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Disinformation for Dummies – WSJ

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 27 in Washington


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We realize public schools don’t teach the classics any more, but have no one in the Biden Administration read George Orwell ? Apparently not, because that’s the only explanation for its creation of a new Disinformation Governance Board.

We have to admit that when we first read about it, we thought the news was itself disinformation from the administration’s political enemies. Surely, no one in this age of polarization and public mistrust of institutions would think it’s wise to set up a government shop with the job of telling Americans what is true.

We were wrong. No less an authority than Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, broke the news about the board last week in an appearance before Congress. He said the purpose of this new corner of the bureaucracy will be to warn Americans about falsehoods coming from foreign adversaries such as Russia, China and cartels that smuggle migrants into the United States.

“It works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech—protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy,” Mr. Mayorkas told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

This isn’t reassuring. The concern isn’t that the board will spy on Americans. The problem is that this new board may choose to play the role of national fact checker, a kind of government PolitiFact. They’ll look down from Mt. Washington at this or that statement and vouchsafe to the masses what is true and what is false.

No doubt there’s some utility in telling migrants from Haiti that they will be deported if they seek to cross the Mexican border into the US And there may be a need for someone in government to monitor and rebut Russian or Chinese propaganda.

But does anyone think this board will limit itself to foreign falsehoods? The temptation will be great to address issues that are part of America’s raucous domestic political debate. All the more so given that the disinformation board’s first executive director is reported to be Nina Jankowicz, whose partisan footprints are all over social media. She can be seen on TikTok singing her own highly partisan adapted lyrics to the tune of a “Mary Poppins” song. (What did Julie Andrews do to deserve that?)

Mr. Mayorkas’s intentions may be nonpartisan, but refereeing political debate isn’t the government’s job. Leave that to the free exchange of ideas in the public square. The Disinformation Governance Board will promote more mistrust than it prevents.

Journal Editorial Report: It insults the millions who paid their loans back. Images: Getty Images for We The 45 Million Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the May 2, 2022, print edition.

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