Opinion Original Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence: Disinformation, Absolutely

Graphic explaining how Disinformation can be spread from United States Department of Defense, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, 2001.

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

1. Everything you will read in this commentary is disinformation.

2. To say that this commentary contains disinformation is disinformation.

3. To say statements calling this commentary disinformation are disinformation is disinformation.

Th­is is what our public discourse has come to. This is what we have done to it. We Americans have made a nonsense of ourselves. You want to talk about America’s late-imperial decline? This is the warp and weft of it as we shred our social fabric. This is what our troubled republic sounds like, an indecipherable cacophony amid which anything we say can be turned to mean other than what we mean.

We don’t talk to one another anymore, sharing opinions or perspectives. When we come across anyone who thinks differently than we do we simply call him or her a disseminator of disinformation, a liar, and nothing more need be said. 

I do not share these thoughts simply because it is difficult to live in a nation that has destroyed its agora in the ancient Greek, its public space, or because anyone expressing a dissenting view on this or that question is vulnerable to censorship, suppression, or some other form of ostracism, or because it is lonely amid the creeping atomization and isolation this freakish “disinformation” war visits upon us.

There is a larger matter at issue, a more insidious matter. This is a matter that faces us with what I judge to be the most dangerous threat of all those we now confront.

The New York Times published a piece on Oct. 20 under the headline, “How Disinformation Splintered and Became More Intractable.” In it, Steven Lee Myers, formerly of the Times’s Moscow bureau, and Sheera Frenkel, a technology reporter in the San Francisco bureau, made the point very plain, although hardly did they intend to do so: Those flinging around all these charges of disinformation with notable vigor and conviction are crusaders in the cause of a dangerous form of liberal absolutism.

Much has been written about disinformation these past few years, of course. I have read nothing to date that so exposes the malign design that is implicit in the war against it. This war rests squarely on the cynical use of disinformation in the service of power as it intrudes ever more stealthily into our lives and rights.

We have heard talk of “liberal authoritarianism” and even “liberal totalitarianism,” which I consider excessive for its extreme connotations, over the past half-dozen years. My own coinage since 2016, when Russiagate was all the rage and we still had Hillary Clinton to kick around, is “apple-pie authoritarianism.” To one or another extent, these terms seem in line with de Tocqueville’s “soft despotism” as he explained the phenomenon 190 years ago in the second volume of Democracy in America.

But for all the famous French traveler foresaw, I don’t think he anticipated what is going on around us now. I do not use the term “liberal absolutism” lightly.

Absolutists are those who assert their authority to make the law, to enforce the law, and—key point here—to hold themselves above the law, “the state of exception” as the scholars put it. This is why we associate the term most commonly with the age of monarchies. Those claiming to wage a war against disinformation are absolutists in a very similar meaning. They assert the right to determine what is true and what is not and to force the public to abide by their determination—this while holding their version of what is true and what is not entirely beyond scrutiny or question.

There are many things to say about the Times piece just mentioned, but let us start with the headline. Disinformation has splintered and therefore spread, an observation that places the government-supervised Times in a position to judge it from a presumed position of authority. Presumption of this kind is an attribute of absolutism. And disinformation in the Times’s definition is “more intractable”—harder to fight and extinguish.

We are left with a key question. Who is doing the tracting, so to say—who is self-assigned to wage the war?

This is a question so important that nobody claiming to wage war against disinformation ever dares ask it or offer an answer. And it is vital we pose and answer this question if we are ever to counter the liberal absolutism that lies behind the disinformation war that corrupts our polity.  Caitlin Johnstone, the sassy Australian observer of American affairs, addressed this matter as directly as anyone has in a piece she published October 22:

This fatal logical flaw in the burgeoning business of “fact checking” and “counter-disinformation” is self-evident at a glance, and it becomes even more glaring once you notice that all the major players involved in instituting and normalizing these practices have ties to status quo power.

