Progressivism’s Cognitive Infrastructure Police Scrub the Public Square.
Posted by Ed Folsom, July 8, 2023.
On July 4th, in Missouri v. Biden, a federal judge issued a ruling that enjoins certain U.S. Government administrative agencies and Biden administrative officials from continuing to engage in their censorship campaign against disfavored speech on social media platforms, regarding COVID-19 and vaccines, alleged matters of Biden family corruption, election integrity and other matters. Earlier, on June 26, the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government issued an interim report titled: “The Weaponization of CISA: How a ‘Cybersecurity’ Agency Colluded with Big Tech and ‘Disinformation’ Partners to Censor Americans.” The level of detail in the court ruling and the Judiciary Committee report, and the alphabet soup of federal agencies involved, are enough to make a reader’s eyes glaze over. Few people will bother to wade through these documents. Most will instead swallow the mainstream media’s spin, if they pay any attention at all. That’s unfortunate, because the mainstream media are in-the-tank collaborators of the Biden Administration here. Below, I quote from and summarize the two documents. Anyone who is inclined to wade through their 190+ combined pages can easily use the links embedded in the references to the documents, above.
Missouri v. Biden is a lawsuit brought by a number of private citizens, and by the States of Missouri and Louisiana on behalf of their residents, against President Biden and various members of his administration. The July 4 ruling deals with the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Plaintiffs sought a court order (injunction) for the defendants to stop causing social media platforms to censor first amendment-protected speech of private citizens on the Government’s behalf. The judge found that the defendants had in fact censored the plaintiff’s protected speech. And the judge found that it was appropriate to issue an injunction, to prevent the Government from continuing the censorship while the lawsuit plays out, because the plaintiffs are ultimately likely to succeed on their first amendment claims.
The court’s ruling goes into significant detail regarding the nature of the Government’s conduct and the censoring of disfavored views. These details show a widespread campaign by U.S. Government agencies and the Biden administration to pressure social media companies into censoring views not in accord with the official Administration line.
Regarding the kind of the pressure that the Administration exerted, the court’s ruling tells us:
“At a [July 2021] White House Press Conference, [Press Secretary Jen] Psaki publicly reminded Facebook and other social-media platforms of the threat of ‘legal consequences’ if they do not censor misinformation more aggressively. Psaki further stated: ‘The President’s view is that the major platforms have a responsibility related to the health and safety of all Americans to stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation, and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19 vaccinations and elections.’ Psaki linked the threat of a ‘robust anti-trust program’ with the White House’s censorship demand. ‘He also supports better privacy protections and a robust anti-trust program [she said].’
“On July 15 , Biden’s Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy described health misinformation as one of the biggest obstacles to ending the pandemic; insisted that his advisory was on an urgent public health threat; and stated that misinformation poses an imminent threat to the nation’s health and takes away the freedom to make informed decisions. Murthy further stated that health disinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading, based upon the best evidence at the time … Murthy further demanded social-media platforms do ‘much, much, more’ and take ‘aggressive action’ against misinformation because the failure to do so is ‘costing people their lives.’”
“On July 16 , President Biden was asked at a press conference what his message was for social-media platforms when it came to COVID-19. Biden’s responded: ‘[T]hey’re killing people.’ Specifically, he stated ‘Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,’ and that ‘they’re killing people.’”
So, as recounted by the court, Biden and his Surgeon General announced that social media companies that failed to censor content the way they desired were “costing people their lives” — “killing people” — while Biden’s Press Secretary told social media companies they would be targeted for “robust anti-trust action” if they failed to satisfy the Administration’s censorship desires. And the sole message that the Administration insisted be conveyed on social media was that anyone who didn’t follow its COVID-19 orders was also killing people. Anything contrary was to be banned as misinformation, disinformation or malinformation.
In the broader scheme, beyond COVID-19, the court’s ruling tells us:
“In addition to misinformation regarding COVID-19, the White House also asked social-media companies to censor misinformation regarding climate change, gender discussions, abortion, and economic policy. At an Axios event entitled ‘A Conversation on Battling Misinformation,’ held on June 14, 2022, the White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy (‘McCarthy’) blamed social-media companies for allowing misinformation and disinformation about climate change to spread and explicitly tied these censorship demands with threats of adverse legislation regarding the Communications Decency Act.”
As the administration keeps telling us, anything that counters its line on climate change exacerbates this existential threat and will get us all killed; anything that counters its line on gender discussions is “hate speech” and will cause people to commit suicide (and die); and anything that counters the Administration’s line on abortion or economic policy, or that raises the specter of Biden family corruption is a Threat to Democracy™.
Altogether, the judge in Missouri v. Biden recited 22 separate statements by Administration officials representing “just a few examples of the unrelenting pressure the Defendants exerted against social-media companies.” The judge found, “the above examples demonstrate that Plaintiffs can likely prove that White House Defendants engaged in coercion to induce social-media companies to suppress free speech.” And the court added, “Defendants combined their threats to amend Section 230 with the power to do so by holding a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in holding the Presidency.”
