“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” George Orwell
It is amazing that the creation of a government entity can push all other news like the Ukrainian War and a major market correction off the front pages, but that happened Wednesday with the Biden administration’s announcement of the formation of the “Disinformation Governance Board”. To say that this news went viral is a profound understatement. The fumbling by White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to explain what this board would actually do showed that they were ill-prepared to discuss this, which is odd given that one would think such an issue would have been discussed in detail in order to prepare for the inevitable press coverage.
The fumbling ranged from focusing on disinformation coming from Russia, misleading messages about the US/Mexico border, human smugglers, false claims about U.S. border policy, and to counter misinformation in Hispanic communities especially. Myorkas also stated that as part of the Department of Homeland Security, the board would focus on foreign threats. Also mentioned however were the administrations concerns about American’s lack of trust in COVID policies. Responses to questions as exactly what its powers would be were studiously avoided, likely because they really didn’t yet know.
Nina Jankowicz was named executive director, which seemed to garner special attention given her political history of categorizing any criticism of the Democratic Party and the Biden administration as misinformation, adding to the perception of the board as just a partisan propaganda tool.
The press seemed both amused and confused at the same time, some noting for instance the rhythmic similarity of the initials DGB for the board to the KGB; others asking more serious questions as to the timing of the announcement given the news of free speech advocate Elon Musk buying Twitter, and the Justice Department’s recent disclosures of the content of Hunter Biden’s laptop regarding influence peddling with foreign nationals, spawning all sorts of commentaries.
One of the more telling comments was the comparison of the DGB to George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in his book 1984, which controlled the news media, entertainment, the fine arts and education, in order to change the facts to fit party doctrine. Although the comment was shared by many, I wonder who actually understood the depth of the danger for even proposing, let alone creating, such a toxic entity in a so called democracy. It is hard imagining a more horrifying way to determine what is or isn’t misinformation then leaving that in the hands of known liars like partisan bureaucrats.
Even prior to Orwell’s famous book of 1949, we have the terrifying example of the 1933 Propaganda Ministry for the Nazi Party headed by Joseph Goebbels, which eventually took control of the news media, arts, music, radio, press, films, theatre and was especially vigilant in protection against “counter-propaganda”, both foreign and domestic. For those that think this could never happen in America, then explain why a free country should ever tolerate the existence of a Disinformation Governance Board.
The immediate cause for the creation of the board at this time may very well have come about as a reaction to the Musk Twitter purchase and DOJ investigation, but the underlying cause goes back quite some time. The most alarming and persistent examples of the repression of liberty is the attack on free speech in the media and our universities. In both cases we have the bizarre display of two institutions who at one time were the most ardent proponents and guardians of this vital and cherished liberty. Now, in the name of some ill-conceived crusade against “disinformation”, any idea expressed that is judged to be harmful, inaccurate, unacceptable or contrarian must be silenced. The idea of free speech is not that everything said must be judged by all to be true in order to be heard, but that everyone has a right to be heard regardless of what they have to say. So strongly was this right held that it became part of the republic’s constitution, and even just as important a part of our ethos.
The concept that free speech needs to be a “regulated right” in order to protect democracy is an oxymoron; such nonsense is intended to make us think that liberty is actually respected by the government while it destroys it. In effect it makes free speech not a right at all, but a privilege reserved to the regulators and whatever speech it may approve of. Embracing totalitarian methods without embracing a totalitarian ideology shows that our government fails to realize that the methods are a manifestation of that ideology. As Thomas Sowell so well observed “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”
By narrowing the definitions of what is acceptable speech while at the same time professing to protect democracy creates an illusion for people to feel comfortable with a status quo created to protect those in power. The stage was set for such a thing to happen at the cultural level in American society such to the extent that when people object to such intrusions on our liberty, it is openly equated with fascism, when in fact such intrusions are based on willful ignorance and/or ideological decadence.
While we hear so much about inclusiveness from Progressives, we are treated to their hypocrisy in supporting repression of free speech. How can you have a meaningful civil discourse among all citizens by excluding those you disagree with? While there have been many voices criticizing this creation of what is in effect a governance of speech, there was one that made a critical point to all, including those responsible for this atrocity, and that was Justin Amash who said “Wherever you land on the political spectrum, imagine your worst enemies in charge of the Disinformation Governance Board.”