The idea that someone needs to be in charge of deciding what’s true and false on behalf of the rank-and-file citizenry is becoming more and more widely accepted, and it’s plainly irrational. In practice it’s nothing other than a call to propagandize the public more aggressively. You might agree with their propaganda. The propagandists might believe they are being totally impartial and objective. But as long as they have any oligarchic or state backing, directly or indirectly, they are necessarily administering propaganda on behalf of the powerful.

Myers and Frenkel propose to hide these realities from us. Passive-aggressively, as is so often The Times’s wont, their piece assiduously obscures the question of authority in the matter of disinformation so that we may never ask it. There is a disinformation problem, it grows worse, and good people are fighting it: This is The Times’s storybook version of what is going on.

What is going on, to get straight to it, is a war mainstream media such as The Times and the governing powers they serve never before had to wage. The rising influence of independent media as digital platforms have become available to them is at bottom a challenge to an information monopoly that has endured since the emergence of corporate-owned mass media a century or so ago.

What is at issue, this is to say, is the efficacy of diverse perspectives in a free society. This holds whether the topic is war, the Pentagon budget, the CIA’s illegalities, Russia, vaccines, Hunter Biden’s corruptions —anything having to do with the power of the national security state. The disinformation war is nothing more than an effort to extinguish all views on such topics other than those approved by our liberal absolutists.

“Despite years of efforts by the media, by academics and even by social media companies themselves to address the problem, it is arguably more pervasive and widespread today,” Myers and Frenkel write. A little further on: “Today, however, there are dozens of new platforms, including some that pride themselves on not moderating—censoring, as they put it—untrue statements in the name of free speech.”

See what I mean? The heart of the matter is the proliferation of new publications using digital technologies. This is a bad thing. There must not be so many publications with all their outside-the-orthodoxy perspectives. Making things worse, some of them don’t assign themselves the authority to “moderate” content. And in this connection, I love the “censoring, as they put it.”

The last bit is the most important. Media, meaning mainstream media, along with academic people and wholly unqualified techies are here to tell you something is untrue, and the right to free speech is reduced to a dodge, an impediment that gets in the way of those determining the truth.

My neck snapped when I got to the sixth paragraph of the Times piece, where Myers and Frenkel quoted none other than Nina Jankowicz. This tells us a great deal of what we need to know about the disinformation war and what The Times is up to as it soldiers forth waging it.  

Jankowicz once ran the Russia and Belarus operations at the National Democratic Institute, a close cousin of the coup-cultivating National Endowment for Democracy. She went on to work for the Foreign Ministry in Kyiv. She proved a tireless liar as she dedicated herself to the wall of disinformation that sustained the Russiagate farrago for four years.

Nice. Readers will recognize Jankowicz as the blink-and-you-missed-it head of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board until that operation collapsed in a matter of weeks earlier this year amid a shrill chorus of protests that it was an American version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. I will always remember Jankowicz for her wonderful thought at the time of her appointment: “Just think of me as the Mary Poppins of disinformation.”

Disinterested source No. 1, let us call Ms. Jankowicz. I will think of you always, Nina, in just this way. 

I wondered as I read along why someone on the Times’s national desk didn’t have the presence of mind to tell Myers and Frenkel to drop the Jankowicz quotation, as she transparently gives away the disinformation war as a propaganda ploy to control what we read, view, and indeed think. Did I have this wrong.

The next quotation is from Jared Holt of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. And what is the ISD? It is a London-based operation dedicated to hunting down all sorts of malevolent doings: “conspiracy theories,” “extremism,” “counternarratives,” “fake news,” “echo chambers,” and of course, the big one, disinformation. Its primary funders include every government in the Anglosphere, numerous others in the European Union, Google, Microsoft, George Soros, and Pierre Omidyar—these last being heavy into the “regime change” game. The Times, of course, mentions none of this.

Let us call our Jared and the ISD disinterested source No. 2.

