May 27, 2022

"1984" had its Ministry of Truth, the Soviets had their Gulag. Today’s Russians, like their kindred spirits among the American left, may be less overt in policing speech but don’t let a less visible barbarity fool anyone into believing that the goal is any less of an assault on free speech. 

Current Russian law punishes speech or public engagement that questions Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or even protests that call it a war. As University of Massachusetts Amherst Associate Professor Lauren McCarthy puts it, "public activities aimed at discrediting the use of Russia’s military," become "a criminal offense if committed twice in a year."

Russian law also criminalizes "spreading ‘false information’ about the Russian military." What qualifies as misinformation? Apparently, calling Russia’s "special operation" in Ukraine by its more common name – war — qualifies as a crime. 

In order to have a police force large enough to spy on an entire nation, Russia has ominously created "anonymous denunciation websites." The Venetian Doges, who encouraged citizens to rat out other citizens by dropping anonymous notes in the mouth of the lion (Called: bocche dei leone) would be jealous of today’s technology. 

In America, we have not yet granted government the police power to criminalize misinformation, but not for trying. The American Left believes that the public should be protected from anyone who questions COVID-19 orthodoxy.  

If a scientist, or an elected official, questions evidence for forcing booster vaccines on teenagers, the speech police want those questions forbidden. 

Recently, I went to the Senate floor to protest a policy that commands booster COVID vaccines for the pages, pointing out that there is no scientific evidence that a booster lessens hospitalization or death for teenagers and it certainly doesn’t prevent transmission. 

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan agrees with me and has stated: "There is no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all."

And yet, the Democrat and Republican overlords actually forced the pages to leave the Senate floor when I spoke, so that their young minds wouldn’t be tainted with what I presume they felt was disinformation. Only when I threatened to reveal the names of those involved in this ambush on Constitutional speech did they consent to allow a few pages back on the floor. 

The Pandemic has caused an epidemic of efforts to police speech. The Biden Administration has, for now, shuttered the Disinformation Governance Board.  

But don’t for a moment accept that the left’s infatuation with censorship is over. If fact, the left is quite peeved that everyone seems to have misinterpreted their noble goals. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas whined in committee that Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had government agencies doing exactly the same type of speech monitoring. If true, that just means the problem is more widespread than we thought. 

To Mayorkas and the left, they want us to believe that they will be the nice speech police. In fact, they really want to farm out the police work to big tech. Axios’s Felix Salmon recognizes this conceit when he calls Big Tech — "the fourth branch of government," for effectively shutting down President Trump’s access to social media. 

Former White House Press Secretary Psaki admitted as much, when she recently "urged Facebook to move more expeditiously to find and remove misleading content before it is consumed by a large number of users," National Review reported.  

Psaki elaborated that what the White House seeks is "robust enforcement strategy" that combines the reach of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to "provide transparency about the rules." By rules, we must assume, she means censorship that will be guided by Big Brother but enforced by Big Tech. 

According to Psaki, the government will helpfully flag the ‘problematic posts’ as ‘disinformation’ and ask the Facebook to police away the ‘bad information.’ 

What could go wrong? 

I wish this authoritarian urge to censor speech would die along with the Disinformation Governance Board. But I fear the impulse to regulate human behavior via unlimited regulation of the economic sphere has simply found its way down the slippery slope to regulating speech. 

For sure, there are still liberal minds who recognize the dangers of censorship but the once vaunted and revered concept of free speech is under assault like never before. Journalist Matt Taibbi writes eloquently on the subject: "The traditional liberal approach to the search for truth, which stresses skepticism and free-flowing debate, is giving way to a reactionary movement that Plato himself would have loved, one that believes knowledge is too dangerous for the rabble and must be tightly regulated by a priesthood of ‘experts.’ It’s anti-democratic, un-American, and naturally unites the residents of even the most extreme opposite ends of our national political spectrum." 

For now, Biden’s Ministry of Truth is dead but free speech advocates on the right and the left need to zealously guard and defend a right so precious that it’s not an overstatement to claim that our free society depends on it.

You can read the op-ed HERE.