Bad ideas never seem to go away – for long.
They just move to another department.
A new federal office to shield U.S. public opinion from threats of foreign disinformation appears to be just a reboot of an old one from Joe Biden, or whoever is running our country into the ground. It looks and smells like the old Disinformation Governance Board under the Homeland Security Department.
Remember that? You know, some called it the "Ministry of Truth."
This version called the Foreign Malign Influence Center, comes under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI.
"The threat to U.S. democratic processes and institutions from foreign malign influence is persistent and dynamic," according to FMIC's updated fact sheet. "Informing efforts to counter it requires constant attention, a whole-of-government approach, support from the private sector, and engagement from the public."
They decided to break it to the public last Thursday when the director, Avril Haines, mentioned it 45 minutes into a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. It's not even mentioned in her prepared testimony, which discusses "malign influence" several times.
It sounds like the same old thing – supposedly protecting American "public opinion" from "disinformation."
"It's the basic rhetorical trick of the censorship age: raise a fuss about a foreign threat, using it as a battering ram to get everyone from Congress to the tech companies to submit to increased regulation and surveillance," Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi wrote Friday. "Then, slowly, adjust your aim to domestic targets."
The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 approved initial funding for FMIC, which was first established in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report March 28.
Congress tasked the center with protecting "political, military, economic, or other policies or activities" of federal, state and local governments, including elections, and domestic "public opinion."
It defines "foreign malign influence" as hostile efforts "undertaken by, at the direction of, or on behalf of or with the substantial support of" Russia, Iran, North Korea or China "with the objective of influencing, through overt or covert means," elections or public opinion. FMIC's director, who is appointed by the DNI, can unilaterally add "any other foreign country" to this list.
"The government simply dropped the 'hot potato'" – the Disinformation Governance Board – and then "reinstituted the planned thought police with a new name in a different governmental agency" a month later, boutique investment research firm Brownstone Research wrote in March. "And almost no one noticed."
So what do you make of this?
Is it the Disinformation Governance Board or the Ministry of Truth or an even more dangerous combination? Yes, it is.
Remember, on the morning of April 27, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the first Disinformation Governance Board with the stated goal to "coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security." The Biden administration tapped Nina Jankowicz to be the board's executive director. A 33-year old, she was the author of the books "How to Be a Woman Online" and "How to Lose the Information War." She had not known what a truly free society America was.
But within hours of news of her appointment, Jankowicz was thrust into the spotlight of everyone concerned about a free society and real news. She was exposed as a joke.
Just three weeks after its announcement, the Disinformation Governance Board was "paused," according to multiple employees at DHS, capping a back-and-forth week of decisions that changed during the course of reporting of this story. Soon DHS decided to shut down the board. Good riddance, we all thought. We even celebrated.
Now it's back under a new name and a new department.
Does anyone have any jokes we can tell about it yet, to help rid ourselves of all vestiges?
We have to put a stake in its heart – before it grows and multiplies and takes on a life of its own.