No. 3 in the impartial sources line is the one that caused my jaw to drop to the edge of my desk, my neck having already snapped. Myers and Frenkel had the brass to trot out an operation called NewsGuard to this effect:

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has become a primary battleground in today’s fight against disinformation. A report last month by NewsGuard, an organization that tracks the problem online, showed that nearly 20 percent of videos presented as search results on TikTok contained false or misleading information on topics such as school shootings and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“An organization that tracks the problem online”: I always love The Times’s thumbnail identifiers when they are used to occlude the truth about a source from its readers.

NewsGuard has been around since the mid–Russiagate years and purports to do what its name implies: It assigns itself the task of identifying misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news.” It advises $4.95-a-month subscribers—public institutions, libraries, universities, individuals—of offending publications. Here is what The Times wants to slip past readers: NewsGuard counts the State Department and the Pentagon as “partners.” Its advisory board includes Michael Hayden, a retired general and formerly director of the CIA and the NSA, Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security, and Anders Rasmussen, a former secretary-general of NATO.

I have a direct interest when it comes to NewsGuard. Earlier this year it assigned Consortium News a red-alert rating—meaning it is a dangerous publication—on the grounds that it spread various bits of disinformation. Chief among these are Consortium columns noting that the U.S. cultivated the 2014 coup in Kyiv and the presence of neo–Nazi ideologues in Ukraine’s political and military institutions.

I wrote some of the columns at issue and, of course, stand by them. There is plentiful evidence supporting every assertion in them, as Joe Lauria, Consortium’s editor, patiently laid out to NewsGuard’s interrogator. This did not matter. NewsGuard applied the condemning classification, and it remains.

There is an important lesson here. What is true or false is not actually at issue in the disinformation war. What contravenes the liberal absolutists’ orthodoxies is at issue. Alternative views of the war in Ukraine, “election denialism,” “undermining trust in the democratic system”—these are to be countered as disinformation. It is, altogether, a term with no meaning. 

The Times has its own curious list of condemnations. To “portray Big Tech as beholden to the government, the deep state or the liberal elite”: This is demonstrably true, but uh-uh. The Times cites a Pew study that found one in 10 posts on internet sites surveyed made “derisive allegations” about LGBTQ issues. No: We cannot have this.

It is vital at this point in this creeping, creepy campaign that we hold to what I call the Skokie Position. Readers will recall that in 1978 the American Civil Liberties Union supported the right of American neo–Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, which had a large Jewish population, despite the marchers’ odious views. This was what it meant back when people understood how to defend free speech.

It is the same for us now. I do not know what derisive allegations against LGBTQ people someone made on a digital website. I do not know what tasteless things Kanye West—who figures among the condemnable in the Myers–Frenkel story—said about Jews or Black Lives Matter. I most certainly support their right to say whatever it is they said.

Myers and Frenkel want us to understand the disinformation war as one waged against right-wing websites such as QAnon, Donald Trump and his followers, and assorted others gathered under the term “conservative.” This is neat, even halfway clever as an organizing principle. We liberals must band together in the disinformation war because it is the great, unwashed other side that has us under attack: This is the thesis running all the way through the Myers–Frenkel piece.

Neat, clever to an extent, and cynical times 10, in my read. This is not about Republicans or Democrats, the right wing in American politics against what no longer even passes for a left. It is about absolutism appearing in America’s political culture to an extent I start to think is unprecedented.

In this connection, Lee Fang and Ken Klipperstein published a piece Monday in The Intercept that leaves little doubt about the danger we face in  the disinformation war. In “Truth Cops,” they reveal “years of internal DHS [Department of Homeland Security] memos, emails, and documents” demonstrating the frightening extent to which the federal government is working directly, as in very directly, with Big Tech to control what is published on digital platforms. This is the avenue on which the DHS has chosen to travel now that its Governance Board has bombed: Always best to get it done through the private sector. 

Given the extent publishing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter now collaborate directly with DHS and other federal agencies, as Fang and Klipperstein detail it, we can no longer entertain any claims that there is no official censorship in America. What these two writers reveal is illegal, a clear breach of the First Amendment. And let us watch as Myers, a seasoned correspondent now leading the Times’s disinformation coverage, reports this major development — if, indeed, he does.  

