Paul Dacre Simulator: The Republia Times

It's war

Orwellian publishing simulator OR accurate reflection of today’s hyper-manipulative media? Free, browser based indie experiment The Republia Times has you playing the editor of a state-controlled newspaper, tasked with convincing a skeptical public that they should love their oppressive, militaristic, anti-academic government while at the same time pursuing ever-greater audiences. Pick which stories to run and where to run them wisely – otherwise the government will have your family killed. Jim used to argue that we should run RPS that way in order to achieve maximum efficiency and profitability, but he sensibly elected to keep his mouth shut about it once the rest of us threw his son down a well.

Much like today’s more exploitative media outlets, the readership is lured in with banal celebrity wedding news and shouty sports results, then fed propaganda for the paper’s party of choice. A loyal, unquestioning, passive army of reality TV addicted-xenophobes is the goal. I felt bad pursuing such a sick situation, but my family, my family… At least that’s my excuse.

Simple and not especially challenging (as only doing exactly what you’re ordered to generally tends to be), it’s compulsive and sharp regardless. It also has a fantastic sting in the tail, which even if you do guess in advance can’t fail to elicit a wry, sad smile. Good work, Lucas Pope.

Via – what else? –


  1. psyk says:

    Throw Jim’s son down the well,
    So our blog can be free.
    You must grab him by his horns,
    Then we have big party.

    • Torgen says:

      This was my immediate thought as well. Glad to see I”m not the only one whose mind has been corrupted by that.

      • CaiusCaligula says:

        I think “newsblog” might scan better than “blog”, but that might be pedantry.

  2. Kollega says:

    I want to ask a question. Manipulative press is bad. But can we do anything about it besides the obvious “don’t buy their newspapers” (which dosen’t really work anyway)?

    • Smashbox says:

      Um… Limit freedom of speech and freedom of the press?

      • Memph says:

        I think you’ll find that there’s plenty the press cannot say or do a lot of the time. Still, it’s funny that peddling absolute bullshit always seems to fall under ‘freedom’.

        • Smashbox says:

          Taking The Good With The Bad: the price of free speech. Also, British libel law is feudal and outdated.

    • LTK says:

      You can send angry letters to other media outlets calling out the other party’s lies and slander and hope you can reach some mutual readers to educate. There aren’t many options beside fighting fire with fire.

      (I mean fighting press with press, not fighting deceit with more deceit, obviously.)

    • psyk says:

      Remove bias from articles, no bias nothing to manipulate towards. Not going to happen, so just read lots of sources from all sides.

      • Christian O. says:

        Difficult to do though – the stories will always be filtered through the news criteria and because of the worsening working conditions and the emphasis on deadlines, most journalists don’t have the time to properly dig into a case to find, what they think is significant.

        • psyk says:

          Yeah is sad, but we have the internet now so people can get all the mis/disinfo, lies and propaganda they need :D (Yes you can get good reporting, just a lot of chaff to search through). People should watch “newswipe” is amusing.

      • Torgen says:

        I would propose that it is impossible to totally eliminate bias from any news media. Simply deciding what to report is bias of what is important. You’re probably saying “bias” to mean “deliberate manipulation,” but unconscious bias on someone’s part can seem deliberate and active bias to someone reading/listening to the report.

        Even if you somehow could build some magical machine to give “unbiased” news, it would still be programmed by humans, There is no possible value for “unbiased,” outside a homogenous group. Who decides what is biased? Religious fundamentalists and those of certain political stripes consider scientific facts as deliberately biased against their beliefs. My previous statement will been seen as bias as well, and it is, because it is born of my experience and understanding of reality.

        So, no, “unbiased” is a fairy tale, as unobtainable as any other theoretical perfection.

        • psyk says:

          Just report the facts, people can decide from that.

          • HTAPAWASO says:

            ALL facts?
            The problem is that choosing what facts to report IS bias. Not to mention the fact that English is not a logical language – bias is inherrent.
            Maybe we should all speak Lojban.

          • Torgen says:

            Exactly. psyk can’t see that, and I (thought) I’d explained it. Who decides facts? We have policymakers who *boast* about making reality into what they want it to be. We have millions of people who believe “facts” that are, to the vast majority of us either entirely fanciful, or at least, misconstrued. One of the worst things about the internet is that these formerly disconnected crackpots now can find each other and build an echo chamber where they reinforce each other, instead of hopefully interacting with general society and seeing that they’ve misunderstood something.

            Then, as when we talk facts, who gets to decide what is real? Some people think Kennedy assassination conspiracists or those who think lizard aliens run the governments of the Earth are incredibly astute and see the truth.

          • John Brindle says:

            The only situation in which newspapers appear to report ‘just the facts’ in a totally neutral way – and, by the same token, the only situation in which their coverage does not diverge greatly in terms of tone or slant – is when someone has been arrested for a crime. That’s because once an arrest has been made, there are basically 10 things you can say about the affair and THAT’S IT (unless you wish to be held in contempt of court). As such, news stories about arrests in the British media usually resemble a very dry list written according to a very dry formula. That this extremely limited and curtailed form of reporting is the only one in which newspapers routinely report “just the facts” should give you a clue as to how difficult and problematic it is to do that, or to decide what it means, in any other situation.

