The State, the Media, and Misinformation
Biden’s new “Disinformation Governance Board” is the stuff of dystopian novels:
When much of the media is about pushing agendas and taking partisan, ideological positions on what should be straight out objective news reporting, we are in trouble. When the state seeks to take control of the media, and launches an attack on the independent press, you know we are also headed for trouble.
But what happens when the state and the mainstream media end up happily in bed together, sharing the same ideological outlook and promoting the same radical agenda items? Then we are in massive trouble. This is the stuff of dystopian novels such as Nineteen Eighty Four. As Orwell presciently said in that 1949 book:
Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? ….. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.
Or as Andrew Breitbart somewhat more recently put it in his 2011 volume, Righteous Indignation:
Make no mistake: America is in a media war. It is an extension of the Cold War that never ended but shifted to an electronic front. The war between freedom and statism ended geographically when the Berlin Wall fell. But the existential battle never ceased. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the battle simply took a different form. Instead of missiles the new weapon was language and education, and the international left had successfully constructed a global infrastructure to get its message out.
And Scott Powell in his 2022 book Rediscovering America put it like this:
Many assume that because the press is not state-controlled in the US, there is a long way to go before the American government has the power of Orwell’s Big Brother. But what if the universities and the educational system and the major television and print media institutions embrace the groupthink that ingratiates them with the ruling elite and deep state? What if the culture shapers in Hollywood and the advertising industry on Madison Avenue follow a similar path in participating in and reinforcing the same groupthink norms? What if the rise of social media promotes a kind of groupthink conformity that effectively marginalizes and silences opposing views?
Propaganda may actually be more effective in America than in totalitarian societies because of the power of repetitive messaging – the key integral means and essence of brainwashing – from ostensibly separate private media sources within the United States. Citizens in totalitarian societies aren’t as easily fooled because they know that the government controls the media and all its messaging.
But that is now where we seem to be heading in the West. In America in particular an ominous new development from the Biden Administration may well mean we must dig out our copies of Nineteen Eighty Four and read it again. This has to do with a soon to be created Disinformation Governance Board by the Department of Homeland Security.
Ostensibly it is to be about monitoring and surveying misinformation and disinformation coming in from overseas. Hmm, what could possibly go wrong? As one meme making the rounds shows a “pregnant man” emoji saying, “We must stop disinformation.”
Two pieces in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal sounded the alarm on this. Its editorial board said this in part:
The concern isn’t that the board will spy on Americans. The problem is that this new board may choose to play the role of national fact checker, a kind of government PolitiFact. They’ll look down from Mt. Washington at this or that statement and vouchsafe to the masses what is true and what is false. No doubt there’s some utility in telling migrants from Haiti that they will be deported if they seek to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. And there may be a need for someone in government to monitor and rebut Russian or Chinese propaganda.
But does anyone think this board will limit itself to foreign falsehoods? The temptation will be great to address issues that are part of America’s raucous domestic political debate. All the more so given that the disinformation board’s first executive director is reported to be Nina Jankowicz, whose partisan footprints are all over social media. She can be seen on TikTok singing her own highly partisan adapted lyrics to the tune of a “Mary Poppins” song. (What did Julie Andrews do to deserve that?) Mr. Mayorkas’s intentions may be nonpartisan, but refereeing political debate isn’t the government’s job. Leave that to the free exchange of ideas in the public square. The Disinformation Governance Board will promote more mistrust than it prevents. https://www.wsj.com/articles/disinformation-for-dummies-governance-board-orwell-1984-mayorkas-homeland-security-11651431969
And Roger Koppl said this:
By creating the DGB, the U.S. government is creating a crisis monitor with the dial permanently set to “existential threat.” No one inside the board will have the incentive—or the courage—to dial it down. The dangers of the DGB will be amplified if it becomes the tool of partisan political actors. And it already has. Executive director Nina Jankowicz, who once described Hunter Biden’s laptop as “a Trump campaign product,” has written that America’s “information landscape” includes “declining trust in the media, fed by the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on the fourth estate.” She has said: “Unless we mitigate our own political polarization, our own internal issues, we will continue to be an easy target for any malign actor—Russian or Iranian, foreign or domestic—to manipulate.”
