This morning, I am going to violate my self-imposed admonition against advising billionaires how to spend their money. How to invest it is what I do for a living, but how to spend it is something else entirely.
The basis for this rule waiver/advice was a front page NYT article: After Business and Politics, Mayor Tests Opinion:
“After conquering Wall Street in the 1970s, crushing competitors in the information-technology industry in the ’80s and reigning over New York City politics for the past decade, the ever-ambitious Mr. Bloomberg now wants to dominate a new sphere — the world of opinion . . .
Not everyone inside Bloomberg L.P. is enthusiastic: its news arm is known for bleaching stories of extraneous adjectives, conjunctions and descriptions, adopting a just-the-facts ethos that has earned it a reputation for fairness.”
What I find most appealing about Bloomberg is his modus operandi: He is a data-driven, nonpartisan, centrist thinking Technocrat. That stands out from the typical modern pol, so dependent upon spin. But Bloomberg can turn that to his advantage, with a little unconventional thinking and a broader approach to journalism, media and opinion-making.
Bloomberg found success in financial data by being the most accurate, comprehensive, and timely source dedicated to that data flow; the competition could not keep up, and now Bloomberg owns the space. But I suspect being merely another source of opinions in a very crowded space is far less likely to achieve much more than a passing success for hizzoner.
Why? Because Bloomberg LLC is the anti-opinion news source. For the traditional opinion makers, BBerg’s trength is a disadvantage. That alone makes it unlikely it will attract a broad following.
What Michael Bloomberg should do however, is Jiu jitsu that “weakness” into a potential advantage.
How? Consider the numerous intractable problems facing the nation. When it comes to policy making, there are several issues in particular that lead us astray:
2) The slow demise of competitive Investigative Journalism
3) No penalty for being “Reality Challenged”
As it relates to the opinion making that Bloomberg wants to pursue, I suggest he consider aggressively undertaking the following:
1) Establish a “Round Earth Think Tank:” The goal is to produce definitive research on who is manufacturing ignorance, bad info, propaganda. Create an accurate data driven set of facts. As long as policy makers are debating reality, it becomes impossible to respond to real issues
2) Facilitate Investigative Journalism: Whether its helping organizations such as Pro Publica or using the Business Week platform for deeper dives, Democracy does not work well without an aggressive Fourth Estate.
3) Punish the Agnotologists: Use your platform, celebrity and non-partisan reputation to punish those people that consistently lie to the American people. Call out the political figures that constantly make false claims; challenge the ongoing debasement of knowledge and scientific method.
4) Establish a PAC: Donate money to opponents of these candidates. If you are going to run for public office on a campaign of disinformation, expect to face well-funded opponents.
That is my simple advice for Michael Bloomberg: To influence opinion, you must understand the state of current opinion-making, and how it got that way. To truly influence opinions, one needs to see the flaws in the current process — and fix them . . .
After Business and Politics, Mayor Tests Opinion
NYT, February 28, 2011