During times of massive wealth inequality and economic uncertainty, our tolerance for the whims of the super rich tends to wane a bit. That's why multi-millionaire media mogul Arianna Huffington's announcement that she would be launching a new website for the likes of Tony Blair, Yo-Yo Ma and Bill Gates isn't exactly a welcome edition to the media landscape that really only exists of other billionaire funded corporations.
Stunningly unoriginally named The World Post, the new outlet is aimed at a world wide audience (as the name would suggest) and will be launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month. The entity is a 50-50 joint venture with art collector and billionaire Nicolas Berggruen’s Institute on Governance think-tank, and has amongst others, Google's Eric Schmidt, and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar as part of its editorial board (Omidyar recently backed Glenn Greenwald's new media project 'First Look Media').
Huffington's vision for the site is about as inspiring as an American Airline flight safety video: “There is a need for a purely online global publication that brings together the influential voices of the Berggruen Institute – global thinkers, Nobel Laureates – with all the new voices, the young people around the world who don’t have as big a platform,” she said in a statement about the new site. “My mission for the World Post is to have that global conversation.”
Global, conversation, platform, influential, blah, blah, blah....
Arianna, ever the PR genius, is tapping into the exponentially expanding market of 'Thought Leadership' organizations that purport to solve the world problems in 20-minute YouTube presentations. Getting the likes of Tony Blair and Elon Musk to weigh in on 'global issues' (whatever that means) is about as useful as relying on Oprah Winfrey to solve your relationship woes. It all sounds great in theory, but as soon as the clip ends, it's back to your dysfunctional relationship and low paying job with no benefits.
Investing in journalism and online content is generally a good thing, and Arianna deserves a lot of respect for creating a viable model in the new media age. The Huffington Post has come under fire for bottom of the barrel click-baiting, new-age health nonsense, and relentlessly promoting Arianna's celebrity friends, but it also funds real journalism and provides real jobs for journalists, producers, and editors who would probably otherwise be shilling for obnoxious PR agencies. For everything negative about the Huff Post, there is also an undeniable positive, particularly given the collapse of the newspaper industry in the mid 2000's, and its further demise after the 2008 global economic catastrophe. The Huffington Post has acted as a beacon of hope for the industry - proof that a workable model exists with a bit of innovation and vision.
The world faces very severe economic challenges in the coming years, problems created largely by the global super rich who have helped rig the world's financial system, media and governments around the world to further their own monetary interests. We need media companies to go after these people, not give them platforms to talk about 'good governance' and futuristic high-speed transportation systems.
And that's why it's sad Arianna has thrown her considerable weight behind a new venture that further glamorizes the powerful and perpetuates the myth that our problems can be solved by rich people having bold ideas.