In the where-are-we-headed department, Diana Johnstone, the noted Europeanist, mailed me an item the other day from a German reporter named Ulrich Hayden. It is here, in an automated translation from German. Diana’s note atop the piece reads, “Bundestag decides Russians are guilty of everything.” It seems that denying or “trivializing”—meaning what?—war crimes or genocides, including what are considered Russia’s in Ukraine, is now punishable as “incitement of the people.” Hayden reported that the Bundestag passed this legislation in an evening session “without any prior announcement.”

The Germans, like many others, get these things done by law, openly. Americans, dwelling in the land of the free, get them done unofficially, less visibly, and through the private sector, not least by way of our media. 

I like the masthead motto of NachDenkSeiten, where Ulrich Hayden’s piece appeared. It is “For everyone who still has their own thoughts.” It is clean, sturdy, and cannot be turned upside down as “disinformation.” In a time when liberal absolutists spread disinformation in the name of fighting disinformation, it focuses the mind on what is truly being fought over.


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Patrick Lawrence
Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon siteHis Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored without explanation.

29 comments

  1. Patrick makes some excellent points, of course, about the Orwellian aspects of government intervention in deciding what is “true.”

    Yet, as is true for much of Free Speech absolutism on a certain wing of the Left, he leaves out any discussion of these complicating factors:

    — A publication deciding for itself what it allows to be published under its banner (i.e., even in this comments section) is not a violation of anybody’s free speech.

    — The tech platforms have been granted absurd exemptions which make a mockery of this whole debate: On the one hand, they have the legal protections of being considered “carriers” or “public squares” rather than publications, when it comes to the content they serve — the alleged parallels being a telegram service not being held accountable for the words it carries, or a landlord for the incitements of a speaker who rents their hall — yet they have become the de facto publishers of most of the world’s editorial content, profiting immensely via advertising on the backs of inviduals and organizations who/which give away their intellectual labor for free.

    — There is an inherent “good old days” argument imbedded in all these, as if the state of media before the invention of social media (and digital forums, blogs, etc) was one of wide-ranging free debate in the nation’s newspapers and magazines. In fact, all of the alternative media channels that existed then (snail mail newsletters, alt weeklies, furtive political meetings/speeches, etc.) STILL exist — but in a much WIDER, MORE AFFORDABLE form (i.e., this very website). Consider that IF Stone’s legendary newsletter never had more than few hundred subscribers! Your anti-vax aunt has 5x as many!

    I get that it sucks that Patrick was banned from Twitter, but in the 1980s his only option would have been to write for his local alt weekly and he’d be fighting for page space with the grunge band reviews.

    Just ask Robert Scheer about the state of mass media, intellectual debate and the challenges of actually spreading challenging truths — his quasi-samizdat “How the US Got Involved in Vietnam” was sold hand-to-hand across America’s campuses because the elite media had a total stranglehold on the conversation.

    What EVERYBODY is really mad about is that in a world where everybody and their crazy uncle can post their thoughts endlessly, nobody is LISTENING to THEM. And, too, much of the world is completely ill-equipped to sort out a tsunumi of information while they try to simultaneously stay housed and sedated.

    The Skokie example is basically irrelevant. It takes five minutes on Twitter to find 30 (literal) Nazi burner accounts calling for genocide but some people are really worried that THEY don’t have a voice.

    If the Left — young/old, radical or not — wants to be serious, they will get off Twitter, which is only appealing to the right because they like to troll the libs, and walk out into the actual streets of America and start engaging with, organizing and convincing other humans to unionize, think and act differently, protest, reconsider their values, etc., — while not giving up all the digital organizing tools that prove so useful.

    1. @Inside Out: Best. Challenge. Ever. SOLIDARITY!

      Often critiques here on SP are tired re-runs about how a true Marxism would solve everything or attempts by defenders of Dem party dogma to prove the error of our dissenting ways. But I also want to know what other people are thinking, so I read the comments.

      As I’m reading @Inside Out, my attitude changed from skeptical to mild interest to old labor radical fist raised cheering at the final paragraph.

