Below is my column in The Messenger on the view of diplomats in the Biden Administration that the President is spreading “misinformation.”
My interest in the story is less the merits than the allegation.
The President is facing the same allegation of ignoring fact and spreading disinformation that has resulted in thousands being banned or blacklisted on social media. The Biden Administration has pushed for such censorship in areas where doctors and pundits held opposing views on subjects ranging from Covid-19 to climate control.
The question is whether Joe Biden himself should be banned under the standards promulgated by his own Administration.
Here is the column:
An internal State Department dissent memo was leaked this past week, opposing the Biden administration’s position on the war between Israel and Hamas. What was most notable about the memo is that some administration staffers accused President Joe Biden of “spreading misinformation.”
It was a moment of crushing irony for some of us who have written and testified against the Biden administration’s censorship efforts. The question is whether, under the administration’s own standards, President Biden should now be banned or blacklisted to protect what his administration has called our “cognitive infrastructure.”
For years, the administration and many Democrats in Congress have resisted every effort to expose the sprawling government censorship program that one federal judge described as an “Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’” As I have written previously, it included grants to academic and third-party organizations to create a global system of blacklists and to pressure advertisers to withdraw support from conservative sites.
Most recently, a House Judiciary Committee report revealed another layer of this system, described as a “switchboarding” role for the censorship system by channeling demands for removal or bans from state and local officials. This switchboarding process was confirmed by Brian Scully of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), during prior court testimony. CISA’s director, Jen Easterly, previously declared the administration’s intent to extend its role over maintaining critical infrastructure to include “our cognitive infrastructure” and combating not just mis- and disinformation but also “malinformation,” which CISA describes as “based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.”
As a result, over the last four years, researchers, politicians, and even satirical sites have been banned or blacklisted for offering dissenting views of COVID measures, climate change, gender identity or social justice, according to the House Judiciary report. No level of censorship seemed to be sufficient for President Biden, who once claimed that social media companies were “killing people” by not silencing more dissenting voices.
Now, though, President Biden himself is accused — by some in his own administration — of spreading misinformation and supporting war criminals.
The five-page State Department memo was signed by 100 State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) employees and was accompanied by a social media post by a junior foreign affairs staffer, accusing Biden of being “complicit in genocide” in Gaza. The memo accuses Biden of “spreading misinformation,” citing his Oct. 10 speech supporting Israel, and accuses Israel of committing “war crimes and/or crimes against humanity under international law.” It also accuses Biden of ignoring facts — a classic justification for past administration demands to censor figures — on the number of Palestinian casualties.
Democrats face a nightmare of allegations of disinformation on both sides of the war and other issues. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and numerous media outlets have been accused of spreading disinformation about Israel killing hundreds with an airstrike on a Gaza hospital. Former CIA director Leon Panetta, in an interview on Fox News, stood by disproven claims about Russia faking Hunter Biden’s laptop.
There is, of course, not even a whisper (let alone a loud demand) for censorship or suspension of any of these figures or outlets, because that is not how the administration’s policies over “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” — what it terms “MDM” — work. The administration at one point insisted that it would police this “MDM space” to target views on a sweeping range of subjects, including racial justice and the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
So what will the Biden MDM space-rangers do with President Biden?
The obvious answer is, “Nothing.”
The administration can note that the memo’s view of war crimes is a minority position and a matter of opinion — although that hasn’t stopped others from being censored, particularly scientists involved in the COVID controversies, according to the House Judiciary report.
Indeed, under its own standards, CISA and other agencies may be confused who to censor. It has created standards so ill-defined that it is surrounded by actionable disinformation. For example, if the administration does not believe Israel is committing war crimes, should it push to censor its own dissenting diplomats?
The censors in the administration and at social media companies have always adopted vague standards that allowed them to pick and choose who should be heard or silenced. Former Twitter executive Anika Collier Navaroli called it a “nuanced” approach in determining how much free speech to allow; former CEO Parag Agrawal said that the “focus [is] less on thinking about free speech” because it is not on who should speak but “who can be heard.”
That leaves any potential censorship based on the ridiculous standard which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart advanced for pornography in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964): “I shall not today attempt further to define [it] … But I know it when I see it.”
Thus, President Biden has no fear about his views being censored: His administration has always exhibited distinct myopia when it claims to know disinformation when it sees it.