In a turn of events equally tragic and ironic, the Biden administration officially scrapped its plans for a council on disinformation amid baseless allegations of political targeting.
The fact Republicans were so successful in using disinformation to quash the Disinformation Governance Board is itself an argument for its necessity. But a Department of Homeland Security advisory committee created to assess the need for such a board seemed to disagree. According to The Washington Post, the committee wrote in a formal recommendation to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that there’s “no need” for the disinformation board. And the committee’s co-chair, Michael Chertoff, added Monday there was “no room” for it either.
If “no room” sounds like an implausible reason not to form this board, that’s because it is. It’s far more likely — obvious, I’d say — the administration simply gave in to right-wing pressure on this front. And the country is worse off for it.
In April, the Biden administration announced it was forming the Disinformation Governance Board to combat immigration-related disinformation that’s contributing to the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, as well as disinformation foreign adversaries like Russia funnel to Americans. The agency was to be led by Russian disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz. But Republicans — members of a party that has displayed an affinity for disinformation and the Russian government in recent years — rebuffed the idea. She resigned her position in May.
As my MaddowBlog colleague Steve Benen wrote at the time, GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida were among the many right-wingers who falsely decried the board as an Orwellian infringement on free speech.
On Monday, Jankowicz publicly shared a letter she sent to Hawley and GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa noting the abuse she and her family have endured as a result of lies they spread about her would-be role.
There’s really no mystery why the GOP opposes efforts to curb the spread of disinformation. The party’s agenda is set by fascist conservatives who rely on outright lies to whip up their base. That list includes people such as former President Donald Trump and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, as well as Hawley, Rubio and other treacherous GOP senators.
The Disinformation Governance Board wouldn’t have been the only tool we have to fight against disinformation. But it’s noteworthy the board appears to have been consumed by the very beast it was designed to fight.
Ja’han Jones is The ReidOut Blog writer. He’s a futurist and multimedia producer focused on culture and politics. His previous projects include “Black Hair Defined” and the “Black Obituary Project.”