      As a young blue collar union activist in the late ’60s, I was told by people who’d been organizers in the ’30s that “liberals are the ones who leave the room when the fight starts.” Libs usurped what had been the party of the New Deal and abandoned labor. What I call Ivy Ds and who consider themselves a meritocracy–in other words, an elite oligarchy ever so much better at running things than we peasant victims of disinformation.

      Though painful, I admit your charge about an implied “good old days” nostalgic argument is correct. The ’30s and the ’60s may serve as reminders of possibilities, but DO NOTHING to get anything done now. And yeah, we gotta learn to live with that info tsunami and learn how to use those useful “digital organizing tools.” That’s reality.

      My experience of many radical leftists in the ’60s was few of them had ever held a tool in their lives, let alone deal with real workers. Their beliefs were all theoretical abstractions. Similar here; making your challenge that if we are serious, then “walk out into actual streets of America and start engaging with…convincing other humans to unionize…reconsider their values, etc.” absolutely critical! Go look at the Poor People’s Campaign where they’re doing exactly that.

      1. poor rafi—the american robot—upset by truth—obviously never lived in a civilized nation —another tantrum from american child—tiresome…”americans are ignorant and unteachable”. George Santayana

  2. It’s not just Americans that have this shallow respect for freedom of speech and the tawdry dissemination of knowledge. There are 181 other countries doing the same kind of thing but yes ‘Americans’, most notably the United States takes the largest proportion of culpability for ‘dumbing down’.

    1. utter nonsense….”Americans cannot think except by means of slogans—they identify garbage as quality. the stupidity and ignorance of americans has long been a topic of hilarity in Europe”. Paul Fussell
      “americans are the living refutation of the cartesian cogito ergo sum. americans are yet they do not think. the American mind puerile primitive lacks characteristic form and is therefore open to any standardization”. Julius Evola

      1. THE IRONY OF CRITICIZING “THINKING BY SLOGANS” BY QUOTING A FASCIST. @giligan

        You are giving us a fine demonstration of “thinking by slogans.” What else is grabbing quotations off some list of remarks by famous people about America? Certainly not thinking–just copying.

        It’s also the very definition of prejudice to consider all members of a group as interchangeable and equally guilty. Are all of us here ignorant non-thinkers, including the journalists?!

        The last time you evoked Julius Evola, I asked if you knew who he was. I know because I have some of his books. As an expert on western esotericism, he’s worth reading. But many who revere a past Golden Age consider change nothing but diminishment and decay. Therefore often attracted to ultra right wing politics. Evola was an Italian fascist. His criticism of Americans has behind it a deep disdain for democracy and utter revulsion for the very idea we lesser beings of darker skins or working class or tainted by femininity are in any way capable of determining what’s best for us.

        Yet summa us ackshully cain rede wraght and thank!

      2. I once found this quotation in Bartlett’s:

        “Don’t quote. Tell me what you know.”

  3. “Those claiming to wage a war against disinformation are absolutists in a very similar meaning. They assert the right to determine what is true and what is not and to force the public to abide by their determination”

    BOOM!

  4. “Amerika is not a nation for dissidents”. R Hofstadter
    “I know of no nation where there is so little independence od mind nor any real freedom of debate than amerika”. Tocqueville
    “the american liberal wants to preserve the essence of the past, the conservative wants more progress; the European radical wants to hasten the transformation of the future, the conservative the essence of the past”. G Gorer
    “american radicals black and white adopted radical style without any radical content”. Christopher Lasch

  5. It really is an uphill battle to find “the truth” in the Empire of Lies!!! I am in france, and nearly all the news papers and websites on my computer “news” are the same regarding Ukraine’s democratic brave fight against the evil Russkies. Every story is “from Ukrainian sources” and the unverified claims twisted into “the only truth” eg maternity hospitals, kindergartens etc and the “Bucha massacre” as Russian troops allegedly rampaged all over the place, were never allowed to be countered. Winning the media war was the aim, and it worked. US/Western media never deviated.
    I did notice than many online commentaries and videos supporting this position were mocked by the comments below them. Many people, including me, find very few people they can talk to about the whole Russia sanctions/war among the population (even family!) At least the information available online, and the fact that many people can access it and decide for themselves, allows some chance of avoiding being completely taken over by “our leaders”. I fear for many young people who may be more impressionable.

