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The Disinformation Board, PolitiFact, and the End of Free Speech

I suspect that many readers will have seen the opening monologue of the Tucker Carlson Tonight program of Thursday, April 28. For seventeen minutes Carlson took direct aim at the latest advance of the Biden administration and the managerial state in their incremental assumption of authoritarian power over not only over what Americans read or see, but how they think: the creation of a new agency within the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Disinformation Governance Board.

Here is the clip, and it’s a message that should send chills down the backs of every American who is at all concerned about what has happened and is happening to our country…and about those supposed guaranteed rights of speech under the Constitution.

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security, with its immense and largely unregulated power over the domestic life of every American, announced the formation of the board under the purview of the DHS on April 27. The board will have the  responsibility of “protecting national security by combatting foreign misinformation and disinformation. Specific problem areas of knowledge mentioned include false information…”

Carlson rightly asked: “What exactly does that mean?” What indeed!

Already the federal government has announced via its head law enforcement agent, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and from the president himself, that “right wing terrorism” is the chief “domestic threat” to the United States. And now with Mayorkas adding that the new agency will intervene in situations where [right wingers] through their rhetoric—in other words, through their politically-incorrect speech—“might descend” into some form of violence, or perhaps “insurrection” (like the so-called “insurrection” of January 6, 2021), the real purposes of the agency are clear.

The new agency will act as a speech enforcer for not just the Biden administration, but for the entrenched managerial Deep State and its ideology of continuing revolution and radical political and cultural change. And anyone who would seriously dissent or disagree—that is, in the view of the Disinformation board offer a “false” viewpoint—is apt to be denounced, censored, maybe banned, and who knows—perhaps in our dystopian future, arrested for “thought crimes”?

In a portion of his monologue Carlson dealt specifically with the new director of the Disinformation board, Nina Jankowicz, a long-time militant Leftist Democrat and a former enthusiastic “advisor” to the US-client Ukrainian government in Kiev. Jankowicz, be it remembered, called the Hunter Biden/Ukraine laptop scandal (which Big Tech succeeded in making disappear from most of the mainstream media prior to the 2020 national elections) “fake new,” inspired by “Russian disinformation”! Indeed, she fits right in with one of the major “concerns” of the new board: what is termed Russian propaganda and fake news which could somehow persuade Americans that we shouldn’t be fanning the flames of World War III in that part of the world.

The Ukrainian connection becomes even murkier if we recall that it was Joe Biden who demanded the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son Hunter’s tawdry and scandalous connection to the Ukrainian oligarch-run firm, Burisma: “I called them,” said Biden at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, “and said ‘if the prosecutor is not fired you’re not getting the money [one billion dollars]’.” And the Ukrainians dutifully fired the investigator. Of course, Biden pere has had his dirty hands in Ukrainian politics since the violent American-engineered coup d’etat which overthrew popularly-elected (but pro-Russian) Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

It is, then, certainly no accident that one of the targets of the Disinformation Governance Board is supposed Russian propaganda and “fake news” disseminated on this side of the Atlantic by a few investigators whose reputations, and possibly livelihoods, will be at stake if the feds come down hard on them.

For example: Although ostensibly a Web site on the Left, The GrayZone vigorously questioned the narrative of Russian election disinformation and influence spun by the fanatical Left before the 2020 vote, calling DHS’s “election alert spawning new Russia fears…so incoherent and inconsistent with previous findings, it suggested a state of political panic inside the agency.” Not only that, but the site also headlined a recent story: “Western media has looked the other way…as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.”

Such a “deviationist tendency” (to use terminology in currency under the brutal rule of Joseph Stalin) will not be tolerated, and the DHS/Disinformation Governance Board has already threatened The GrayZone, as reported by Carlson on April 28. In other words, free inquiry—free speech—will not be tolerated under the new dispensation if it questions the regime’s iron-clad template on Ukraine, or on the 2020 election, or on COVID, or on “white nationalism,” or on other newly-defined mortal sins in what has become an American caricature of George Orwell’s Oceania, or perhaps more accurately, of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World (1931).