        • bill says:

          But it was nice when editors at least TRIED to be as unbiased as possible. These days they don’t even pretend to try.

          And with everything getting “customised according to your tastes and what your friend’s have Liked” people are going to see less and less that they don’t already agree with.

    • Christian O. says:

      Depends on how you define manipulative. News agencies always select some stories above others, and that could be viewed as a type of manipulation. Not a lot to do inside a capitalist system, because the agencies will always pick the news that maximize their profits through either circulation or clicks. Unless someone figures out a way to monetize newspapers that isn’t just playing to the lowest common denominator or reinforce their audience already held views.

      If you can do more coordinated actions, you could always use violence (not advocating it – it’s inefficient and it doesn’t work well in a democratic society. Plus, it seems counter to your immediate goal), governmental interference (almost as problematic as the first option), hack them (short term solution), destroy their credibility in other press and other media (the above mentioned option), sue them (judicial option) or basically become a significant majority shareholder and change their approach and views (monetary option).

      Ultimately, some bias is unavoidable in all news reporting. As an individual, the best option you have is to find and support paper that are explicit in their views, where you agree with their base values, if not their politics.

      • balbkubrox says:

        Bit of an abstract way of looking at capitalism.

        agencies will always pick the news that maximize their profits through either circulation or clicks. Unless someone figures out a way to monetize newspapers that isn’t just playing to the lowest common denominator or reinforce their audience already held views.

        The news that “maximizes profits” is the news people are most interested in either paying for, or looking at in a way that generates ad sales.

        When you talk about “monetizing” papers that don’t pander to lowest common denominator or reinforce their audiences bias, you’re really talking about “how can we make people value news that requires effort and knowledge and doesn’t tell people what they want to hear”.

        This shifts the argument from an economic one, to a cultural one. It’s also a harder one because even very smart people seldom like being told things they’re biased against, let alone pay for the pleasure.

        The problem isn’t that a capitalist system favours news that is base or sensationalist, the problem is that most people want base and sensationalist news and a capitalist system is a system that by and large delivers what people want.

        There are only really 2 solutions that I can see to this unless you’re going to massively curtail freedom of speech:

        1. Improve what the “lowest common denominator” is. If the lowest common denominator want “The Wire”, they’ll get more programs like “The Wire”. If they want X-factor and American idol they’ll get more programs like that.

        Of course “how do we fundamentally change the way people engage with the world” is a much trickier question than “how can we stop newspapers doing things I don’t like them doing”, which is why its probably a less popular quesiton.

        2. Make people above the lowest common denominator pay more for news. When most people won’t pay anything for news, this doesn’t seem very realistic.

        The real question is, why do you care whats popular? Popularity has seldom been an indicator of quality or moral righteousness. Of course you could say you care because newspaper readers vote, but in which case your core problem is that of the democratic system and not capitalism or news. As long as the majority of people are incurious narrow minded people who inherit poorly formed opinions for other people without much critical thought, the electorate won’t make smart choices. That’s the real challenge, in which case look to GE to make better people.

        There was a kickstarter I saw a while back about a newspaper that would just focus on one issue per paper and go into it really in depth rather than. If I could remember its name or find it on google it might be your thing. Course there’s always vice if you like your pulpy news less filtered.

    • Stevostin says:

      Somehow people thought at a time : there shall be an independant, third, judiciary power. And they build a system for that while not perfect roughly worked. Then someone looked at the press and stated quite the obvious “hey’, isn’t it a sort of fourth power”. Now if you think about it democracy is decision by the people – and a only informed decisions are real decisions. So basically to make a true democracy, you have to build a system that offers guarantee of solid informations for the public. For some reasons it wasn’t in the inital setup and we ended up with that requisite being dealed with either by executive power controlled medias or private owned controlled medias.

      Now would you have Justice handled by the same mix of executive power and private interest ?

      I think not.

      It’s pretty dull really. Nothing against private news network, really, they can alway be a fine addition. But a real institutional entity with a very official role to inform (inform, not judge) and legal tool to just… get the informations (such has “I don’t care how private your company is, this is of public interest so I’ve got a mandate to keep the public informed, open the bloody door”) – and only vote relevant informations. So no Briteny spear on such a program. Also open archives, free, accessible to public request (50 K petition to get a specific issue investigated, that sort of things).

      Of course now to do that you need to fight at the same time a scared corporation, private interests and politics and all business that would suddenly be way more exposed to public eye. Oh well, guess that’s why we won’t even have a lot of people stating this astonishingly obvious need for every democracy.

      • Torgen says:

        Can you *imagine* the billions of dollars wasted if all it took was 50,000 people to launch an investigation of something? 4chan itself could bankrupt the world, and that’s not even considering the people who really *believe* the government is hiding aliens, or Israel blew up the World Trade Center, or the government is using commercial airliners to disperse mind-control chemicals in the air over the whole nation.

