In recent months, an escalation of various forms of federal surveillance has become apparent. That’s bad enough, but the trend is rendered more problematic since, as we see when resistance to policies like climate alarmism or vaccine mandates erupts, those opposed to Biden administration policies are vulnerable to being deemed guilty of spreading “misinformation” or of some form of “extremism” and to having their ability to function in society restricted.
Spreading “misinformation” or “disinformation,” so called, is a First Amendment right that it is the duty of the federal government to protect it. Ideas fight ideas. But instead, the Biden administration is doing the opposite, taking aim at opposing viewpoints with a fusion of regulation and censorship, with agency panels and “units” to police and punish dissenters.
These developments have been ongoing and become a pattern. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) newly announced Disinformation Governance Board needs to be stopped cold by Congress, with investigations into how it was contemplated and set up. This “governance board” is particularly threatening given two dominant operational features of the Biden administration. First is the White House’s pursuit of several sweeping, invasive “whole of government” spending and regulatory ventures, set forth in a tone that tolerates no dissent or exit. Second, the aforementioned surveillance would aid and encourage abuse in pursuit of its policy goals.
The accusation of “misinformation” is so prevalent today that it has lost all meaning, but the new DHS move was rapidly deemed “dystopian” and “Orwellian” by members of Congress. The appointed head of the operation is herself considered prone to untruthfulness and a censorious streak.
In a couple of examples, consider what an up-and-running “Disinformation Governance Board” might be inclined to do to those it deems problematic and barriers to the administration’s ambitions.
We might start at the top with Biden himself. After months of his defaming and blame of the unvaccinated, Biden in a January 2022 Morehouse College speech declared those disinclined to change the Senate’s rules to pass Democrats’ preferred voting rights legislation domestic “enemies.” The insult prompted even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) enough to call Biden’s sowing of discord and division “incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office.”
Yet McConnell’s pushback was deemed “hilarious on many levels” by the administration’s spokesperson. Biden took aim at “political extremism and domestic terrorism” in his January 20, 2021 “National Day of Unity” proclamation.
The Disinformation Oversight Board is by no means the first DHS foray into this new frontier of thought policing, however. Before Mayorkas’s announcement, a November 2021 Department of Homeland Security bulletin had already extended DHS’ transformation into a body targeting American citizens rather than foreign terrorists (an eventuality warned of back when the department was created after 9/11). The November bulletin claimed that “domestic violent extremists” are pushing violence in part because of “perceived government overreach in implementation of public health safety measures” and racial and other grievances.
This treating of opposing views as potential threats is increasingly multi-departmental. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was found to be tracking parents who took issue with the state and local version of Biden’s whole-of-government Equity agenda and pandemic policies, claiming threats on their part against school board members and teachers. The FBI program was undertaken in response to an internal memorandum from Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has separately unleashed agency sub-regulatory guidance documents and embraced antitrust intervention and industrial policy that includes a snitch hotline for reporting alleged anticompetitive behavior. The convoluted parent-tracking episode led to calls for Senate investigation into charges of the administration coordinating with left-wing groups to initiate its own federal crackdown on parents.
By February 2022, the DHS had lowered the bar for “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.”
The takeaway in the context of regulation and the administrative state is the alarming degree to which left-of-center ideologies that were already baked into the cake are being reinforced both ideologically and with the state machinery. This seems a new development in the rise of American state power.
But the new Ministries have written it all down, so that means they can be investigated. Defunding the new “Ministry of Truth” as some propose to do is not sufficient, not merely because this is so much wider than the new DHS impertinence. Power grabs of this sort are a threat to liberty and the Constitution; such abuses need to be disciplined.