The Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security has announced the formation of the “Disinformation Governance Board.” Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, said the purpose of this new arbiter of truth will be to warn us about falsehoods from Russia and more.
It is reportedly to be headed by Nina Jankowicz, who once referred to the Hunter Biden laptop as a “Trump campaign product.” She also, early in the pandemic, tweeted that she hoped Big Tech “stops placing ads for mask and worse (straight up disinfo!) on articles and info about coronavirus.”
The trouble, however, isn’t that Jankowicz is fallible, or even that she’s a partisan—though, given the context, a video of her on TikTok singing a partisan version of a song from “Mary Poppins” is hilarious.
The central problem is a government ministry of truth would inevitably—and with deep partisanship—fall into the role of a federal national fact checker. Just imagine how such a board’s proclamations would be taken by Big Tech. Would Facebook and more use the likely partisan fact checks from the government board as an excuse to censor certain opinions or data? Might the mainstream media do the same thing? If so, this would impact free speech.
Consider President Joe Biden’s (D) clear misinformation about guns, the Second Amendment, and firearms manufacturers. Will this Disinformation Governance Board have the guts to call him out on it?
Even The Washington Post’s fact checker gave Biden two Pinocchios for saying, “Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.”
The Post even said Biden was “wrong” to claim that the “only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, has been exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.”
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), to which Biden was referring, makes clear that it doesn’t protect gun makers and dealers from litigation stemming from product liability or if they violate existing laws. It just protects them from being sued for criminal misuse of their products.
But would this Disinformation Governance Board, which is little more than an extension of the Biden administration, call Biden out on any of this? That doesn’t seem likely; and, actually, it shouldn’t, as there shouldn’t be any such board in the first place.
Various government agencies produce information for us to print, criticize (if we so chose), analyze, and more. That’s fine and good; but an Orwellian-style ministry of truth would only encourage private censorship.
Also, even when at their best, governments are run by people, and people make mistakes. Vetting out misinformation is what open, free, and healthy debate is for—hence, our First Amendment’s protection of speech.
Now consider, if the Biden administration could use such a board to push for censorship of what it deems false in Second Amendment debates, might then Biden’s clear misinformation on guns have an even bigger impact on this critical freedom?