Prince Harry: Disinformation Commissioner

I wrote this post on Harry’s new role with the Aspen Institute on April 5 with the intention of posting later that week. However, on April 9, Buckingham Palace announced the death of Prince Philip. Now, a month and two days on from Prince Philip’s death, I felt it would be okay to post.

In March of this year, it was announced that Prince Harry had joined The Aspen Institute for a six-month commission on misinformation and disinformation in the United States. His official title is Commissioner, and he joins big names like Katie Couric on the 18-member commission.

Per The Aspen Institute, the goal of the commission is to “identify and prioritize the most critical sources and causes of information disorder and deliver a set of short-term actions and longer-term goals to help government, the private sector, and civil society respond to this modern-day crisis of faith in key institutions.”

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute, in its own words, is “a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.” In other words: It’s a huge think tank and lobbying group. The institute gets about $160 million in revenue and financial support each year. A big chunk of its operating budget comes from billionaire benefactors like Bill and Melinda Gates, the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Fords, and other super rich people.

That Harry has officially signed up to work with The Aspen Institute is interesting, because it is yet another signal that he (or much, more likely, Meghan) are positioning themselves in the realm of American politics. They’re aligning themselves with one of the biggest, richest think tanks in the United States and making friends with the benefactors who are paying to keep it going. And being affiliated with the institute also gives Harry and Meghan a reason to visit Washington, DC, where the Aspen Institute has an office.

All of this is strategic and being done to put Harry and Meghan in the same circles as politicians and policymakers. I’m not saying that their goal of stopping disinformation and online hatred are bad, or that H&M aren’t passionate about it. What I am saying is this: the connections Harry, and by extension Meghan, could make from this six month, unpaid role on the commission could be a great investment if they end up getting new Washington/New York connections, possible money for Archewell (both the nonprofit and profit sides), and legitimacy in the United States political/policy world. Not a bad tradeoff.

Back to the commission. Here are a few notable members:

Kathryn Murdoch

Kathryn Murdoch is the wife of James Murdoch and daughter in law of Rupert Murdoch. That Harry would be a member of a commission that includes Kathryn Murdoch, someone related to media baron/Fox News owner/Trump friend/general misinformation spreader Rupert Murdoch was made into a pretty big news story. that got some traction.

FYI, in addition to owning Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns US publications The Wall Street Journal, Page Six, The New York Post, Barron’s, and Market Watch; UK publications The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun; the mammoth publishing house HarperCollins; and a WHACK of news, tabloid, entertainment, and broadcasting outlets in Australia, including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, The Advertiser (Adelaide), Mercury (Hobart), NT News, The Cairns Post, Gold Coast Bulletin, Townsville Bulletin, Geelong Advertiser and The Weekly Times, Vogue Australia, Vogue Living, GQ Australia, and Foxtel.

However, James and Kathryn Murdoch have publicly distanced themselves from the rest of the Murdoch family and last year, James quit his role at Murdoch-owned News Corp over disagreements related to disinformation being propagated by companies under the News Corp umbrella.

So, while you can criticize Harry for lots of stuff, being on a commission with Kathryn Murdoch is not one of them.

Chris Krebs

Chris Krebs is an attorney who served as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. Again, you could make a story out of this if you were lazy and wanted to; however, again, it’s not an issue. Krebs was actually fired by Donald Trump in November 2020 for refusing to publicly state that the 2020 US presidential election was fraudulently won by Joe Biden (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).

Amanda Zamora

Amanda Zamora is co-founder and publisher of The 19th, an independent news outlet focusing on issues of gender, politics, and policy. If any kind of story is going to be written about Prince Harry, The Aspen Institute and conflicts, this might be it (although it’s pretty tenuous, to be honest).

If you remember from last summer, Meghan did a question and answer session at The 19th’s Represent summit on women in politics and public policy.

The iffy thing about this talk is that Meghan was almost definitely paid for it, probably to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the biggest sponsor of The 19th’s virtual summit? Golden Sachs. It just doesn’t look great when you’re speaking about things like inequality and injustice while you’re being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (partly/wholly by Goldman Sachs) to do it.

