AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
When Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of a “Disinformation Governance Board” late last month, it touched off a wave of backlash from Republican and Democrat lawmakers alike, who raised concerns about First Amendment implications. Far from subsiding, that criticism from both elected officials and the American people has only continued to grow. Even with record-high inflation and gas prices, skyrocketing crime rates, and a worsening border crisis, the establishment of a government body reminiscent of 1984’s Ministry of Truth may prove to be one of Biden’s most unpopular and disastrous moves yet.
Following the 2020 election, fervent warnings about “disinformation” and “misinformation” have become a favorite tactic of the progressive left to try to silence their opposition and distract from their own governing failures. Since Biden took office, White House officials have insisted or implied that everything from reports of empty store shelves to rising crime are nothing more than “disinformation” by Republicans to discredit Democrats.
Now, conservatives fear that the Disinformation Governance Board may use the power of the federal government to target anyone who dares dissent from the White House’s established narratives. Instead of the White House press secretary simply claiming that accurate claims about empty store shelves are untrue, for example, critics fear the Board is poised to actively try to silence anyone who criticizes Biden over such shortages.
Since announcing the creation of the Board, the administration has also attempted to downplay its significance in an apparent attempt to quell some of the backlash, first by branding it as an “internal working group” and then by saying that the Board will only target disinformation that “threatens the security of the United States.” To accomplish this, the Board says that it will establish “standards, definitions, guidelines, and policies” and will focus on disinformation distributed by American adversaries like China, Russia, and Iran.
However, Biden’s pick to lead the Board undercuts both of those claims. Nina Jankowicz, a “disinformation fellow” at the Wilson Center, a top liberal think tank in D.C., is far from nonpartisan and has actively engaged in real disinformation herself throughout her career in Democratic politics. During the 2020 election, for instance, Jankowicz dismissed the shocking documents recovered from Hunter Biden’s Laptop as “a product of the Trump campaign,” despite ample evidence that they were authentic.
Though Jankowicz says she has spent the last decade studying, lecturing, and writing about so-called “disinformation campaigns” online, she also appears wholly unable to recognize real disinformation when she sees it. For example, she has in the past praised the work of former spy Christopher Steele in compiling the infamous “Steele Dossier,” now a widely discredited piece of propaganda known to be fabricated by the Clinton campaign. Even more alarmingly, she was praised by the Chinese Communist Party in 2020 for dismissing the “Lab-Leak” COVID-19 origin theory as “a pro-Trump talking point.”
Jankowicz has also raised eyebrows for her social media antics, including a TikTok video of her adapting the Mary Poppins tune “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to be about fake news, and a lewd rendition of the classic Christmas song “My Simple Christmas Wish.” Such cringe-worthy videos have critics questioning how Jankowicz can be taken seriously in such a controversial and potentially dangerous position.
Conservatives have been quick to point out how the Board might easily be abused by the Biden administration to shut down legitimate political discourse and criticism. In a letter to Mayorkas, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley slammed Biden as attempting to “marshal the power of the federal government to censor conservative and dissenting speech,” before demanding that the Board be dissolved. During a Senate hearing, Rand Paul of Kentucky similarly called out Mayorkas, saying, “You can’t even admit what the truth is with the Steele Dossier. I don’t trust government to figure out what the truth is.”
Even some liberals are questioning the wisdom of such an audacious move for an already unpopular administration. Bill Maher said conservatives were “right to compare this to Orwell in the ‘Ministry of Truth,’” while also referring to Jankowicz as “not bright.” Democratic Rep. Jim Himes called himself “deeply skeptical” about the Board’s mission. Even mainstream media outlets, normally quick to jump to Biden’s defense, have been uncharacteristically absent from the conversation, merely reporting on the issue rather than actively engaging in shaping the public’s view of it.
It’s no secret that Americans on both sides of the aisle hold their right to free speech as especially sacred. As Biden looks to curb that freedom, he risks making an enemy of them all. Republicans aiming to defund and disband Biden’s Ministry of Truth may thus be in the rare position of having the support of ordinary voters of all political persuasions, while Democrats up and down the ballot may have yet another unforced Biden blunder weighing them down heading into the midterms.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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