Yes, you read that right. We must all fall in line because of the many grave threats—domestic as well as foreign—out there. Incorrect political opinions become a national-security threat. The DGB already looks frighteningly similar to the KGB. https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-establishes-a-ministry-of-truth-disinformation-governance-board-partisan-11651432312
Others have expressed their concerns. For example, Brian S. Brown of the National Organization for Marriage put it this way:
If you look at the calendar you might think that we’re in the year 2022. Actually, it appears that we’re living in 1984 and fulfilling George Orwell’s predictions of a dystopian society. The latest evidence of this is the “Disinformation Governance Board” that Joe Biden has authorized be created in the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
What will the Biden Administration consider to be “disinformation?” The woman selected to head the new department is a hard-core leftist who once declared that the Hunter Biden laptop story was a Trump-inspired hoax. We don’t know what their immediate targets for suppression might be in coming months, but we do know that it will be in furtherance of a hard-left political ideology. One set of issues high on the priority list is likely to be any critical discussion of the LGBT agenda. Biden is already pushing legislation to make the demonstration of support for traditional marriage a “sex stereotype” that could lead to ruinous lawsuits and punishment. Biden is also aggressively pushing the lie that gender-confused children can “change” their gender and government employees should encourage this even if they have to do it behind parents’ backs.
Yes this is all very worrying indeed. Things are bad enough when you have the secular left Tech Giants deciding that they must monitor and control what information we get. Most of us have already fallen victim to their censorship and propaganda. Biden and the Democrats will simply make all this much worse.
Let me finish with another quote from Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” When the State gets in the business of telling people what they are allowed to hear, see and read, then we have reached a very scary place indeed.
5 Replies to “The State, the Media, and Misinformation”
Yes in left-wing socialism the existing elites are replaced with new elites. In right-wing socialism (NAZI) the existing elites are absorbed into and controlled by the party. Either way the end result is much the same. You simply end up with removal of freedom and reintroduction of despotism – something that is monstrously difficult to overcome.
By controlling information and propaganda the current corporate elites are absorbed into the party so it appears we are moving towards the right-wing variety but on a global scale. The current move to globalism, which includes having information controlled similarly in Europe and in the U.S. to how it is in China, means that the political, bureaucratic elites can overcome the democratic controls which can only exist in sovereign nations, not globally and where free speech is allowed.
It is a massive threat which is being masked by scare tactics over global warming. The corporate elites are being manipulated through propagandist education and convinced that the only way we can overcome the threats is through strict government controls despite history showing how, in the past, we have overcome adversity through innovation nurtured through the free market system of rewarding good ideas and have been able to advance better under free market economies while simultaneously providing freedom.
The current socialist trend is simply returning to a Roman Empire type oppression where advances are fueled by slavery or in the socialist model, the equivalent of serfdom. The current personal wealth generated by the elites under socialism is very easy to see. The elites are even able to harvest body parts as needed from the socialist serfs.
The various “ministries of truth” being implemented around the world are just the tip of the iceberg and the sad irony is that Nina Jankowicz is, in fact, an expert in disinformation.
After recently cracking open again the 7th volume in the Chronicles of Narnia series (The Last Battle), oddly enough at times seems this novel seems like a kid’s introduction to Orwell’s 1984, with a peek into how propaganda works; offering glimpses of misinformation and manipulation using both fear, guilt-mongering and “the Common Good” as pressure points. Lewis never ceases to surprise…
Quite right Paul.
And along the same lines, in chapter 12 of The Silver Chair, Lewis provides the kids with a scene where the protagonists learn to resist materialistic propaganda (mind-bending enchantments). Hopefully Lewis’ observation that “There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic [propaganda]” is not always true, though unfortunately real-world experience tends to confirm Lewis’ intuition…
Thanks again Paul.