To sum up, this is an interesting step for Harry and I will definitely keep an eye on it. The world of the rich and powerful in the United States is actually pretty small, and Harry and Meghan are trying to make connections with as many powerful people as quickly as they can. If they can do this and help stop the spread of disinformation online at the same time, that would be a huge win for them.

Last/random thoughts:

  • The Aspen Institute has created this whole commission on disinformation and misinformation that has arisen and had a toxic impact on society. A huge chunk of the responsibility for this lands at Facebook’s feet. So why does The Aspen Institute have an official Facebook page?
  • Commissioners will not be paid for their work on the commission, per The Aspen Institute’s website. They are essentially paying Prince Harry in clout, and vice versa. Think of it as an unpaid internship for someone looking to pad his resume before he applies for a bigger job.

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3 thoughts on “Prince Harry: Disinformation Commissioner

  1. What I find interesting about the “misinformation” being put out there is that most of the people associated with The Aspen Institute are the problem. My issue is the powerful people determining what is incorrect information or not. We can all agree that Fox News is pretty flexible with the truth, but I’ve noticed that the media that we have been taught to know and trust (CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC) in North America, are becoming very flexible with the truth as well lately. They have seen Fox’s model and are actually emulating it. We can refer directly to CBS and CNN in regards to the mis-truths they have reported lately on the Sussexes. Unbalanced reporting and no fact checking.
    Currently, CNN is not reporting on Gov Cuomo’s sexual assault allegations because his brother Chris is a reporter for CNN. So, wouldn’t hiding articles (which CNN has done in regards to Max Foster’s report on the inaccuracies of the Oprah interview), or ignoring a huge political firestorm (not reporting on Gov Cuomo) also be labelled as “misinformation?”

    Reporting is actually an opinion piece, so having reporters and media big wigs in the Aspen Institute might negate their actual argument. They are making $160m a year deciding what the common people need to be focusing on. It seems self-serving rather than serving the greater good. How is this different than Putin’s censorship? Shouldn’t we the commoners decide what is fake news and what isn’t? It’s come to a point where you have to read at least 6 articles from different publications to try to locate a truth in there.
     
    So, I do agree with you that it will be interesting to see where this goes for Harry, but I don’t think it will go anywhere. It’s just rich, powerful people talking about something that they once controlled, but, with the explosion of social media and YouTube, has become out of their control.

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  2. Hi, well I must say that when this came up, I wasn’t impressed and even less so after I read that the Craig List founder was also involved with this, and that Craig List has earned profits in some dubious ways (we also need to be aware that a lot of rich people became rich by doing one or more dubious, unethical or even illegal things in their road to fortune). Personally I don’t think this will amount to anything in terms of impact to society, but it may or may not help H and M built connections with US elites. Like everything, time will tell, because right now the situation is “active and ongoing”, so to speak. The prior commentator made some interesting points about several members of this committe being the problem or part of it. I also read the story about what happened to Max Foster’s report on the Oprah interview inaccuracies, luckily I saw that video in the CNN youtube channel, I haven’t checked if it was taken down from there but I read it was removed from their website, I think is shameful, and it does show manipulation from all kinds of media. UK Harper’s Bazaar also tried to control the comments section under a post about M and Vax Live, and the backlash was swift, specially because they didn’t react the same way against haters of William, Kate and their children. And another media was only pinning positive comments about M in their Instagram post of her speech for Vax Live. One also has to admit the UK tabloids have been vicious for decades and before social media. So it’s hard to see this initiative ammounting to anything and part of it is because of their own chair committee members.

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  3. I teach college government, & I am sadly amazed (Groundhog’s Day!) how mis- & un- informed my students are. They always claim that they ‘do their own research,’ but where? I include this to acknowledge that Misinformation is not only real but a serious issue.

    However, being a victim of a Misinformation Campaign does not mean that one has anything to contribute other that one’s personal pain.

    I want Harry to be happy/fulfilled (other issues asides), but this seems like being an item on a Petri dish to be examined. He does not need that — no one deserves that.

    Liked by 1 person

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