Such efforts at muzzling speech—and thought—have been ongoing for some time, and not just by the government or by the giant tech monopolies (Facebook, Google, etc.), as anyone will recognize by tuning into mainstream media or reading its online coverage of various controversies. Indeed, President Donald Trump during his administration became a lightning rod, with nearly all his pronouncements and claims as reported by what once were “news agencies,” but are now nothing more than propaganda shills, prefaced with statements such as: “Donald Trump’s false claim that….”

One can no longer read most supposedly straight “news” items without encountering such inserted labeling. Whereas in years past the news we ingested would usually offer what an individual had said, straight and without additional pejorative adjectives (even if one could tell from the context how a reporter or media source actually thought), today the pronouncement of truth or error by the media defines in concrete the person’s assertion. We no longer are to do the heavy lifting of actually thinking.

Which brings me to a topic I wrote about back in December of 2019: the use of the nationally prominent “truth” agency, PolitiFact to essentially decide for us what is real and true, and what is not. And my belief that it is semi-official organizations like PolitiFact which now assist the media in their increasing efforts to inform us how and what to think and what to write and say. In so many words, PolitiFact is a necessary ingredient in the chain of this rising authoritarianism, now capped by the federal Disinformation Governance Board. And there is no reprieve once you’ve been essentially denounced as a “liar” or “fake news,” or perhaps as an agent of that so-dreaded “Russian disinformation.”

Back in 2019 I wrote what I believed to be a respectful, if questioning communication to Seth Effron, Opinion Editor for the local, very leftwing television station, WRAL Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had just seen Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd suggest that Ukraine had collaborated, at least indirectly with the Hilary Clinton campaign leading up to the 2016 elections. Todd, a card-carrying member of the Uber-Marxist Press International (UMPI), exploded in paroxysms of anger. Kennedy, said the barely-controlled Todd, had his “facts” all wrong; he should not say such things, in fact, he could not say such things! Yet, Kennedy’s “facts” came directly from investigative reporter John Soloman.

Ah, but Soloman had been attacked by the “fact checker” organization, PolitiFact.

And WRAL had just announced with some fanfare that it would be using the services of PolitiFact to determine the truth or falsity of statements and claims made publicly. And one of those claims that WRAL reported on was PolitiFact’s verdict on its “Truth-O-Meter” that the claim of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election was “false.”

But having read Soloman’s extensive reporting and examined his sources, which were enough to engender more than just suspicions, I wondered about PolitiFact, did it have a bias, and why was WRAL Channel 5 employing it?

Just a cursory review online revealed a number of criticisms of PolitiFact, its methodologies, and its bias.

I decided to write to the station, to the Capitol Broadcasting Company Opinion Editor Seth Effron, and inquire. Here is a copy of the letter I sent on December 4 that year. I have never received the courtesy of a response:

*****

December 4, 2019

Mr. Seth Effron

CBC Opinion Editor

WRAL – TV

Raleigh, North Carolina

Dear WRAL,

Several weeks ago (November 17) WRAL-TV News announced proudly that it would henceforth be utilizing the services of professional “fact checker,” PolitiFact to verify the truthfulness of a politician’s assertion or an organization’s claim. Thus, TV 5 began a series of on-air PolitiFact-produced evaluations of several statements made by, for example, US Representative Mark Meadows on the firing by President Trump of ambassadors, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the Border Wall, Republican statements that leading Democrats promised impeachment before President Trump even took office, and the president’s negative description of several witnesses in the “impeachment hearings.”

Invariably, the Truth-O-Meter came down hard on Republicans and conservatives. That prompted me to question the data utilized and the measures employed to make such evaluations. And just what kind of organization is PolitiFact and why Channel 5 would utilize it.

Examining a broad wealth of information, most of it widely accessible via the Internet, the conclusion became inescapable: PolitiFact, set up to monitor the truth or falsity of statements made in our political environment, itself has been accused quite credibly of a marked and demonstrable bias in its methodology and evaluations.

