While Congressional Republicans have been persistently “pouncing” and “seizing” upon the Biden administration’s blunders, it has been a bit since they could claim a win. Now, in the instance of the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) bid to create a Disinformation Governance Board (DGB), the GOP can, indeed, declare victory. But it is crucial to recognize they have won a skirmish – not even the battle, and certainly not the war to protect free speech against the censorious Left.
As reported by Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times, in “pausing” the creation of what Congressional Republicans, inspired by George Orwell’s writings, labeled the “Ministry of Truth,” the DHS is following tried and (un)true bureaucratic tactics to ultimately accomplish their aim – namely, not only establishing the DGB, but weaponizing it against political opponents and dissidents.
The DHS’s first tactic is to deflect the debate from the issue to an individual; and, that individual being one of their own, the department has tried to paint her as a victim of right-wing disinformation and intimidation.
Early on, it behooved the GOP to accurately question the qualifications and objectivity of the DGB’s proposed director, Ms. Nina Jankowicz, because they provided a clear indication of the direction in which the new entity would head. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) critique was scathing, but certainly not beyond the accepted pale of today’s partisan political discourse: “[Ms. Jankowicz] has no business serving in government, much less given a role to monitor information. She actively worked and spread misinformation that now has been proven false, and they want to put her in charge.”
Now, the Biden administration seeks to have such valid criticism subsumed beneath the rubric of misleading and intimidating rhetoric and have it ascribed to all who opposed the nominee. As reported by Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering, the DHS claims “Nina Jankowicz has been subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats.” Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates parroted this line of attack: “These smears leveled by bad-faith, right-wing actors against a deeply qualified expert and against efforts to better combat human smuggling and domestic terrorism are disgusting.” And, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added that Ms. Jankowicz “has strong credentials and a history of calling out misinformation from both the left and the right.”
Having conflated both the issue with the individual and, further, implying valid criticism of said individual constitutes lies and threats, the next DHS tactic was used to downplay and denigrate any and all opposition to the issue at hand; and, moreover, to claim the proposed DGB will do precisely what its opponents want.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas provided the downgrading of the DGB, asserting it was merely a “‘working group’ to coordinate existing departmental activities.” Further, DHS argued the DGB will further the goals of its opponents. “The board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core constitutional rights.”
So…the DGB was going to combat “disinformation” without policing speech or censorship? How the DGB would determine what constitutes “disinformation” and how it would combat it without policing speech or censorship – let alone without the new governmental entity producing an unconstitutional chilling effect upon free speech – is not elaborated upon by the DHS. Never mind that just last month in his congressional testimony it was reported that Secretary Mayorkas claimed the DGB would “police election-related disinformation aimed at minority voters”; and “communicate directly with communities, particularly minorities, that his department felt were being misled.” True, the DHS rapidly issued a “clarification” alleging the DGB would actually “help harmonize existing efforts on disinformation and would share best practices internally.” Oh well, guess we’ll just have to trust them.
And what bureaucracy worth its salt doesn’t use the tactic of establishing a handpicked commission to reach a predetermined conclusion while waiting for a public controversy to blow over? The DHS has initiated a “review” of the DGB led by “former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who served in the Clinton administration.” Moreover, “they are working through the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, which Mr. Mayorkas cleaned out at the start of his term and reconstituted with his own appointments.”
Talk about inspiring confidence amongst the doubters. This cozy commission’s review is due in 75 days. Right around Labor Day…when political campaigns kick into high gear…like for this year’s mid-term elections.
Yep. This autumn, the DHS will commence a corporate media rollout of its “review” and, ultimately, establish the DGB – right in time to be used as a partisan political weapon before the mid-term elections to, say, “communicate directly with communities, particularly minorities, that his department felt were being misled”?
When ultimately established, the DGB will weaponize governmental power to pursue a partisan political purpose. It doesn’t take much to divine the import of the former nominee to direct the DGB’s statement how “it is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the board became a distraction from the department’s vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary.” [Emphasis, mine.] So too, one can see where the Left’s censorship train bound by delving into the recent musings of a former ex-president and some former intelligence community members who are crusading for an intensification of the censorship of “disinformation” through the collusion of Big Government and Big Tech. Given that the DHS continues to claim the greatest threat to Americans are right-wing extremists/domestic terrorists, which they and their confederates in the corporate media have continually and duplicitously used to smear the Left’s political opponents and silence dissent, there can be no mistaking who will be targeted by the DGB.
But this is not to diminish the victory proponents of free speech and the GOP have garnered in this initial skirmish over the DGB. In past instances, congressional Republicans would have taken a premature victory lap while the Democrats retooled and won the battle and the war. Fortunately, early indications are that this will not be the case in protecting free speech from the DGB.
Consider how the ranking House Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee and on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) respectively, reacted to the pause of the DGB by vowing the continued and vocal opposition. To wit:
“The suspension of the DHS Disinformation Governance Board is by far the best decision that’s been made when it comes to this Orwellian entity. It was clear it was a political tool to be wielded by the party in control... Why would we trust this same department to unilaterally expand its mission and tell the public what is or is not truth? This board was only successful in reinforcing that the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities are severely misplaced.”
Time will tell if their principled and persistent opposition to the DGB will be shared by the full complement of congressional Republicans, be it through public statements and/or proscriptive legislation; and if it will continue not only through the mid-term elections, but until the DGB is no longer “paused” but cancelled. Only then will this battle to protect every Americans’ God-given, constitutionally recognized and respected free speech rights against the Biden administration’s DGB be finally considered won.
Yes, the Left’s war on free speech will continue. Other skirmishes and battles continue unabated, while others impend. Still, there is cause to be optimistic, for the congressional GOP has seemingly learned a crucial lesson: just because the Biden administration’s DGB has been paused, that does not mean congressional Republicans have to pause their opposition to it; and, indeed, that to do otherwise is a betrayal of their solemn oaths of office to protect and defend the constitution.
As he describes himself: The product of a misspent youth, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) is a guitarist, author, occasional radio co-host, and recovering politician. He is a former U.S. Congressman from Michigan having represented that state’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012.