There are still plenty of old media hands around willing to school those willing to listen about the ways to release important information without it having an immediate impact on the news cycle.
One way is to announce controversial things after 5 p.m. on Friday after most reporters, editors, and producers have either hit the bar or headed home. Another is to have it mentioned during a typical congressional hearing, the kind that is so boring you can hear paint dry. The people who cover those are usually the ones who drew the short straw back in the newsroom.
Sometimes though, even with the best of intentions, political figures still manage to make news even when they didn’t intend to. That’s what happened Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Appearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security Mayorkas, who expected to be pepper with questions about the situation on the U.S. border with Mexico (and was), let it slip that his department had created a “Disinformation Governance Board” to counter misinformation released on social media during the 2022 election season.
If Mr. Mayorkas had hoped to get that one by like a vintage Steve Strasburg fastball, he failed. Liberal and conservative defenders of free speech responded angrily to the news government fact-checking was soon to be part of the political landscape. Writer Glenn Greenwald, who no one would ever take for a right-winger used his Twitter account to proclaim “That the Biden Admin casually announced today that the Dept. of Homeland Security – a domestic security agency – has created a ‘disinformation’ board is indescribably dystopian and chilling. That Democrats think this is good and normal tells you all you need to know about them.”
Indeed, it is chilling. The responsibility for checking the facts belongs to the media which, one presumes, looks at politicians and administrations in an adversarial way. At least that’s what many of the brighter lights of contemporary journalism maintain. The effort expended spreading what we now know to be lies about Donald Trump in 2016 while suppressing the truth in 2020 about the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop and what was on it are arguments for other organizations to fact-check the fact-checkers. Neither is a reason for the government to get involved.
Having the government enter the fray in the form of a disinformation review board or whatever they want to call it violates the principle of government non-interference in the management of news implicit in the Bill of Rights. What’s more, the notion it could do an effective and impartial job is comical. The government is more often wrong than right in its projections, forecasts, and reports than anyone else. Anyone who’s ever looked at a Congressional Office Budget score on a proposed tax cut knows this to be true. Fortunately, some have responded vehemently to this ill-considered proposal.
“The same party that spent years promoting the Russia collusion hoax, suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story, & equated parents to terrorists believes it has credibility to control your speech,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Friday. “Biden must immediately abandon his plan to create an Orwellian Ministry of Truth.”
Mr. McCarthy needs to go further. In the spirit of protecting freedom of speech and the press, he should put his conference on record in opposition to the idea and offer legislation blocking the DHS or any other agency of the federal government from using appropriated funds to create, maintain, staff, or otherwise police the charges and counter-charges about Biden proposals, Democratic policies, and Republican promises that will soon be flying fast and furious across the airwaves and the Internet. What Mr. Mayorkas said his department is about to do, even in its most benign form, is a threat to liberty that must be expunged before it can take root and grow.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.