  6. The Skokie case is actually relevant to the essay. There was a time when a storied institution, the ACLU, had the will to doggedly defend speech, however controversial, so that it remained by force of law demonstrably uncensored.

    “Burner accounts” are by definition surreptitious. But even were such accounts identifiable, the old ACLU would likely have defended today’s digital speech in the conviction that the remedy to odious speech is more speech, not less.

    Independent news organizations and bloggers reliant on the major conduits to the public square — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — can be nixed willy-nilly in concert with payment processors such as PayPal, VISA and MasterCard. So the argument that these days one’s anti-vax aunt enjoys 5x the audience that Izzy cultivated rings rather hollow when said aunt can be deplatformed in a heartbeat and her supporter’s payments blocked.

    There is demonstrable collusion between governmental agencies and private social media to censor information and views that compete with obvious official narratives, e.g., Facebook colluding with the feds to limit dissemination of the Biden laptop exposé.

    If the collusion is allowed to metastasize, this society is in deep kimchi.

  7. Much of the problem can be traced to the “modernization” (read abolition) of our domestic anti-propaganda law (the Smith Mundt Act under Obama in 2012). The State Dept (read the CIA) was put in charge of disseminating the official Narratives, now LEGAL, unlike Operation Mockingbird in the ’60s. This built on the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which created a media monopoly with only a handful of owners of MSM (now more appropriately titled “State Media”), which makes Official Narrative control more efficient than the 50-100 media owners of the 1980s. (Now the Government is diligently, assiduously working to rid us of all discussion and dissent from Official Narratives covered by alternative media).
    “Liberal” has taken a beating throughout my lifetime. More accurate would be “Democrat totalitarianism/ authoritarianism/ Fascism” (at the moment) or even more accurately “Establishment (for the 1%) totalitarianism/ authoritarianism/ Fascism”. “Liberal” is fundamentally based on Free Speech, as Glenn Greenwald continually notes.

    1. It is simply amazing to me about the diversity of comments sent in to Sheer Post. You have the Fascists and then you have the Socialists broadly speaking.According to the Constitution both have freedom of speech. I can usually tell by the first couple of sentences wkere the writer is coming from.Sometimes if the person is a frequent writer I can tell by the first sentences where the person is coming from. This is usually usefull because I do not like to waste my time reading Fascist tripe.I get enough of this before elections listening to Oz and Walker.

  8. I would call it illiberal absolutism, nothing liberal about it. Almost nothing political about it, if you think of politics as governance according to the will of the citizenry. The Ministry of Truth and it’s for-profit partners, the NED and associated foreign meddlers, the military colossus, the tail wagging by Israel, all these things will continue seamlessly regardless of who the sock puppet and chief and Congressional newsmakers happen to be.

  9. It kind of ironic that my (first) perfectly factual comment on this article appears to have been “censored” for whatever spurious reason(s). Perhaps it was because I mentioned “Event 201” – which specifically laid put protocols for this kind of ‘Ministry of Truth’ behavior, amongst its participants, which included Big Tech, the HHS bureaucracy and the CIA.

    It feels like our “Moderator” would be at home, doing the work described in this article, at Facebook, or Twitter, or ScrewUToob.

  10. Thanks for mentioning the “sassy” Caitlin Johnstone, Patrick. Her essays come into my email account automatically. A few months ago I quoted one of her pithy remarks about the Uvalde cops’ shameless behavior, and a family member dismissed Johnstone as an “astrologer” who is best ignored. This family member has never read a single thing by Johnstone; the “astrologer” remark proves that. A week later I suggested sending a Johnstone column to a co-worker. He replied, “Isn’t she an astrologer?” And so the propaganda goes.

