’ purchase of the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million was roughly equivalent to anyone else whimsically spending a few thousand dollars on a chest of drawers in an antique store. The price of whimsy has risen.
had to assemble $44 billion to obtain the
A multibillionaire’s takeover of the Post caused palpitations among the Beltway press, but that passed. In the event, the Post was left free by its owner to spend two years of the Trump presidency pushing the unproven Russia collusion narrative, which helped create the swamp of disinformation.
Mr. Musk has said his interest is in restoring some version of “free speech” at Twitter, and the left’s panicked attacks on him mainly consist of fears he will rebalance the social-media platform’s content-moderation tilt away from censorious progressives.
But just as one starts to think this dispute might produce a serious debate over free-speech rights, reality as we know it returns with an exchange, on Twitter of course, between Rep.
and Mr. Musk, the platform’s new owner.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, without naming Mr. Musk, that she was “tired of having to collectively stress about what explosion of hate crimes is happening bc some billionaire with an ego problem unilaterally controls a massive communication platform and skews it because Tucker Carlson or
took him to dinner and made him feel special.” Mr. Musk’s quick countertweet: She should “stop hitting on me.”
Amid this, it made perfect sense that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress his department is creating a Disinformation Governance Board. And that the board’s director would be the Wilson Center’s
who was soon on display from an earlier TikTok video she made of herself as Mary Poppins, singing a song about disinformation— “they’re laundering disinfo and we really should take note.” As the long-ago talk-show host
said, I kid you not.
I’ll admit to being struck when the media began to slip the words “disinformation” and “misinformation” into stories almost daily. Reporters can be clever in how they make words work for them, and here it was clear that associating those words with a person was shorthand for erasing them from the debate. It was a one-way ticket to ostracism on social media.
Last weekend, Mr. Mayorkas was on Fox News expressing wide-eyed wonder at the controversy over the Disinformation Governance Board, which he claimed is only about “disinformation from Russia, from China, from Iran, from the cartels.”
But foreign propaganda isn’t quite how the board’s proposed singing director, Ms. Jankowicz, defines the national-security threat from disinformation. Her definition extends to something called “gendered and sexualized disinformation.”
At the Wilson Center, Ms. Jankowicz led a team that released a report in January last year on the social-media “impacts of gendered and sexualized disinformation on women in public life, as well as its corresponding impacts on national security and democratic participation.”
“Disinformation,” the report says, “involves the spreading of rumors or alleged ‘facts,’ often of a sexual nature, in order to humiliate, discredit, or disempower the subjects.” As illustration, the report described at length an online “narrative” questioning
citizenship status. It criticizes social-media platforms for “a lack of intersectional expertise in content moderation, which results in abuse toward women, people of color (POC), and other marginalized communities going unaddressed.”
The report says social-media companies “should create a cross-platform consortium to track and respond to online misogyny, similar to existing consortiums which counter terrorism and extremism.”
The justification for monitoring on national-security grounds made in her report—and shared by Mr. Mayorkas and the Biden White House—is that Russia, China and Iran exploit these made-in-America “narratives.” Does the Biden administration conclude from this that Ms. Jankowicz’s job at Homeland Security will be to track misogyny on social media?
White House press secretary
says the Disinformation Governance Board will be “apolitical.” If you believe that, you still think Mary Poppins and the children climbed a stairway made of smoke.
Elon Musk took over Twitter in part because he sensed, like many of us, that something isn’t quite right with how progressives and much of the media handle what they call the truth.
For better or worse, everything today is political: climate, Covid, race, gender identity, crime, abortion. And social media is where many people talk about it.
When Democrats, the media or the country’s huge domestic security agency starts tossing around words and phrases like disinformation governance, gendered abuse, misinformation and false narratives, one hopes they don’t profess shock that some people think they are being euphemized into silence.
The Biden administration has a full plate: Ukraine, inflation, the border,
The Disinformation Governance Board is a terrible idea. Pull the plug. Shut it down now. Ms. Jankowicz can return to her forays into satirical cabaret. The rest of us can return to the guilty pleasure of Elon and AOC monitoring each other on Twitter.
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