Ministry matters

Joe Biden’s new Ministry of Truth puts the US on the fast track to an Orwellian nightmare

The Orwellian name of the Democrats’ new “Disinformation Council” needn’t have instantly put off people like me. People who really care about the barrage of harmful waste like my taxi driver in Devon last week greedily drank from the internet’s many poisonous udders.

Said taxi driver was a smart mother of two, living in the middle of nowhere, and the misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories they fed had gotten to her. She believed in everything from the idea that wearing a mask is lethal to personal health, to that of the Ukraine war concocted by agents in a dark but pre-established new world order, to the hypothesis that Elon Musk wants to implant devices inside all of our brains.

Would it be good to eradicate all these conspiracy theories, all this fake news? Sure. But regulation can quickly turn into censorship, and as some critics have noted, one woman’s misinformation is another woman’s information. Indeed, stories previously suppressed or labeled as fake news are gaining credence: Covid’s origins in a lab leak, for example, or Hunter Biden’s laptop not being, after all, a Russian disinformation factory. , even if it’s not hills, I’d be ready to die quite yet.

The Disinformation Governance Council may not be sinister in its current incarnation. It claims to be primarily concerned with monitoring disinformation spread by “foreign states such as Russia, China and Iran”; “transnational criminal organizations and human trafficking organizations” and false information disseminated during natural disasters. He says he is “deeply committed to doing all of his work in a way that protects free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and the privacy of Americans.”

But even if the Council isn’t going to start prosecuting people for watching bad YouTube content, it’s hard to see how it’s a force for actively protecting free speech and civil liberties. Certainly, in ostensibly free countries like America, monitoring free speech feels like stepping down a very slippery slope. So much is rotten and difficult in American culture and society, from the collapse of political debate to the collapse of education, from the skyrocketing prices of basic foodstuffs (inflation is 8.3 %), the difficulty of accessing health care, including, for a growing number of women, safe and legal abortion, the skyrocketing homicide rates. America is dangerous, expensive and unstable: but at least its citizens could reassure themselves that it is free.

The new board has “no operational authority or capacity” and will only convey its findings to “potentially affected individuals and organizations”. But this is vaguely threatening state speech for “whoever we want”, and while he may not have “operational authority” at the moment, he may well have some at the moment. ‘coming. After all, there are a lot of slippages in its mission: the Council’s mandate is not only disinformation and “bad” information but also “disinformation” – a much more subjective area.

Indeed, any pretense at this outfit’s neutrality goes out the window with one look at the back of her head, 33-year-old Nina Jankowicz. Her commitment is strong: she makes pretty TikTok videos on misinformation. But his partisanship is just as important. Last October, Jancowitz dismissed parents’ concerns about teaching critical race theory in schools, including concepts such as white privilege, as simply “one of those burning issues that Republicans and other disinformators, who engage in disinformation for profit…have grabbed it.” Such a comment reveals a desire to circumvent the concept of disinformation for political gain.

In addition to writing a book on Russian disinformation, Jankowicz also wrote a tome, How to Be a Woman Online, about dealing with the threat of misogynistic trolling. It sounds great, but is imbued with a particular view of freedom of expression that sees an internet free from annoyances. No wonder Jancowitz is among those horrified by Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter as a truly open platform, trolls and all. As American instigator Katie Herzog wrote on Bari Weiss’s news analysis site Common Sense, “in Jankowicz’s story, the Internet is a virtual street corner where men harass, taunt, belittle and caress when you’re just trying to post brunch pics. It’s dark, dangerous, violent, and those we’ve entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us safe are failing in their job – to protect women – in the name of so-called “free speech”.

And so, as impressive as his resume and the loftiness of his goals are, Jankowicz has a distinct Biden-era politics, and that’s sure to shape his perception of what’s right and what’s not. , what is wrong and what is simply politically unpalatable or – in the parlance of his government – what makes a digital space “unsafe”, i.e. not suitable for revivals.

Ultimately, what makes the Disinformation Council definitely insane and perhaps sinister is that it is the state that is meddling in areas where it shouldn’t. Chances are it’s just unnecessary. Either way, it’s chilling that no one in the Biden government has seen fit to insist that this is none of the government’s business, outside of public education programs, monitor the dissemination of information – whether it is true or not.

Sure, conspiracy theories are crazy and hurtful, but their free circulation is the price we pay for living in a liberal democracy. As our own nanny government would do well to remember, the state must concern itself with matters of law, order, economy and the protection of liberty, and stop playing with the minutiae of life. deprived of citizens.

And given how wrong our governments have been about most things, from the severity of the pandemic threat to the likelihood of war in Europe, it’s nothing but hubris to expect us to welcome them as self-proclaimed arbiters of truth.