        • Stevostin says:

          Lol, just lol. If you had IN A GIVEN COUNTRY LIKE UK, 100 * 50 000 people asking for separate investigations, that would be 10% of the population actually asking for investigations – all of them separate. Now if you think 100 inspections to critical places such as nuclear plant, monsanto plants, UBS party with swiss bankers could BANKRUPT UK, I’d say you’re more probably terrified about anything changing quite possibly for the best than anything close to rationnal.

          How many 50K petitions are there anyway ? How many 50K taxpayers represent, BTW, and how exactly would it be illegitimate to use 1% of that money to give those voters the relevant information they need to take better collective decisions ?

          I must correct my previous post : such obvious need for an institutionnal “power” devoted to public information isn’t only blocked by corporatism or interest but also for way too much people fear of anything new, even obviously for the best.

          I should go live on an island. Coconut trees have more common sense than most people anyway.

    • Lambchops says:

      Keep calling them out on it.

      link to
      link to

      And so on.

      • balbkubrox says:

        One of the few sensible, practical and realistic suggestions in this whole thread.

    • John Brindle says:

      One option which could prevent a lot of journalistic abuses might be to strongly unionise the press. At present, journalists can be induced very easily to act unethically (just look at Richard Peppiatt, who I have met, and who is a very nice man, but who nevertheless, as he puts it on his website, did a lot of bad things for bad people). The profession is a boss’s market, in which there are so many eager hopefuls and so few jobs that anyone who is lucky enough to be in possession of one will require uncommon strength of character to do anything that might endanger it. In today’s shrinking and ever-quickening news market, that’s quite a wide category. Journalists on tabloids are under enormous pressure to churn out ideologically slanted copy, sometimes through unethical methods, or lose out – and this is not to absolve them of responsibility, but simply to acknowledge that they work in a system which produces such behaviour as a function of its normal operation.

      A strongly unionised press would be able to support individual journalists who choose to raise ethical objections or dispute the ‘public interest’ in publicising a star’s anorexia. It would also potentially mean a stronger self-regulatory regime and a stronger culture of dealing properly with complaints. The now-doomed Press Complaints Commission, lest we forget, never included any representatives of frontline journalists, and was essentially a tool of the editors and newspaper owners.

      The problem with unionisation would be that there are so many people who want to work in journalism that a Rupert Murdoch could always find someone to break a strike or take a worse deal. There is no shortage of schmucks or shameless pragmatists or confused graduates. The only way to avoid that would be for the union to oppose aggressive sanctions on anyone working outside it, but then you create a situation where people are victimised for coming at journalism from alternative angles, where you diminish the power of anyone and everyone to be a journalist if they have the zeal for it plus an internet connection and a phone. That is a very important power to have. Perhaps the union could cover only publications which make money, thus exerting its regulatory muscle only in the places where there is a systemic reason for coverage to coarsen, cheapen and abuse in response to perceived market pressures.

    • edit says:

      The only real option I see is to abandon mainstream press all together as a primary source, and to do our own digging and cross-referencing on any subject we wish to understand. This is easy now. The internet has empowered us, so we should try to avoid handing that power back by depending on the stupidity-cultivating mainstream media for anything.

      • bill says:

        It’s empowered people who previously had no free press.

        But for those of us who used to receive at least reasonably fair and balanced, well sourced and researched news about a wide range of topics…. it’s been less successful.

        Now we receive a deluge of biased un-researched FUD from totally partizan blogs, and people bubble themselves into only reading the blogs that support their world view, and the mainstream media has had to dump things like fact checking and attempting to be unbiased in an attempt to keep up the pace.

  3. westyfield says:

    It doesn’t load for me, just shows a big white box. Anyone else having this problem? I’m using Chrome.

    • Torgen says:

      Westyfield, I… have some bad news about your family.

    • psyk says:

      Got any script blockers running? Is asking me to install flash, I already have flash :(

      • westyfield says:

        Nope, nothing.

        Edit: Oh hey, just as I posted this comment it loaded. Weird.

    • Christian O. says:

      Yeah, I’m only getting a blank screen with a prompt to download Flash or look at the source code. I have Flash.

  4. aamosnyc says:

    I used to be a zenophobe myself, but then I learned calculus.

  5. frenz0rz says:

    My family was eliminated. I guess I lost?

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      Try the other ending.

      • Torn says:

        Both endings seem to have your family killed?

        Man, working the press is hard.

    • WHS says:

      Spoilers, I guess? But…

      Is there any way to avoid this? I think the ending would be cleverer if the family just continually changes hands, it would avoid the “we found you a new family” weirdness.

  6. Berzee says:

    I can’t even fold a newspaper properly, much less bring myself to read one.

  7. Splynter says:

    I read the headline as “Paul Dirac Simulator…” and was incredibly excited. I am now somewhat disappointed.

  8. psyk says:

    So close, not to sure how to go about the last few days, was fun though

    LMAO nice