By: Kyle Smith – nationalreview.com – May 18, 2022
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security marked the much-feared but yet long-anticipated convergence of two disquieting forces: Orwellian panopticon authoritarianism and Washington’s army of frustrated musical-theater nerds.
After Nina Jankowicz was appointed disinformation czar (!) as head of a new agency within the Department of Homeland Security (!!), the world learned that she conceived of the issue as a cute production number from Mary Poppins (!!!). George Carlin famously said that “when fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts. Smiley-smiley.”
This led to a fantastic idea for a book jacket, yet the truth turned out to be even worse: In submitting to the federal Board of Censorship, But It’s for Your Own Good, we’d all have to listen to middle-aged former theater kids perform their favorite show tunes. When the nerditarians tap-dance on the Constitution while grinning maniacally, those who don’t join in the standing ovation can expect a visit from the IRS.
Not since Alex DeLarge sang “Singin’ in the Rain” while perpetrating ultra-violence did an endearing melody become so disturbing as when Jankowicz reworked “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” on a cutesy-wootsy TikTok video that implicitly threatened a crackdown on those who traffic in unapproved ideas (“it’s how you hide a little lie, it’s how you hide a little lie!”).
Jankowicz’s appointment raised the gruesome possibility that we might soon be confronted with the sight of Janet Yellen interrupting a congressional hearing to warble, “If I were a rich man, I’d statistically earn 42 cents more on the dollar” or the secretary of energy opening a press conference by busting out, “Climb ev’ry mountain, and put a heavily subsidized windmill thereupon.” (Okay, I’ll allow that it would be amusing to kick off a presidential press conference with Ron Klain warbling, “Ol’ Man Biden, that Ol’ Man Biden, he must know somethin’, but he don’t say nothin’ . . .”)
Now it’s time for Jankowicz to do a heartfelt rendition of “Send in the Clowns.” According to a report from middle-aged TikTok reporter Taylor Lorenz in the Washington Post, the Disinformation Governance Board is being “paused,” and Jankowicz resigned today, because “Working groups within DHS focused on mis-, dis- and mal-information have been suspended.” (Why not just say “false information”? Because Lorenz probably worries that such a label would sound too much like “fake news,” a sobriquet that immediately became a national joke after Democrats tried to use the existence of 50 dollars’ worth of Russian Facebook memes to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump.)
Americans who think the government shouldn’t be in the business of handing down official rulings about what is true — now known as “the far right,” I guess — compared the Disinformation Governance Board to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. The comparison rankles Lorenz, who promises that the utterly harmless and powerless Disinformation Governance Board was really just an advisory group to assist people in the goal of speaking freely. You know, just like how the Department of Labor exists to help everyone who would like to create a job. Lorenz vows without evidence that the agency would not do anything silly like rule anything true or untrue, nor to “compel Internet providers, social media platforms or public schools to take action against certain types of speech.”
This sounds a bit naive given that several social-media platforms working in accordance with the interests of the Democratic Party engaged in a coordinated effort to suppress the New York Post’s accurate reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop. And White House press secretary Jen Psaki told us all last year that government was indeed interested in pushing social-media platforms toward its conception of the truth: “We are flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” she said last July, adding, “It’s important to take faster action against harmful posts” and “Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful violative posts.”
The only problem Jankowicz ran into as she prepared to back up Psaki’s words with a federal agency was public scrutiny. Lorenz writes for a paper whose motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” words that were written way back in 2017 when the Post apparently thought it was important to hold accountable powerful people, especially government officials, especially federal government officials with sweeping powers. Yet Lorenz complains, “Within hours of news of her appointment, Jankowicz was thrust into the spotlight.” Was she thrust into it, or did she leap into it, in sequins and greasepaint, when she herself proudly announced her appointment? “Here’s my official portrait to grab your attention,” Jankowicz told the world on Twitter on April 27.
I suppose the reference to being “thrust” is meant to make it sound like Jankowicz was assaulted or violated. But shouldn’t spotlights be cast on public figures, especially when powerful agencies are involved? (The DHS, which didn’t exist in 2000, is now the third-largest cabinet department by employees, and has a $97 billion budget.) How about when such an agency announces an unprecedented new mission that may conflict with core American principles?
Perhaps spotlights are bad when they’re aimed at Democrats. If so, I have a fix for the Post’s motto. How about, “The Democratic Party Thrives in Darkness”?
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