Why does the U.S. need a Disinformation Governance Board?
Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) attempt to create the Orwellian-sounding Disinformation Governance Board (DGB), whose stated goal is to "coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security," is now on "pause." Ironically, the DHS claims this pause is due to a right-wing disinformation campaign which in turn led to the head of the embryonic board Nina Jankowicz resigning due to an online smear campaign.
According to the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, the abuse Jankowicz has faced follows a pattern typical of right-wing campaigns. Firstly, a person is identified as a villain; secondly, harassment is done through reputational harm; and thirdly, criticism remains un-contextualized.
However, this type of campaign is widespread when it comes to how U.S. citizens get their information. For example, I've argued that no matter what one's views are regarding the situation in Ukraine, analyzing it through the psychoanalytical lens, which reduces the entirety of Russia's actions to the "madness" of a single man, distorts the complexity of international relations and truth itself.
If Jankowicz is a moral actor then her stepping down from the DGB perhaps represents a "light-bulb moment." This is because her previous work history suggests that she must be well versed in state disinformation.
For example, she served at the National Democratic Institute funded by the National Endowment for Democracy which sponsors psychological operations previously carried out by the CIA. Then her work at StopFake.org, charged with countering disinformation, is also intriguing. This is because far from being independent it was founded by the U.S. government. According to The Nation, since 2018, it has been "aggressively whitewashing" neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine with track records of violence and war crimes.
Of course, it could be that Jankowicz, despite being in the belly of the disinformation beast, believes in her cause and, in turn, trusts wholeheartedly in "left-wing" disinformation. For example, according to the Washington Examiner, she defended the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as Russian disinformation. She also pushed the Russiagate story used to defame former President Donald Trump which, according to the Justice Department, has been denounced as a fraud concocted within the Democratic Party.
The White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. /CFP
The White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. /CFP
Many have pointed out that the DGB will have a hard time getting the go-ahead because the U.S. First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, is ingrained within the American psyche. Under the U.S. system, with its "marketplace of ideas," media consumers choose what is right and wrong with a full spectrum of information make the "right decisions."
However, if even Jankowicz, an "expert on disinformation" is legitimately disinformed then this belief is a fallacy. If it was true, then U.S. citizens, those who labor, would be to blame for all sorts of U.S. calamities both at home and abroad. I for one will not stoop to blaming the ordinary citizen for millions of deaths due to illegal U.S. wars and neither will I blame them, the victims, for rotting U.S. infrastructure or homelessness.
Consequently, there isn't a marketplace of ideas, which produces the best results, but a monopoly of ideas which constrains thinking. This is evidenced in concentrated media ownership which, due to political funding, is captured by the oligarchy.
In addition, the narrow range of views that have been served up to the American citizen as diversity is tragic. For example, Jankowicz sees herself as "on the left" fighting right-wing and foreign disinformation. However, when it comes to international policy there is bipartisan support for U.S.-led wars whose foundation is disinformation.
With a docile media, even the terminology used for democratic struggle has been subverted. For example, “Left” is traditionally used on the side of labor against capital. However, it has now been perverted to represent an individualist culture war where "we fight amongst ourselves" while "they look on." In turn, this culture war diverts the energy of adroit thinkers from real mass emancipatory struggles into debates on personal pronouns and unfortunately, these “adroit” thinkers blindly accept the new constructed definitions of left and right.
All the while, Joe Biden's Democratic Party claims to be the party that represents the disinformed definition of "the left," while in the "monopoly of ideas" the truth of the working man is drowned out in the din and madness of mass media misinformation.
Indeed, the Democrats just like the Republicans represent capital. With this in mind, why would the Democrats need a Disinformation Governance Board to counter the right? Simply put, even within capital there are factions.
Trump, though a capitalist, was never enamored with transnational elements within his class that have taken hold of the U.S. and other Western states. By calling out their "fake news" he was clearly a thorn in their hegemonic side.
Thus, with the mid-term elections looming, the noose representing the "monopoly place of ideas" needs to be tightened even further to protect U.S. citizens from "another right-wing Russian disinformation campaign" which might, once again, "pervert the democratic outcome." This is why the DGB was needed.
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