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The Left
Left Media
Left Thought
Left Action
Liberal Media
Liberal Thought
Liberal Action
The Center
Centrist Media
Centrist Thought
Centrist Action
The Ticker
The Feature
Our Rights
Science & Technology
The Horse's Mouth
Arts & Science
The World
Conservative Media
Conservative Thought
Conservative Action
The Right
Rightwing Media
Rightwing Thought
Rightwing Action


Traditionally, society and government were divided into the clergy, the aristocracy, and everybody else, but Thomas Macaulay wrote that "The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm."

The French Revolution had legalized newspapers (!), and revolutionaries like Camille Desmoulins moonlighted as journalists. In Britain and America, journalists and commentators like John Wilkes and Thomas Paine, often supported by media moguls like Benjamin Franklin, pushed the journalistic envelope.

The growing freedom of the press enabled major exposes by journalists and writers like Nellie Bly, Emile Zola, Ida Tarbell and Jack Anderson.

While the U.S.A. has long been justly proud of its role as the great example of press freedom, American conduct has deteriorated in comparison with the rest of the world, and in 2011 - 2012 Reporters Without Borders listed the United States as 47th out of 179 nations in its Press Freedom Index; the USA's score has been sinking because of security-related press restrictions and harassment.

Politics and Media

Political junkies tend to think that the First Amendment applies to political debate, muckraking, and exposes. Certainly, there are many political shenanigans to expose.

And many organizations devote their resources to exposing shenanigans.

See also the the list of government watchdogs posted by or the list posted by the aluminum-foil-hatted folks at WatchdogCentral. And on an international scale, Transparency International monitors corruption around the world. But some just watch, and occasionally hoot.
  • Politico is a sort of newspaper for newspapers.
  • Roll Call is a newspaper on Capital Hill.
And where would we be without facts?
  • The University of Pennsylvannia's Annenberg Public Policy Center maintains FactCheck.
  • ProPublica is one of the leading online investigative news outlets.
  • PolitiFact compares public statements with facts -- or occasionally with its own interpretations of the facts.
  • Snopes is the great collector of urban legends and internet myths.
  • The Washington Post's Fact Checker checks statements by politicians.
Of course, the most suspicious person is the one in the bathroom mirror: are you honest with yourself - and informed? A number of websites provide the opportunity to check:
  • Political Compass is a site that asks you some questions and then plots your position on the political map.
  • Project Implicit relies on rapid questions to get responses past your internal censors - and presumably detect the level of your prejudices.

Human Rights

Not only misconduct, but the human consequences of misconduct, are one of the major foci of watchdogs.

Several organizations are dedicated to human rights and liberties.

Science & Technology

Removing our ideological blinkers, what is the world really like? In the long run, people and peoples who wear such blinkers end up winning Darwin Awards, so the instinct for self-preservation should impel us to be a little realistic at times.

Organizations with this in mind include:

Official Watchdogs

From quaestors to inspectors general, governments have hired their own watchdogs. Sometimes these watchdogs watch the government itself, while other watchdogs monitor the activities of others.

Nowadays, there are government watchdog agencies that watch the government. These include ...

And there are government agencies that monitor other important things -- yes, Mr. Jindal, volcano monitoring is a priority.


In ancient times, an oracle was a medium who spoke for a god. Modern oracles speak for the facts: out of idealism, pride, or habit, some people are devoted to accuracy, to getting the facts and the details. This is not a neutral occupation: accurate facts are not welcome among politicians, pundits, and ideologues.

Authorities have a mixed press. In ancient times, everyone was supposed to listen to kings and priests, while certain people -- who were supposed to speak truth to power -- sometimes enjoyed some immunity for what they said or sang: prophets, minstrels, jesters and sages. But while prophets and priests pointed fingers at each other, commoners may have asked, who do these people think they are, anyway? Nevertheless, we now live in a bureaucratized society overseen by experts, and often those experts are valuable -- if fallible -- sources of information.

It is no longer possible for a single person to sit down and write a dictionary, or to be the go-to person for all scientific issues. It takes a large organization to collect, filter, and present data in an accessible way. Since these distillations are inevitably distortions of reality, one often winds up having to trust the competence and integrity of some organization. That does not mean that one should rely on organizations that one agrees with; in fact, the most reliable organizations will maintain a staff with diverse perspectives in order to avoid the danger of groupthink, i.e., of imposing a harmonious uniformity of opinion. Remember, caveat emptor.


Where does one turn to get reliable information? Kings solved that problem by hiring advisors; now that there is vastly more data, there are whole government agencies serving as advisors. Meanwhile, private organizations provide information to subscribers and the public at large.

There are two views of information development, as outlined in Eric Raymond's essay on the Cathedral and the Bazaar. A cathedral work is produced in isolation, and presented to the public when completed. A bazaar work is produced in public, with kibbitzing permitted or even encouraged. These two approaches define the world's two great encyclopedias:

  • To the Encyclopedia Britannica, "facts matter," and the editors and (selected and screened) contributors put enormous effort goes into getting them right. As one might expect of a cathedral production, passersby are permitted to look in the windows, but only subscribers are permitted inside.
  • Wikipedia relies on passersby -- often hiding behind pseudonyms -- to correct each other in the most panoramic intellectual endeavor in human history.
Also, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has fairly broad coverage of the humanities. Then there are institutes with specific ranges of authority, like: Governments and inter-governmental organizations maintain a number of agencies of varying reliability: And when election times comes around, it can be useful to check wiki-like authorities like Ballotpedia, e-Voter, and Project Vote Smart. And there is a crowd of augurers able to tell us what we think about the politicians, like the Gallup Center, the Pew Research Center, Rasmussen Reports, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute; see also the National Council on Public Polls and the National Polls overview site.

See also the facts and trends monitored by the Pew Research Center and Public agenda.

One field where reliable facts are needed -- and often in demand -- is business. Hence business authorities like Moody's, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor. Education also needs sources.

Arts & Sciences

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was allegedly the last person who understood all of (European) science; nowadays, science and the arts are so vast and complex, with so many practitioners, that whole organizations are dedicated to keeping up with the flood.

The world is full of technical and popular science publications, and scientific and engineering societies. And you pay much of this via the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation -- which puts out the and the NSF News -- and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency.

And modern medicine has a shamanesque authority, as reflected by organizations like the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association , and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The arts do not have the same kind of mystique, nor the same kind of money, although they do have an Establishment:

But there are only a few organizations with real "authority", like the Academie francaise, which tells the world how to speak French ... and that it is bad French to say things like "le hotdog".

The World

Americans are a remarkably insular people. We know very little about the rest of the world, but we are certain that we are better than anybody else, and if we're not, we don't want to hear it. But a healthy instinct for self-preservation would induce us to keep track of what's going on outside our borders.

Simply to know what's going on, one should pay attention to the rest of the world. That means sources like:

Also WorldMeets brings the world to America's doorstep while Arts & Letters Daily has links to all the movers and shakers.