Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. -Benjamin Franklin
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to free speech. This freedom is not to be governed. Specifically, our founders understood what it was like to speak out against tyrannical powers, and to be punished for such speech. Freedom of speech in America is a convenient right, but it’s important to understand that it’s not just a catch-all. It was explicitly designed to protect the right of citizens to openly discuss, and even criticize, their government.
This is why the new DHS Disinformation Governance Board is dangerous. It seeks to control what kind of information is spread in print and online.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board
Last week, Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of the Disinformation Governance Board, headed by “disinformation fellow” Nina Jankowicz. (This is ironic, since she spent a lot of time dismissing the existence of Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop before it was discovered to be real). The federal government has essentially made Orwell’s Ministry of Truth a reality by claiming to stop the spread of disinformation.
Why is this new disinformation board dangerous?
Misinformation on a number of other issues — from COVID-19 to the election — quickly spreads on social media. The heads of several large tech companies, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have testified before Congress about their efforts to try to address it. Blasting the problem of COVID-19 misinformation last summer, President Biden said, “Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation. The outrageous misinformation about the vaccine.” (CBS News)
Check out this infographic warning you who to trust and not trust.
Jankowicz and Mayorkas claim the purpose of the creation of the board is to battle disinformation about Russia and human trafficking. But anyone with right-leaning views remembers that we have been in a “misinformation battle” since early 2020 on matters relating to covid, the 2020 Presidential election, and many other topics. Social media outlets have taken it upon themselves to fact check every post with “independent fact checkers” who have a decidedly left-leaning bias. See how glowingly Bridget Johnson of Homeland Security Today describes the new venture, and then read her article about how disinformation about covid killed her mother.
So don’t believe for a second that it will only be about Russian disinformation and border security. Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki said as much:
The Biden administration argues there’s a major need to combat the lies and conspiracies that mislead people and sow division. “There has been a range of [disinformation] out there about a range of topics – I mean including COVID, for example, and also elections and eligibility,” Psaki said. (WFLA.com)
Yeah, it’s entirely valid to say that we’ve got our very own Ministry of Truth now
Astute Americans quickly saw the parallels between this new board and the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984, as any common-sense individual should. They were mocked as conspiracy theorists, of course.
If you have not read 1984, you need to. Yesterday. You can read Nicki’s blog post about George Orwell and 1984 here. Order the book here.
“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” (George Orwell, 1984)
Who controls the past?
In 1984, Orwell’s Ministry of Truth was tasked with erasing history and any other information it did not approve of, and replacing it with Party-approved info. People and events could be “erased,” or as we in the 21st century call it: cancelled.
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” (George Orwell, 1984)
If you are a conservative, you already know what topics are taboo on the internet. You can talk about them, but you might get your platform shut down, or at least get suspended or “jailed” for spreading “misinformation.” The Party is the left, and the subjects are covid, elections, Donald Trump, vaccines, Ukraine and human trafficking, for starters. Social media platforms created fact-checkers to ostensibly protect Americans from harm. In 2020, I switched my blog’s email provider after MailChimp sent out a list of approved topics for mass emails. And last month I received an email from Google AdSense (who I do not use) that informed users that pretty much any website content involving the Ukrainian government would not be monetized. The unmistakable message is that all online information must not oppose the administration’s narrative.
Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. ― Harry S. Truman
Harry Truman was witnessing firsthand the horrors of communism in the early 20th century. He knew what he was talking about. He was there to see Joseph Stalin, he remembered Hitler, and he was witnessing the rise of the Chinese Communist Party.
Joseph Goebbels, sidekick to Adolf Hitler and chief of the Nazi propaganda department, said, “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” It’s clear the White House agrees.
But even further back, our founders understood governments with no restraint. For centuries, average citizens were punished, imprisoned, and even killed for daring to speak or write anything that their rulers did not approve. Whether it was emperors, popes, or kings, world history is full of martyrs to the cause of truth. The American founding fathers were students of history, and they were determined to prevent it from repeating itself here.
If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. ― George Washington
This new Disinformation Governance Board is unconstitutional (as is much of our bureaucracy). It is also quite dangerous to freedom. As we have already learned in 21st century America, any word that someone disagrees with or is offended by can be dismissed, because the rules are fluid and have no basis in logic.
Our founders did not risk everything to protect our feelings from being hurt, or to make sure we only received accurate information. It is the duty of American citizens to seek out truth and to discern for themselves what is accurate. It is up to each individual to make choices, for better or for worse, about their health, their government, and truth.
Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” (George Orwell, 1984)
What can we do?
I wish we could vote and assume that our elected representatives would dismantle the alphabet soup of U.S. government bureaucracies in this country, but that is usually a hopeless cause. (Please do vote, and be an active participant in elections and government, but don’t put all your hope there.) Continue to fight and protect our civil liberties, but don’t stop with politics. Sadly, even conservative politicians are doing very little to protect true civil rights.
The answer is a well-educated population, and that is going to be dependent on the printed word. Thomas Jefferson spoke on this often:
- “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of the day.”
- “Illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.”
James Madison wrote, “A diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
And John Adams said, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”
As you now know, information on the internet is governed, corrected, and silenced by powerful entities that disagree. So don’t consider the internet to be your encyclopedia anymore. Don’t rely on public education to give your children the wisdom of the ages.
Create a home library that preserves and dispenses historical facts, alternative ideas about health and politics, and anything else that can be revised or shadow-banned. Collect and preserve printed material that tells us the truth about our history and about tyrannical tendencies. Original sources in printed form are our best defense against the real online disinformation.
A bookshelf in your home cannot be regulated or fact-checked by the Washington Post or DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. President Joe Biden cannot approve or disapprove of your home library. No one gets to decide if you are believing false narratives in your home.
Be the Executive Director of history and information for yourself, your family, and your descendants. This plea is not just for today. It is for posterity. Do it for you, and do it for the generations you will not see. Become a knowledge keeper, one home bookshelf at a time.
Read about how Knowledge Keepers Bookstore is bringing back old, out-of-print histories that preserve the stories of our country, written down by people who lived it, saw it, and knew it. There’s no better history than that written down as it happened!