Thus, I believe one is permitted to seriously question the reasons behind WRAL’s embrace of this service, and why with much on-air fanfare it was announced to viewers that, at last, there was an objective source for analyzing political statements—when, indeed, there is considerable doubt about the pronounced political bias of the very “fact-checker” employed.

Let me offer just a few examples, a few brief critiques of PolitiFact, easily discoverable on the Web:

First, there is the verdict of the reputable, non-partisan AllSides group: “PolitiFact AllSides Media Bias Rating: LEANS LEFT.” Their evaluation is based on a number of factors, including third party analysis, editorial review, community feedback, blind surveys, independent research, and confidence level evaluation.

Second, Newsweek magazine, certainly no shill for conservatives, reported on June 27 of this year, that:

A 2013 study from George Mason University Center for Media and Public Affairs called into question who fact checks the fact-checkers, noting “Politifact.com has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims during President Obama’s second term … A majority of Democratic statements (54 percent) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18 percent of Republican statements.”

The Newsweek report went on to state: “[the] George Mason [study] concluded that news organizations overwhelmingly choose to fact-check reports or comments made by right-leaning politicians or fellow news outlets,” and then grade them almost always negatively.

The USNews & World Report, in an evaluation from 2013, also cited the detailed study from George Mason University concerning PolitiFact’s history of favoring a pro-left viewpoint:

[A] study from the George Mason University Center for Media and Public Affairs … demonstrates empirically that PolitiFact.org, one of the nation’s leading “fact checkers,” finds that Republicans are dishonest in their claims three times as often as Democrats. “PolitiFact.com has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims….”

Lastly, I offer some commentary from the standard online reference, Wikipedia, which once again presents the accusation of political bias on the part of PolitiFact:

Mark Hemingway…criticized all fact-checking projects by news organizations, including PolitiFact, the Associated Press and the Washington Post, writing that they “aren’t about checking facts so much as they are about a rearguard action to keep inconvenient truths out of the conversation”. In February 2011, University of Minnesota political science professor Eric Ostermeier analyzed 511 PolitiFact stories issued from January 2010 through January 2011. He found that the number of statements analyzed from Republicans and from Democrats was comparable, but Republicans have been assigned substantially harsher grades, receiving ‘false’ or ‘pants on fire’ more than three times as often as Democrats…. [Italics mine]

As I wrote earlier, these pronouncements represent just a few of the evaluations available.

But, then, my question: why would WRAL want to employ such an obvious and well-documented leftwing “fact-checker” to present to viewers what purport to be “unassailable truth” (and thus corrections of those deemed not to be telling the truth)? Does not the station and Capitol Broadcasting Company have a duty to viewers to at the very least let them know that PolitiFact is not the shining-truth-knight “sans reproche” that it is purported to be?

Are there not parallels with the use of “information” on hate crimes by such now-largely discredited organizations as the Southern Poverty Law Center?

I recall many years ago, as a boy, when WRAL first came on the air, and I have watched it consistently since then, in particular its weather and sports coverage. But I must tell you that in this age of “fake news,” the Internet social media news sources, and thousands of supposed “news” items that appear daily in the ethosphere, what I have seen in recent years via WRAL as news often raises very serious issues for me—and I think for many other viewers as well.

It may not be possible to always offer “objective” reporting; indeed, it may be virtually impossible in our current environment when “fake news” dominates most of the national news media. But, as an old-fashioned believer in trying to do just that, I am deeply disappointed by your use of PolitiFact and, more so, by your unfounded claim that somehow such usage will establish the “truth” or “falseness” of a claim or statement.

That simply will not do. Your Leftwing bias is showing, and you owe it to your viewers to let them know.

I am blind copying this message to several elected officials.

Sincerely yours,

Boyd Cathey

Dr. Boyd D. Cathey

*****

As I say, my communication was never acknowledged, and I think I know why. In America today those who control our politics, our culture, and our media consider those of us who dissent the enemy, to be feared and controlled, if not suppressed.

The Disinformation Governance Board and its objectives are one more chilling example of what awaits us in the new American Gulag.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.