  11. Yes, I agree. However, what do we do about systematic untruths that destabilize society?

    Today millions erroneously believe the presidential election was stolen, with militias strengthening and moving our nation toward ongoing, low-grade warfare.

    Should Steve Bannnon be allowed to bellow every night to overthrow our democracy, heaping death threats on politicians?

    Or what about climate change deniers, should they not be fact checked? The oil industry uses them to generate increased profits while the planet burns.

    Or what about Alex Jones–should families who suffered the massacre of their children be physically intimidated by Jone’s acolytes, and forced to wait years and pay thousands in legal fees to find justice from this prick, or should he have been more effectively censored? (Where was the FCC?)

    Call me old fashioned, but I do not support calls for political violence, or campaigns designed to mislead the public about the truth of what confronts us.

    Disinformation coming from the state is another matter, and the unholy alliance between technological domination, military and intelligence interests and the endless war machine that controls too much of American and global life is indeed perilous. The Democrats, who support better social policies to help people here at home, have become pro-war champions, usurping the political position that Republicans once held to rally voters to the polls.

    But how do we balance a challenge to state censorship and disinformation with our ability to maintain a civic order that can contest the lies and misinformation that violate science or observed facts, calls for direct harm to targeted citizens, or threatens large scale social disorder by promoting internal violence, using fake narratives to generate a casus belli. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to counter that?

    I do not think the social good is promoted by allowing for its internal disintegration.

    1. “there is no function democracy in America..it is really an oligarchy…” Jimmy Carter

    2. How could you POSSIBLY say with any certainty that the 2020 Election wasn’t stolen? For sure the DNCIA cheated to assist Biden win the Nomination, and the Corporatist MOCKINGBIRD media assisted, all along the way.
      https://tdmsresearch.com/2020/03/09/california-2020-democratic-party-primary/

      And the US’ Elections systems are notoriously insecure already, and contrary to what you may have heard, are often connected to the internet.

      https://blackboxvoting.org/proof-of-fraud/

      Neither of those reports are from ‘rightwing’ sources. Election Security and Integrity is something that the left USED to care about. But with a Jedi Mind Trick hand wave – suddenly seems to become parrots for this nonsense that US elections are secure and unquestionable.

      Vote by Mail ballots are part of how Hillary Clinton stole Texas in 2016. Now – they’re everywhere. They add a huge layer of insecurity and theft possibilities to any election. And WHY do we have them going out to every single voter still? “EMERGENCY!!!” is the answer given… But that fails to account for a lack of any rational justification, or compliance with legal requirements, for this set of endless “emergency” declarations.

      And let’s be clear – Science is a PROCESS – not just an outcome. Science requires rigorous debate and heterodox views, in order to be valid. Otherwise it’s a religion or just propaganda – of the sort that you seem to ingest and regurgitate, without much thought.

      The Democrats CLAIMED to advocating “better social policies”. But usually, that’s a thin veneer, that once you scratch through it, reveals deep corporatist motivations and goals. We have a Monoparty, ‘the blob’. The differences between the Democrats and the Republicans are greatly exaggerated, and far overshadowed by their similarities and points of agreement – which tend to be ignored or minimized.

      The truth doesn’t mind being questioned. Lies can’t tolerate it.

      Calling for violence and insurrection doesn’t need any new laws to prevent it. That’s already prohibited.

      There is no Constitutionally compliant means of censorship. What we are seeing is the emergence of Technocratic Totalitarian Tyrrany. It was discussed at length at “Event 201”. It has been a topic of conversation in the public sphere for a long time. It appears to originate from the DHS, Intelligence Community and the Political Class. They fear the people, who have been getting wise to their scams, going back at least to Occupy, and to some extent “the TEA Party”, on the other side of the populist spectrum.

      The system can’t afford the breakdown of the Corporatist Overton Window. The free exchange of ideas and uncontrolled discussion on the internet threatens, that. Censorship is their answer.

