Open Letter to George Soros
by pshropshire, Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 12:27:52 PM EDT
I wrote this as a column for Better Humans. If someone here is in contact with Soros please give him this.
Time for Some Real New Media
An open letter to George Soros and other rich guys angry at Bush Jr
Dear George Soros,
I have followed your career now for quite some time. I have always admired you because I find you to be that rarefied thing: The Enlightened Super-capitalist--or at least the capitalist who doesn't cringe at the thought of nationalized health care and decent treatment for the working class.
In fact, I have always dreamt that you're the kind of man with the vision to attempt to do things better. I imagine that you would endorse a transhumanist kind of space colony in which direct democracy is the norm and self-evolution is the rule. The first Martian metropolis could use a sponsor, and I nominate you. And hey, there's a lot of money in alien antiquities and asteroid belt rare materials in which you could have a percentage stake. Or how does the role of Martian fed chairman strike you? You and Elon Musk should have a nice long talk. There's nothing I would approve of more than a decent billionaire becoming a decent trillionaire.
Unfortunately, it's hard to dream of the stars when we're watching the Earth go to ruin. And as I bring my gaze from the future to the present, I can't help but notice that you have a healthy contempt for President George Bush Jr. Your recent piece in The Atlantic Monthly aptly expressed some of the biggest problems with the current regime: A simple unilateral approach to world problems, a relentless pattern of lying and bribery (your use of the word "doublespeak" was especially telling) and, most importantly, the recognition that if other nation states were to adopt our preemptive "strategery," the world would become a much more dangerous place. I concur. He's also very very bad on science policy, which we Betterhumans.com writers have a problem with. You can read about that here, here and here.
What's most encouraging is that you're not just content to write essays about the problem. You also put your money where your mouth is. It's estimated that you've already pledged $20 million (all figures, naturally, US) of your estimated $10 billion fortune to defeat Bush next fall. You're to be congratulated, but it will probably take a lot more money than that to do it.
And it will take some real new media--not just new forms, but new owners and voices. If the American Progressive movement, which believes in most if not all of what your Open Society Institute espouses, is to thrive then it must create a compelling consensual media of its own.
The Open Society network
I think it's important to get into the media business. I might note that this goes well beyond just electing anybody but Bush. It means penetrating the GOP-leaning Dog Fancy Truman Show media reality of the US, where a mediocre man such as our current president can get elected in the first place primarily with public relations methods. There needs to be an Open Society version of television's Fox News. There needs to be an Open Society version of Clear Channel radio. And there needs to be an Open Society version of the American daily newspaper that does not routinely endorse Republicans or retrograde Republican policies.
I think that the way to do this is through the Internet, because I think that it would be quickest and cheapest. A long time ago, during a discussion with Ted Rall, I actually wrote up an outline for how you can staff an online paper for $1 million. (The only thing I'm worried about is out-of-control healthcare costs. Here's an idea for a billionaire investor: Create a nonprofit health insurance company whose only goal is to break even.) True, buying CNN or MSNBC might be more effective, but most likely by the time you finalized those deals (if the GOP FCC would even allow you to do it) Bush will have bought off the next election. You can create an Internet presence right now.
Best of all, the Internet offers a way for you to create Open Society radio, television and print portals all at once. Democracy Now, a legitimately left-wing news show, is already showing you how this can be done. I might note that they could use more money, in case you're wondering what outlets would tell you where the protests are.
So, my scheme is this: Use the business plan I've outlined above and put staff in 15 to 17 of the battleground states. These are states such as Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Arkansas. Think of this as the logical extension to what you're already doing with America Coming Together. You could have them up and running in several months. All it takes is money. This won't be an unlimited amount of money, I might add. In fact, the goal of these publications is to become financially self-sufficient. I think that's very possible. At $1 million per state publication (and a good penny pincher could lower those costs), you're looking at an investment of $17 million. And if you're serious about beating Bush then you're looking at an investment of $100 million. I would use the remaining $83 million on countering Bush ad buys in the battleground states, but that's just me and my imaginary $100 million.
I might note that with Webcams and broadband you can watch the various headquarters. And don't just limit it to politics. Create a number of video channels. It would be nice to have 24-hour video stations dedicated to jazz and new classical, or rock music for people who are older than 13. Think of yourself as a privatized NPR that aspires to be an American BBC. No one could stop you. All it takes is money, fueled by an appropriate sense of political outrage at the supremacist policies of the Bush administration.
It seems to me that you are one of the few people who can pull this off, a kind of American Gorbachev, who will do what's best for his country and the world even if it flies against the interests of his elite class. Consider this my application to help build an American 24 Hours. If we don't prevent a Bush reelection, then you're looking at the prospect of a horrific future, an unsexy unattainable future. A kind of top-down future in which only the rich get the decent stem cell treatments and our lives are like the worst of both 1984 and Brave New World. There are only 11 months left before the election. I'm ready to get to work.
Copyright © 2003 Philip Shropshire