As Journalists Continue to ‘Fight’ Disinformation, They Ignore Mounting Examples Seen in the Press

Opinion

Brad Slager

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Posted: Jul 11, 2022 8:05 PM

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The Joe Biden Administration is currently working on its second attempt to establish an official office that will address the problem of disinformation. The latest attempt at thought control is the “White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse,” and this time, the media are far more reserved in covering things. Chalk it up to lessons learned. 

The Department of Homeland Security initially created its Disinformation Governance Board, and at the time, the press was fully in support. Few outlets questioned the concept. CNN’s Brian Stelter was beside himself with anyone who dared consider this entity could be a problem. That the office charged with policing disinformation and controlling narratives became undone by what it called disinformation was a self-generated punchline. It has not deterred them, however. 

Journalists try to say that the concept of the government wanting to silence dissenting voices is a crackpot theory, but that is in defiance of previous efforts witnessed. Recall that there was an attempt to clamp down on parents protesting school board meetings, referring to them as “domestic terrorists” in a bid to silence the dissent. The press has since tried to clean up this controversy in a supportive fashion. 

Now, as the White House creates a new version of its thought police, the press is less loud in their support, but that support is no less passionate. Last week, The New York Times attempted some character rehabilitation for Nina Jankowicz, the failed director of that initial attempt, all while touting the need for disinformation control. Then Brian Stelter, on his “Reliable Sources” program, brought on Jankowicz for further image massaging

In The Times’ piece, they quote a former DHS official. “‘You can’t even use the word ‘disinformation’ today without it having a political connotation,’ said John Cohen, a former top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security.” It was with unintentional irony that Stelter managed to prove this comment true. In his introduction to his segment with Jankowicz, Brian made this claim about the demise of the DGB: 

“That Board quickly collapsed. It came under fierce criticism, including from Fox and right-wing media.”

When Jankowicz came on, she also stated the Republicans spun this as a “ministry of truth.” It should be noted that if the complaints were coming only from the right, does it not dawn on any of these players that their disinformation campaigns were being focused on those people and outlets on the right? This comes to light by looking at not only where they were leveling accusations but by where these journalists chose to overlook the exact same actions taking place. 

There are a number of instances where the very behaviors they claim to harbor concerns over were on display – just this week – and there was stark silence from these concerned minds. This was because the rampant examples of misinformation were coming from approved journalism sources, beginning with Jankowicz herself. 

Stelter allowed Nina to declare her words and writing were completely misconstrued by those on the right, with no pushback from Brian. Despite she has been clearly shown to have pushed the Russian collusion narrative and claimed a connection between Donald Trump and Alfa Bank. She was a proponent of the charge that Hunter Biden’s laptop was not valid, and she is on tape stating she wanted verified accounts on Twitter to have the power to edit the content of users

Meanwhile, for weeks now, we have seen numerous members of the press coming out with wildly farcical claims in regards to the abortion debate. Many journalists have been making comments that miscarriages will be outlawed or that unviable ectopic pregnancies would be required to impossibly be carried to full term. These are serious cases of medical misinformation receiving little to no outrage from other members of the press, the same sources who wailed over this behavior during the pandemic. 

Early last week, a curious flurry of verified accounts shared a story from Salon.com reporting that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis required universities to have faculty and students report their political views to the state. Not only was this an old story from June 2021, but it was completely debunked over a year ago. Yet, many journalists were pushing this verifiably false claim about a politician, and no one in the press was heard squealing about this disinformation being a threat to our democracy. 

Then currently, we see a severe dose of media malpractice, one that actually crosses over to both medical and democracy-challenging levels. Countless outlets are spreading a story about a 10-year-old girl who has been forced to travel in order to get an abortion. It has become a global news story, thanks mostly to President Biden sharing this tale. Except, as I covered at RedState, there is a distinct possibility this is a fabricated news item

No one has been able to verify this story beyond the lone source, an abortion doctor in Indiana. No authorities or politicians can verify this case, and those involved with reporting on it have not shared anything that could be regarded as proof this girl exists. Yet it has been spread like wildfire across the media industry. Brian Stelter once lectured on this very behavior in the press, condemning those who might be “repeating, not reporting.”

Of course, he was using that glib line directed at Fox News and conservative outlets. Yet, here we see the media industry engaged in that exact behavior on a massive scale. He is muted on that story, the practice in general, and the misinformation campaign writ large. There is a good (bad) reason for this. The press wants to be the authority on what is considered misinformation. Stelter even alludes to the fluid nature of this topic, exposing the convenience of the interpretational aspects.

“The discouraging truth about disinformation – It’s that the topic itself is almost impossible to talk about since there is next to no agreement on what the term even means.”

Somehow, despite being unclear what disinformation means, the press has supreme confidence in who is guilty of this nebulous subject and lashes out freely. They encourage the government to go after those engaged in this ill-defined practice, as they are the ones pointing at the guilty parties. Meanwhile, they are free to push false stories and narratives, confident that since they are the thought police, they will never face the charge themselves. 

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