closer to either one or the other.

Currently the press has only one master, money. A second, independent from money, would increase their freedom (ever so slightly but it's still better than nothing). In this context, Steemit reputation does not qualify as it depends on "how much money you made on Steemit" !

Quality is explicitly not part of the design of Steem (see whitepaper). On Steemit, any useful "second master", including the concept of the "Constitution of Quality" needs to be "brought from outside the platform".

And this can only be done if we implement a 1 - 1 mapping between real world persons and steemit accounts. In this manner, when I write something about molecular biology I could have authority because I can claim (and hopefully prove, with proof from outside the platform) that I hold a Masters in the field. Absent this mapping, I can claim that but have no way to prove I'm not lying.

With the press it's easier because the real world has already implemented certification and trust transfer mechanisms

Hmm, I'm afraid sometimes press has more than money as a master, and I'm not sure in this context it's a good thing. Sometimes the endgame is influence, power, control, manipulation. Maybe smart journalists can find a way to introduce their own bias in the influence game, but otherwise more often than not there are certain directives they follow. We can see that clearly with fake news campaigns, FUD and other type of easy to spot manipulations.

I might've not understand you correctly, but if you meant Steem reputation score is related to the amount of money we make on the platform, that's wrong. This reputation score can be artificially inflated and can be brought down when users flag an account. In my opinion, it has nothing or little to do with one's "reputation" on the platform.

Ok, I understood what you meant about including the concept of "Constitution of Quality" to Steem. I tend to agree the "quality is subjective" argument seems to be a cover for all non-sense.

The issue I see with defining authority through certifications, is the active user base will become narrower and probably more elitist. I'm not one to indulge a race to the bottom, but a race to the top will probably inhibit many from the middle, who would otherwise express themselves here.

Probably the Hivemind project will offer the possibility to form various circles of like-minded individuals. That does not exclude the influence of the entire active user base on the rewards pool.

When the endgame is influence, power, control it's not the journalists seeking them, it's those controlling the journalists. People like Murdoch for instance may seek influence and power and use the press to this end but he controls the journalists through money only.

Whatever directives the journalists follow is because of a promise of money: "follow and get money, do not follow and get fired, hence no money".

I think you understood correctly: on Steemit, your reputation increases as a function of the upvotes you receive and their voting power (hence the money you receive from votes). And if you mean to say that it's a bad idea, I agree with you, but this is how it happens. This is why berniesanders has -17, because he got flagged

Whatever directives the journalists follow is because of a promise of money: "follow and get money, do not follow and get fired, hence no money".

I agree with you, but in this case, journalists have a job like every other one, and no purpose beyond the paycheck, and if doing it according to the rules will get them paid, breaking the rules will get them fired.

Correct. What is implicit here is that journalism is, from the perspective of a healthy democratic society, not "a job like every other one" - it has a role that is up there with the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary powers. Yet those three are somewhat shielded from the corrupting influence of money (emphasis on somewhat) through them being the prerogative of the State. Not so the Press ("the Fourth Power" in a free society).

Remember that former, less free regimes, used to keep a monopoly on mass communication (the BBC in the UK, the ORTF in France). While no one advocates a return to those times, it wasn't all negative.

Ouch! A monopoly of mass communication in the era of internet (and when we're talking about more revolutionary upgrades to it)?

That is both unfeasible and most likely undesirable, once we have reached this point.

Combating power games and manipulations should not be done by limiting the number of participants to the games.

The correct way I see to accomplish this, is by raising the awareness and involvement of those who are targeted by the power games and manipulations, usually the general public.

If at the same time the agenda of each player could be more transparent and they wouldn't be allowed to jump from one side to the other like nothing ever happened, that would be a bonus.

I meant to write "WHILE no one advocates ..." and I mistyped "why no one ..." !!! :-D
Almost completely opposite meaning ! :-)

Clearly a state monopoly of mass comunication media is unthinkable - you can't "unbreak the eggs".
Indeed the correct way is to raise the awareness of the public. That can partly be done by the educative system. But in adulthood, the role of the educative system is taken by ... the MEDIA !

Hence by corrupting the media one can negatively influence that awareness of the general public !

A very well written article which points out some important aspects of reality.
It took me three readings to understand the idea behind the text though 😅. I can conclude the reason is that is used an elitist language, not very appealing to the masses 😉.
Which send us back in the real world and to the 80/20 ratio 😁. Maybe the problem does not lay with the information after all, but the format in which is delivered.
80% of the people are using no more than 5 to 10 thousands words in the day to day life, and our brain is quite lazy when it comes to this kind of struggle.

