Mind your manners, America, or the truth squad will step in

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas arrives for a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security hearing to discuss the President’s FY 2023 budget for the Department on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas arrives for an April 27, 2022, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on the FY 2023 budget for the department. Mayorkas has announced a new Disinformation Governance Board to combat misinformation.

I don’t know about you, but I get the impression that Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, either never read George Orwell’s “1984” or, if he did, he really didn’t get the message.

Maybe he thought that Orwell was saying that when the government establishes a Big Brother “Ministry of Truth” that’s a good idea. Maybe that’s why Mayorkas says he’s creating a bureaucracy that will go under the Orwellian name, “The Disinformation Governance Board.”

The job of the board, we’re told, will be to combat misinformation coming from places such as Russia and China, and from the cartels that smuggle immigrants into the United States — all in the name of national security.

Just so you know, I’m all for national security. I like it a lot more than national insecurity. I’m also for truth over lies and for honest information over misinformation and disinformation. So, what could possibly go wrong when the federal government establishes an agency populated by bureaucrats accountable to just about no one to combat false information?

If the board were to stick to letting us know that the Russians or the Chinese are lying to us about this or that, well, okay. But are we supposed to really believe that the kind of people who actually want to be part of something called the Disinformation Governance Board won’t make all sorts of pronouncements on supposed threats to national security right here in the United States? 

Let’s imagine what might happen the next time — and there will be a next time — that Donald Trump tells his loyal fans that he really won the presidency in 2020 but that he was robbed, that the Democrats stole the election right out from under him.

Do we actually think the Disinformation Governance Board won’t see that as a threat to our democracy and, therefore, a threat to our national security? Do we really think the board will stay silent about that?    

Or, what happens when some conservative bloviator on Fox News Channel says something — let’s be kind and call it — “controversial”? Will the government’s “truth squad” let that kind of “disinformation” go without comment, or will they put out press releases announcing their discovery of a threat to our safety and well-being? 

Maybe I’m being a tad paranoid. I mean, Jen Psaki, President Biden’s press secretary, has assured us that the disinformation board will be “nonpartisan” and “apolitical.” If you can’t trust her, who can you trust? 

So, as long as the head of the Biden administration’s version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is a down the middle, nonpartisan type, we should have no problems, right? Except, she isn’t.

The person who reportedly will head up the new agency is Nina Jankowicz, a woman of reliably left-wing views about politics and the media; a woman who once said that Hunter Biden’s laptop was “a Trump campaign product.”

Let’s see if I have this right. The woman who we’re told will lead the “nonpartisan” campaign against disinformation is a partisan who spouts disinformation herself? This raises a question: In a country of 330 million Americans, was she really the best person they could come up with?  Did they forget to ask Pee Wee Herman if he wanted the job?

As professors Roger Koppl and Abigail Devereaux point out in the Wall Street Journal, Jankowicz also 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.”

And Koppl and Devereaux note, she’s worried about the kind of partisan political back-and-forth that goes on right here at home, having 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.”

It sounds like she’s saying that if we don’t mind our political manners here in America, if we get into all sorts of uncivil political debates — the stuff of democracies like ours — well, we just might be helping our enemies.

So, I raise the question one more time: How long will it be before “incorrect opinions” and “unapproved ideas” expressed here at home are deemed to be threats to our national security? 

Do we really want the federal government, which is doing such a bang-up job controlling inflation and crime and chaos at our southern border — do we really want that gang that can’t seem to shoot straight — to be the arbiters of what’s true and what isn’t?

Whoever wrote the snarky headline over a Washington Post opinion piece summed it up perfectly: “The Disinformation Governance Board is a bad name and a sillier idea.” I don’t think that George Orwell, wherever he is in the Great Beyond, would disagree with that.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Democrats Disinformation Disinformation Governance Board Donald Trump George Orwell Hunter Biden Jen Psaki partisan politics

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