  12. It seems to me that the US government has turned a big problem into a big opportunity. The problem was that social media allowed all sorts of opinions and assertions to be transmitted and amplified on the internet; the major media corporations were no longer in sole control of public attitudes. As the quantity of rumor, falsehood, misinformation and disinformation grew, and as more people took to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter et al. as their news sources, it really became a mess in terms of sorting fact from fiction.

    But that, in turn, presented the opportunity of harnessing the social media corporations into self-censoring whatever viewpoints the US government wishes to suppress, while amplifying the viewpoints that it wishes to promote. Which is, in general, how the old-fashioned news media functioned (i.e., cooperative with government), except that sometimes the newspapers would go off the reservation and print factual, important news that upsets the government. Such as the Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks Iraq papers, and other fact-based investigative reporting. The New York Times, in the past, has published some very excellent in-depth investigative reports on a range of important political topics. It would not have been acceptable to place StateI-connected agents (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) on the staff of the NYT, as that would represent direct government censorship of the paper.

    The difference now, and this is the opportunity part, is that social media (Facebook et al.) and technology giants (Google, Microsoft, et al.) are NOT news media. So placing government-connected agents in those corporations does not count as government censorship. It’s just management decisions in a freely operating corporation.

  13. How would the Iraq War Logs or the NSA files of Edward Snowden be treated if they were revealed in today’s media climate? As Caitlin Johnstone has said, the govt wouldn’t try so hard to suppress truth and dissent if they did not need public support (https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2022/11/03/youre-doing-great-and-your-voice-makes-a-difference/).

    However successful the US govt is in controlling the media 1984 style, they cannot prevent the decline of the US empire by narrative alone. Ukraine to my knowledge is close to collapse (https://sonar21.com/why-didnt-russia-do-this-sooner/), and inflation due to sanctions or price gouging by big business will eat at peoples’ patience. Fortunately, we still have diversity in the world, and diverging narratives by independent sites like this and in other countries like Russia and China, who critique the west through sites like RT or the Global Times.

  14. In a recent piece Patrick penned the following statement as a subtitle to an article, in a reference to BRIC+ countries:

    “Nations representing more than 80 percent of the global population and a like percentage of global gross domestic”.

    Given that BRIC+ can ‘lay claim’ to contain roughly ~50% of the global population, and a conservative count Western economies’ capture ~50% of the global GDP, is Patrick’s quip there misinformation or disinformation?

    (As the man himself says, “Disinformation, Absolutely”)!?!?!

    1. dga desperation unsurprising—-80% of nations do not sanction Russia or China—you cannot compete—decayed immoral US empire near collapse
      “as one digs deeper into the national character of americans one sees they have sought the value of everything in this world according to the answer to a single question: how much money will it bring in?” Tocqueville
      “the double symbolism amerikans assign to money is considered paradoxical to Europeans…americans bewilder Europeans”. Geoffrey Gorer
      for you morality is money—obviously civilized people are different
      “americans really are different from everybody else”. Tocqueville

      1. The imaginative ability of left-ish Neo Progressive pundits (and flock, as the pathological basket case @Gilligan proves time and time again) to invent a reality that suits their opinionated, alt-fact worldview never ceases to amaze!

  15. the resident fascist—dga the insecure child merely reinforces HL Menkhen: “the men Americans most admire dare to tell them the most extravagant lies; the men they most despise try to tell them the truth”

  16. I nonplussed by Facebook stating openly: “We know the military in Ukraine are Nazis but it’s o.k. to praise them now because they are killing Russians.”

    The reference was to the Azov Battelion, who murdered 14,000 Russian speakers in the Donbas for eight years after the 2014 US coup (Obama, Biden, Clinto, Nuland) taking out a democratically leader Yanukovich. In my opinion the goal was to cross the last red line and leave Putin with no other option except to try to do exactly what he said: stop the Nazis and save the Russian speakers, and maintain the Crimea which has been Russia’s since 1773. Mr. Lawrence has noted the Times lack of inclusion of basic non-disputable facts such as these.

    I would like to praise Patrick Lawrence, not only for his informative, realistic articles, but for his eloquence, making all his writings a pleasure to read.

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