Together, we’re building the next generation of media
We don’t usually think of it this way, but this moment is actually a golden age for independent media. It has never been easier for people to post their thoughts online and find an audience.
Our national discourse has been enriched by the addition of new voices that wouldn’t have had access to mass media in the past.
But there have been downsides to this development as well. The best thing about the internet is that it enables people with similar interests to find each other—but that’s also the worst thing about it.
Before the Digital Age, people with deranged worldviews had difficulty attaining a mass following. If you believed the Illuminati or the communists were lurking around every corner, the already difficult task of starting a magazine or a newspaper was so much harder. Society was protected from faulty thinking by its primitive technology.
But even the internet itself has changed since its early days. I know because I was there; I’ve been making websites since 1996. While many things are similar now, there were a lot of differences as well. Things were a lot smaller then. There was no Google but that didn’t even matter because the web was so small, you could pretty easily find what you were looking for. Nowadays, with billions of webpages, millions of videos, and thousands of podcasts, in a lot of ways discovering something amazing has become much tougher.
We didn’t have broadband connections back then but in one sense, the web was a lot faster because it wasn’t loaded down with intrusive advertising run by companies obsessed with tracking everything and everyone.
There was also a much greater sense of optimism among those of us who were online then. We had seen the benefits of being connected together and we were certain that things were only going to get better.
That hasn’t exactly proven true though, has it? Sure, there are many more interesting and useful things on the internet now, but there are also a lot more terrible things: disinformation, conspiracy theories, hate groups.
But we ought to do more than just scoff that we never reached technological nirvana. We need to consider why we didn’t. I think one of the biggest reasons is that as we entered the Information Age, society entrusted its most valuable commodity— information—to for-profit companies whose prime motivation was making money rather than serving the public good.
The advertising model of media not only gave birth to clickbait headlines and innumerable popups, it also made it so that the world’s biggest social networks persistently refuse to protect their members from lies, scams, and incitements to violence—because doing that would cost too much money. Negativity, conspiracy theories, and deception is better for the bottom line.
But it’s not better for society or for us individually.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to confront uncomfortable truths, but we also need to have hope for tomorrow.
That’s why I’ve decided to start Flux as a non-profit news site that will be powered by our community. We don’t have banner ads or behavioral trackers. We aren’t beholden to giant media conglomerates or politicians. We serve only you, our readers and listeners.
We hope to earn your trust, loyalty, and your financial support as we move forward, looking beyond the news cycle to provide deep insights into society, politics, religion, technology, and media. Instead of asking “what’s happening right now,” we want to ask “why is this happening, and what can we do about it?”
As technology has changed nearly every aspect of society, we also want to look within and ask “who are we?” It’s worth considering since the pace of scientific and technological change we’re seeing today is much faster than at any other time in human history. Do we really understand what’s happening to us?
I’d like to think that I have a useful perspective on all this. I was born and raised in a fundamentalist Mormon family that lived in dozens of cities and towns during my youth—in motor homes, tents, trailer parks, apartments, our cars, and sometimes houses.
I left the faith as I got older but, unfortunately, I went from one form of cultic thinking into another when I joined up with the American conservative movement as one of the first bloggers and media entrepreneurs. Ultimately, however, the intolerance of people and of facts that I witnessed made me realize that it wasn’t for me, either.
Both of these are much longer stories I hope to share with you soon. Having gone through two existential crises before the age of 40, I learned that I’ll never fit into any of society’s neat little boxes. I also discovered that that I’m not alone. Finding yourself is a journey that should never end. And it’s so much better when we find each other along the way.
It’s more than a little ironic that in an age where being outrageous is the surest ticket to fame, the one thing you can’t be is sincere.
But if we don’t imagine something better, we’ll be destined for dystopia. At the same time, if we don’t admit how bad things are, we can’t really change them for the better.
Overcoming the deep-rooted cynicism that our media and political environments have created is going to be incredibly difficult. That’s why Flux is being built on a community-based model. We want to create great articles and essays for you, but we want to empower you as well. Conventional journalism continues to ignore women’s voices, racial and sexual minorities, lower-income citizens, and everyone who lives outside the Boston-to-DC corridor.
We want to open things up and to make Flux a platform for finding people and stories that illuminate. If you’re interested in being a part of our journey, please sign up for an account, drop us a line, or help us with financial support. We’re going to add many more writers, podcasters, editors, and filmmakers as we move forward. As we raise funds, we’ll also be adding more community features like forums, group podcasts, and instant messaging.
We have a long road ahead. I hope you’ll join us.
Editor & Publisher