I can write a book on this subject, but I hope this comment is enough for now 😅.

The bottom line is, we are animals led by emotions and needs and not everyone of us jump straight in the water, some like to enter gradually 😉.

Thank you for reminding me.

By the way, as an anecdote, it was the only negative point in my yearly performance assessment by my boss ! "He must however pay attention to tune the language to the audience, which can sometimes find his language overly complicated".

I'm curious what trufflepig will have to say

I was wondering what are you referring to when said

I'm curious what trufflepig will have to say

But I managed to find out 😅. Hard to believe that is just a bot writing, I am not convinced yet.

Sometimes is not about tunning the language to the audience. I believe it's better to tune in the right audience, this way you can remain yourself.
However, sometimes I do not comment on certain articles just because I feel that my language is too low, relative to the one used in article. Even though I may have something to say, I do hesitate.

I believe, the reason a lot of great articles on Steemit does not get the right exposure and interaction is what I said above. The right audience for this kind of content doesn't really spend their time on Steemit, yet!

As you may already sense, the crypto world is populated by a different kind of people, not established ones 😉. I see a lot of artists, rebels, entering an entrepreneurial environment. Is not only the platform in the Beta, but the community is still stirring. The next few months will be quite exciting to be around Steemit, I can smell a huge wave of pros' flooding in 😁.

To actually say something related to the article 😂.

The higher quality an article have, the less individuals are in the audience. You have to understand something in order to appreciate it 😉.

Something like this:

Is not all about money 😉.

100% agree. And I hope you are right about the "huge wave of pros' flooding in" 😉

Very good ;)

This reminds me of the problem of blood donation, a major problem in France. At one point, there was a test of financial reward for donors, until it became clear that donations were falling even further ... When donations stopped, donations returned. Money does not buy everything, certainly not generosity and self-sacrifice.

The press is all corrupt and publishes the news that the owner of the newspaper or owner of the TV channels
Corruption with the modern system has become very big
Really very special article

Corruption by money. The press is a whore and publishes whatever pays best.

But the journalists all had dreams. We need to give them a chance to live up to their dreams of quality journalism while also being able to repay their mortgage and drive a decent car.

"Kardashian-loving", ha ha, this was a funny read @sorin.cristescu!

Yes, the press needs some kind of solution where they can be free from "corporate overlords", I guess this will happen naturally now as "mainstream media" have to close down their offices, leaving a vacuum for alternatives like "blockchain-people-sponsored alt-media" or maybe just more "Kardashian-clones"... =)

I have a blockchain structure in mind exactly for this use case, I will present the ideas when we meet :)

I decided to take concrete steps and make progress on my projects. I therefore used anon.steem to register two project-oriented steemit handles, @contentera (where I have teamed up with a couple of friends)


and @ressolid (my original idea)


I haven't used anon.steem for the anonimity, rather despite the anonimity - I used it because it seems to have the cheapest price: 2 STEEM (out of 5 STEEM paid, the newly created user is given 3 SP for bandwidth)

Nice, I presume @contenters has something to do with jurnalism :)

I wish you the best of luck with these projects and I can't wait to hear more.

ajung marti 8 mai (seara destul de târziu, pe la 21h00) si plec inapoi spre aeroport vineri pe la ora 15

Eu pot in orice seara, e dupa tine si ceilalti care vor sa vina :)

BTW, si eu am, chiar doua blockchain project, unul mai simplu de realizat pe care lucrez cu prioritate si un al doilea mult mai ambitios dar si mai riscant pentru etapa doi. :-)
Vorbim ! :-)

De abia astept :)

Thanks for calling @sorin.cristescu! Here is a small upvote for this post and my opinion about it.

To my mind this post is at least 7 SBD worth and should receive 35 votes.

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Have a nice day and sincerely yours,

This post, with over $50.00 in bidbot payouts, has received votes from the following:

buildawhale payout in the amount of $100 STU, $183 USD.
therising payout in the amount of $30 STU, $55 USD.
appreciator payout in the amount of $30 STU, $54 USD.
rocky1 payout in the amount of $23 STU, $41 USD.
promobot payout in the amount of $16 STU, $29 USD.

For a total calculated bidbot upvote value of $198 STU, $362 USD before curation, with approx. $49 USD curation being earned by the bidbots.

This information is being presented in the interest of transparency on our platform @sorin.cristescu and is by no means a judgement of your work.

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