America has crossed the Rubicon. The Biden administration has established a Disinformation Governance Board, which is bad enough in itself, and even more ominously, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security. This sends the unmistakable signal that what the administration designates as “disinformation” will be treated as a national security issue, with the purveyors of this alleged disinformation being regarded as terrorists.
This is flagrantly unconstitutional, but it’s easy to imagine the Jesuitical arguments that Biden’s lawyers will make: “The First Amendment says that ‘Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” but Congress was not involved here; the Disinformation Governance Board has been established, not by Congress but apparently by the fiat of the president or the Homeland Security Secretary, within the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe they’ll also say that the freedom of speech is not being abridged at all, for the Founding Fathers surely didn’t intend to include “disinformation” within that freedom, did they? Surely they never intended that “disinformation” or “hate speech” would be allowed to proliferate, right?
The chief of Biden’s Thought Police, Nina Jankowicz, has already hinted at that argument. On Wednesday, she tweeted that “a HUGE focus of our work, and indeed, one of the key reasons the Board was established, is to maintain the Dept’s committment [sic; is misspelling disinformation?] to protecting free speech, privacy, civil rights, & civil liberties.” Yes, she actually wrote that the Disinformation Governance Board was established in order to protect free speech. It’s likely that she isn’t just trying to gaslight the rubes, either. She almost certainly really believes that what she is doing is protecting the freedom of speech by getting rid of all the “disinformation” and “hate” that is blocking the way of the truth and giving the truth a clear path.
The only problem with this is that what Jankowicz herself and others among the Leftist political and media elites have more than once dismissed as “disinformation” turned out to be true. Jankowicz falsely claimed in 2017 that Republicans funded the notorious Steele Dossier that was a central element of the Russian Collusion hoax, and she insisted that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a “Trump campaign product.” Jankowicz is now defensive about passing on the claim from fifty-one (she said fifty, more disinformation) compromised intelligence officials that Hunter’s laptop was a “Russian influence op,” but is there really any doubt that if the Disinformation Governance Board had been up and running during the 2020 presidential campaign, it would have enthusiastically endorsed the intel wonks’ claim and denounced those who said that the laptop was real as purveyors of “disinformation”?
Even worse, in a larger sense, “disinformation” and “hate” are entirely subjective categories, based on the point of view of the person who is doing the evaluating. While Nina Jankowicz regarded Hunter’s laptop as Trump/Russia disinformation, it was convenient for her politically to do so, as she is aligned with Biden and his henchmen. Her evaluation of the laptop was clearly based on the fact that it would have worked to the advantage of her political opponents. There is no indication, none whatsoever, that Nina Jankowicz would ever come to the conclusion that something that aided the Left and hurt dissidents from the Left’s agenda was “disinformation,” or that something that advanced conservative causes was anything but “disinformation” and probably “hate” as well.
Yet despite the fact that the Disinformation Governance Board is quite obviously a partisan tool, Biden’s handlers likely don’t anticipate that it will get much pushback outside of rock-ribbed conservative sites. The Left has been preparing for this for a long time and softening up Americans to the idea that some legal, non-criminal, non-violent speech is actively harmful and must be suppressed. In October 2019, the Campaign For Free Speech (CFS), a pro-First Amendment advocacy group, released poll results showing that “51% of Americans think the First Amendment is outdated and should be rewritten” and that “48% believe ‘hate speech’ should be illegal.”
Who gets to decide what “hate speech” is? Nina Jankowicz, apparently. And what she will decide is entirely predictable. Now it remains to be seen whether there is still sufficient understanding of the importance of the freedom of speech in America today to stop the Disinformation Governance Board or whether it will overcome initial resistance to become an integral part of American public life, after the manner of the Department of Education.
When Jimmy Carter established that cabinet-level department, Ronald Reagan vowed to close it. When Reagan became president, however, he quickly found that shutting down the department was impossible, as too many Republicans, as well as Democrats, liked — and benefited from — the idea of a federal education bureaucracy. Will the Disinformation Governance Board follow the same trajectory? Will we see a Republican presidential candidate in 2028 or 2032 under fire for proposing a reduction in its funding? If we do, by that point it will hardly matter. America as a free society will be a dimming memory.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.