I haven’t yet commented on President Biden’s new “Disinformation Governance Board” because it surely can’t be as bad — as dystopian — as it sounded last month when it was announced. Certainly, the government isn’t going to get in the business of deciding which speech will be allowed.
The formation of this new body sounds eerily similar to the Ministry of Truth from “1984,” George Orwell’s brilliant warning against too-powerful government. (The Ministry of Truth was really the propaganda arm of the fictional Oceania.)
Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii quickly connected those dots, calling the new board an “Orwellian scheme.”
Even the Washington Post conceded that the new board’s name “does sound a bit ominous. ...”
The board operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, headed by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who insists it won’t monitor American citizens.
Still, Mr. Mayorkas says “disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is our responsibility to address.”
But in many cases, the difference between information and “disinformation” is a matter of opinion.
CBS News reported that Homeland Security defines “disinformation” as “false information that is deliberately spread with the intent to deceive or mislead.”
A cynic might argue that every politician in America is guilty under that definition.
More seriously, when this new board disapproves of someone’s words, how will it know if the person is intentionally wrong or misleading?
And what constitutes a “threat?” Earlier this year, critics tried to get Joe Rogan removed from Spotify for daring to interview COVID vaccine skeptics. Granted, it wasn’t the government doing the arm-twisting that time. Then again, that was before this new Disinformation Governance Board was created.
Even if the board members are well-meaning, this is the slipperiest of slopes.
The aforementioned Washington Post defended the board with the following statement:
“One could object to the federal government taking a role in this and worry about the effort going too far, potentially chilling speech — just as one can worry today about the federal government getting into the truth-deciding business. But the stated purpose of the effort was quite different from how it was cast by its opponents. And today, there is no real evidence that DHS plans to crack down on ordinary citizens spreading misinformation online, for instance.”
But there is also no real evidence that DHS does not plan to crack down on ordinary citizens. And that is the problem.
The Post confirmed as much when it also reported, “there were (and remain) relatively few details on what the board will actually do.”
It’s also troubling that Secretary Mayorkas tapped a Democratic partisan, Nina Jankowicz, as the board’s executive director.
Here’s how the New York Post described her in an editorial:
“Look: She’s a career left-wing partisan, from her days working at the National Democratic Institute to her Fulbright-Clinton fellowship to her gig at the left-leaning Wilson Center where she routinely did media hits with NPR, CNN, PBS and so on while placing New York Times and Washington Post op-eds.
OK, the Post is not given to subtlety. But the point remains; Ms. Jankowicz is an umpire who wears one team’s uniform.
After getting her new gig, she tweeted that “one of the key reasons the Board was established, is to maintain the Dept’s commitment to protecting free speech, privacy, civil rights, & civil liberties.”
That sounds just like a bulletin from the Ministry of Truth.
Contact Bart Adams at email@example.com.