BY: MARGOT CLEVELAND | FEBRUARY 24, 2023
Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2023/02/24/how-trump-derangement-gave-birth-to-the-censorship-industrial-complex/
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The Biden administration may have abandoned plans to create a “Disinformation Board,” but a more insidious “Censorship Complex” already exists and is growing at an alarming speed.
This Censorship Complex is bigger than banned Twitter accounts or Democrats’ propensity for groupthink. Its funding and collaboration implicate the government, academia, tech giants, nonprofits, politicians, social media, and the legacy press. Under the guise of combatting so-called misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information, these groups seek to silence speech that threatens the far-left’s ability to control the conversation — and thus the country and the world.
Americans grasped a thread of this reality with the release of the “Twitter Files” and the Washington Examiner’s reporting on the Global Disinformation Index, which revealed the coordinated censorship of speech by government officials, nonprofits, and the media. Yet Americans have no idea of the breadth and depth of the “Censorship Complex” — and how much it threatens the fabric of this country.
In his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned against the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power” via the new sweeping military-industrial complex. Its “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — [was] felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.” Replace “military-industrial” with “censorship,” and you arrive at the reality Americans face today.
Origins of the Censorship Complex
Even with the rise of independent news outlets, until about 2016 the left-leaning corporate media controlled the flow of information. Then Donald Trump entered the political arena and used social media to speak directly to Americans. Despite the Russia hoax and the media’s all-out assault, Trump won, proving the strategic use of social media could prevail against a unified corporate press. The left was terrified.
Of course, Democrats and the media couldn’t admit their previous control over information converted to electoral victories and that for their own self-preservation, they needed to suppress other voices. So instead, the left began pushing the narrative that “disinformation” — including Russian disinformation — from alternative news outlets and social media companies handed Trump the election.
The New York Times first pushed the “disinformation” narrative using the “fake news” moniker after the 2016 election. “The proliferation of fake and hyperpartisan news that has flooded into Americans’ laptops and living rooms has prompted a national soul-searching, with liberals across the country asking how a nation of millions could be marching to such a suspect drumbeat. Fake news, and the proliferation of raw opinion that passes for news, is creating confusion,” the Times wrote, bemoaning the public’s reliance on Facebook.
“Narrowly defined, ‘fake news’ means a made-up story with an intention to deceive, often geared toward getting clicks. But the issue has become a political battering ram, with the left accusing the right of trafficking in disinformation, and the right accusing the left of tarring conservatives as a way to try to censor websites,” the Times wrote, feigning objectivity. But its conclusion? “Fake and hyperpartisan news from the right has been more conspicuous than from the left.”
Two days later, Hillary Clinton repeated the narrative-building phrase, condemning what she called “the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year.” But then, as if to remind Democrats and the legacy press that he had wrestled control of the narrative from them, Trump branded left-wing outlets “fake news” — and just like that, the catchphrase belonged to him.
Disinformation Is Scarier if It’s Russian
That didn’t deter the left in its mission to destroy alternative channels of communication, however. The media abandoned its “fake news” framing for the “disinformation” buzzword. “Misinformation” and “mal-information” were soon added to the vernacular, with the Department of Homeland Security even defining the terms.
But silencing conservatives would require more than merely labeling their speech as disinformation, so the various elements of the Censorship Complex deployed what they called “the added element of Russian meddling” in the 2016 election, with Clinton amplifying this message and blaming the spread of social media misinformation for her loss.
Priming the public to connect “disinformation” with Russia’s supposed interference in the 2016 election allowed the Censorship Complex to frame demands for censorship as patriotic: a fight against foreign influence to save democracy!
The Censorship Complex Expands
The Censorship Complex’s push to silence speech under the guise of preventing disinformation and election interference hit its stride in 2017, when FBI Director Christopher Wray launched the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) purportedly “to identify and counteract malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States.”
The “most widely reported” foreign influence operations these days, Wray said, “are attempts by adversaries — hoping to reach a wide swath of Americans covertly from outside the United States — to use false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions.” Wray’s statement perfectly echoed the claims Clinton and Democrats had peddled ad nauseam in the press, and it foreshadowed how the Censorship Complex would soon mature.
The launch of the FITF in 2017 brought together numerous representatives from the deep state. The FBI’s Counterintelligence, Cyber, Criminal, and Counterterrorism Divisions worked closely with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, and other intelligence agencies, as well as “state and local enforcement partners and election officials.”
Significantly, the FITF viewed “strategic engagement with U.S. technology companies, including threat indicator sharing,” as crucial to combatting foreign disinformation. That perspective led to the FBI’s hand-in-glove relationship with Twitter, which included monthly and then weekly meetings with the tech giant, some of which CIA representatives attended. This symbiotic relationship also led to the censorship of important — and true — political speech, such as the New York Post’s reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop, which exposed the Biden family’s pay-to-play scandal right before a critical presidential election.
State Department Renovates Its Wing
In 2011, by executive order, the Department of State established the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications to support government agencies’ communications “targeted against violent extremism and terrorist organizations.” While renamed the Global Engagement Center in 2016, the center’s counterterrorism mission remained largely unchanged. But then at the end of that year, Congress expanded the Global Engagement Center’s authority, directing it “to address other foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation activities.” And with language straight out of the Russia hoax playbook, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 further refined the Global Engagement Center’s mission:
The purpose of the Center shall be to direct, lead, synchronize, integrate, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security, or stability of the United States and United States allies and partner nations.
Together, the State Department and the many intelligence agencies behind the FITF worked not just with Twitter but with the array of tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, pushing for censorship of supposed mis-, dis-, and mal-information. But the deep state was not alone. The “disinformation” contagion also reached the Hill, nonprofits, think tanks, and academic institutions with both politics and a desire to suckle at the federal teat driving a frenzied expansion of the project. Together these groups pushed for even more silencing of their opponents, and the Censorship Complex boomed.
The danger Eisenhower warned the country of in 1961 is mild in comparison to the threat of the Censorship Complex. Unlike the military-industrial complex that reached only one function of the federal government, the Censorship Complex affects all aspects of governance, controlling the information available to you and your fellow Americans on every topic.
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