As much as we need media exposure to raise desperately needed funds; and as much as I want to get the truth about Ross out there, I have a sinking feeling of fear and dread whenever I speak with the media. The same feeling arises every time I click on an article mentioning Ross.
Since he was arrested I have been appalled at the distorted accounts of who Ross is and the blending of him with “DPR,” an accusation that IS NOT PROVEN. The better journalists use allegedly, others don’t even bother. But either way, writers too often casually conflate Ross with DPR. This was done in the recent Rolling Stone headline: “Its (Silk Road’s) alleged founder soon learned that you can’t rule the underworld without spilling some blood.” So Ross Ulbricht, as the alleged founder, learned this? Or was it the person using DPR as a pseudonym? Can we assume these are the same, just because the prosecution says so? And by the way, according to reports, no blood was ever spilled.
Later in the article it is inferred that Ross is the “martyred predecessor” of the present DPR. Predecessor? Again, nothing is proven, including that the present DPR isn’t the same person who allegedly ordered hits. Anybody, even the government, can accuse you of anything. That’s why our system insists on “innocent until proven guilty.” Or at least we hope it still does.
Like the old game of telephone, many journalists simply repeat each other’s reports, and like that game the original information is often distorted. The Huffington Post recently published a piece in which the author compares Ross (bad) to a friend of hers (good). She assumes Ross’ guilt (with no evidence or knowledge of who he is) and then proceeds to misquote David Segal of the NY Times, calling Ulbricht “a humanitarian willing to kill.” Yet Segal did NOT say this of Ulbricht, but of DPR. Unlike this writer, he was careful to make the distinction. Again, Ulbricht is NOT indicted for any murder, planned or otherwise.
Misquoting is rampant. I first learned of Ross’ arrest from a Reuter’s reporter, who accurately quoted me as saying, “He would never hurt anyone.” That eventually morphed into “He never meant to hurt anyone.” Very different, but a more sensational quote. Good people are boring. Bad people sell.
Back in October a reporter unethically posed as a visitor to gain access to Ross in jail. Ross said he felt trapped and didn’t turn his back on her because he didn’t want to be rude. She later described him inaccurately and misquoted him throughout. (This confirmed by Ross). She then got her 15-minutes of fame by granting interviews as the person who had met DPR! No problem exploiting the misfortune of an unconvicted person for her!
Distorting facts and taking things out of context make for good copy and paint the desired portrait. (One friend of Ross’ recently contacted me, distraught at how his words had been twisted). A video interview, illegally posted on youtube, has often been used out of context. A joke about high school experimentation over ten years ago now means Ross is a druggie. A casual response about how technology is changing so fast he might eventually live forever now means he’s a megalomaniac who believes he’s immortal. (No mention of his comments about wanting to start a family, connect with people, etc. That doesn’t fit the desired narrative).
And so it goes. Sensationalism, inaccuracies, assumptions, amateur psychiatry, omissions. Of course this isn’t every journalist, and not throughout every story. But it happens often. Too often.
As a result of this experience all of us close to this have come to the same conclusion. When we read ANYTHING in the media we simply do not believe it. We assume it is a distorted depiction of the truth.