‘I don't trust government to figure out what the truth is': Is Sen. Paul right about Disinformation board?
- On April 27, 2022, Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas revealed the Department of Homeland Security would start a new “Disinformation Governance Board” to focus on “countering misinformation and disinformation” in the midst of the migrant crisis, election campaigns, and targeted misinformation scams.
- Senator Rand Paul discussed his opinion of the creation of the new board with Mayorkas, saying, “I don’t trust government to figure out what the truth is. Government is largely disseminating disinformation.”
- Mayorkas stated the DHS, through the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), has a pre-existing operating team, Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation (MDM), that focuses on “building national resilience to MDM and foreign influence activities.” On April 12, 2022, they released a social media campaign discussing how to decipher misinformation easily.
- The prevalence of “fake news” grew during the 2016 election and manifested itself as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened. Statista reported in January 2022, just 26% of Americans felt confident in their ability to recognize misinformation, 67% believed fake news created confusion, and 10% of Americans shared fake news knowingly.
Senator Rand Paul is correct to express concerns about the Biden administration's new Disinformation Governance Board. In a free and well-functioning democratic society, it is not the government's job to determine what the truth is. Often, the government can be a purveyor of disinformation, as Senator Paul said. He corrected pointed to the times when the government peddled false information to Americans: Robert McNamara and the infamous Pentagon Papers, the Iran-contra affair, and more. We can still recall when Biden said troops would remain in Afghanistan until all Americans got out. In reality, our troops left before that happened. Additionally, Biden once claimed that if you were vaccinated, you could not get COVID—another falsehood soon disproven yet still labeled as 'misinformation.'
Dr. Fauci and the CDC, both part of the executive branch, have routinely offered contradictory information during the pandemic. One can't make polar opposite statements and be right both times. Senator Paul was clearly correct when he said, 'the largest progenitor of disinformation in our [sic] has probably been the US government.' One final, but by far not the last, an example of government disinformation was when Woodrow Wilson's Committee on Public Information (CPI) during WWI quickly devolved into a propaganda arm of the government, declaring ‘the facts,' and chastising Americans and newspaper editors for dissenting from those 'facts.'
With the establishment of the Disinformation Governance Board, power is given to a select few to determine what is and isn't disinformation. That power should not be in the hands of unaccountable, unelected government bureaucrats. Moreover, Nina Jankowicz, the new head of the DGB, is hardly a non-partisan and has engaged in disinformation herself. Despite what DHS Secretary Mayorkas claims, Jankowicz, given her past tweets spreading disinformation, is neither neutral nor non-partisan.
Senator Paul is wrong about DHS’s Disinformation Governance Board, making wild claims during his exchange with Secretary Mayorkas. Paul asserted the government believes Americans are 'stupid,' needing it 'to tell them what the truth is,' and that the Steele Dossier undermines the government's ability to 'figure out what the truth is,' and finally, the 'Government is largely disseminating disinformation.' Nothing could be more of a mischaracterization of the board.
Society is exceedingly different today than in generations past, mainly because the digital world allows anyone to become an author and spread any information they want. The DHS clarified the goal is to combat the spread of false and misleading information coming from human smugglers and Russia, which has caused severe disarray throughout American society.
This is not some 'Orwellian' concept that will monitor every bit of information Americans will publish or view online. The board is more of an advisory committee than an operational agency. Its goal is not to monitor Americans but to use best practices and support counter-disinformation activities. The government controls many facets of our lives (taxes, legislation, etc.) and has the legal power to enforce those rules, but the disinformation board is nothing like that.
Moreover, what Senator Paul does not seem to understand is how this board has no legal or judicial powers; it will only combat false information through better communication with the American public to help them decipher between what is true and untrue. Someone has to take on the fight against disinformation being fed to migrants, voters, and others. The Disinformation Board will address the threats of violence or political chaos without infringing on free speech or threatening civil liberties.