The Judiciary Committee Report: “The Weaponization of CISA: How a ‘Cybersecurity’ Agency Colluded with Big Tech and “Disinformation” Partners to Censor Americans.”
One of the Government agencies whose censorship activities are at issue Missouri v. Biden is the Critical Infrastructure and Cybersecurity Agency (CISA). CISA is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The House Judiciary Committee’s June 26 report (Report) describes CISA as follows:
“Ostensibly created to protect the electrical grid and other ‘critical infrastructure’ sectors from cybersecurity threats CISA, a little-known agency buried in the depths of DHS, soon expanded its mission to combat ‘foreign disinformation.’ Not long thereafter, under the pretext of protecting ‘election infrastructure,’ CISA began surveilling and censoring American citizens online, directly and by proxy.”
The Report continues:
“The Committee and Select Subcommittee have obtained previously undisclosed, non-public documents that reveal CISA expanded its mission to surveil Americans’ speech on social media, colluded with Big Tech and government-funded third parties to censor by proxy, and tried to hide its plainly unconstitutional activities from the public.”
CISA censored what it referred to as “MDM,” which stands for misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. CISA defined “malinformation” as information that “is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.”
An MDM Subcommittee was formed to deal with the details of MDM censorship. The Report cites an email exchange between MDM Subcommittee members Kate Starbird and Suzanne Spaulding, in which Starbird lamented:
“[U]nfortunately current public discourse (in part a result of information operations) seems to accept malinformation as ‘speech’ and within democratic norms.”
In other words, at least one member of the MDM Subcommittee, Kate Starbird, believes that factually accurate speech that she finds to lack appropriate context and that is used to mislead, to harm or to manipulate is not “speech” and is not “within democratic norms.” Why, It’s an Attack on Our Democracy™!!!
The Report describes CISA’s rapid expansion of its mission as follows:
“CISA expanded its mission to surveil Americans’ speech on social media, colluded with Big Tech and government-funded third parties to censor by proxy, and tried to hide its plainly unconstitutional activities from the public.
Surveillance. CISA expanded its mission from ‘cybersecurity’ to monitor foreign ‘disinformation’ to eventually monitor all ‘disinformation,’ including Americans’ speech. In one e-mail exchange obtained by the Committee and Select Subcommittee, the agency’s rapid mission creep surprised even a non-profit focused on foreign disinformation.
Censorship. CISA exploited its connections with Big Tech and government-funded non-profits to censor by proxy, in order to circumvent the First Amendment’s prohibition against government-induced censorship. This included the creation of reporting ‘portals’ which funneled ‘misinformation’ reports from the government directly to social media platforms. Newly uncovered meeting minutes show that CISA was advised by a group [of] Big Tech executives and academics who encouraged CISA’s unconstitutional behavior.
Cover-ups. As CISA’s operational scope expanded further into unconstitutional territory, the agency and its advisors tried to cover their tracks and cover up CISA’s censorship of domestic speech and surveillance of American citizens’ social media activity. This included scrubbing CISA’s website of references to domestic ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation.’”
“The website previously described the threats posed by both foreign and domestic MDM. For example, the section titled ‘What is MDM?’ read, ‘Foreign and domestic threat actors use MDM campaigns to cause chaos, confusion, and division. These malign actors are seeking to interfere with and undermine our democratic institutions and national cohesiveness.’”
For anyone who might wonder how a government agency that was created to guard against threats to the electricity grid and other critical infrastructure self-justified its censoring of social media postings of private citizens, the Report explains:
“Jen Easterly, the current Director of CISA, justified CISA’s MDM-related activities by saying: ‘One could argue we’re in the business of critical infrastructure, and the most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation, I think, is incredibly important.’”
There you have it — The thought police of CISA protecting and serving the cognitive infrastructure by censoring those they disagree with, even when what they censor is “factually accurate.”
As a matter of fact, when President Biden declared that COVID-19 was a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and that the only pandemic we had was among the unvaccinated, that was flatly untrue. Have you ever wondered why that messaging was not censored as misinformation, disinformation or malinformation? When President Biden said, in July of 2021, that people who are vaccinated do not get COVID; when his CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, said in March of 2021 that people who are vaccinated don’t carry the virus; and when media and private citizens repeated these claims, over and over and over, did you ever wonder why these untruths were not censored as MDM?
How about all the exaggerated claims of mask effectiveness; the outrageously exaggerated claims of COVID-19’s deadliness to children; the outrageous claims every time cases spiked in a “red” state that it was the result of people not following the Government’s orders, and every time case numbers were low in a “blue” state that it was the result of people following the Government’s orders? How about the messaging in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election that Hunter Biden’s laptop, containing details of criminality and corruption, was “Russian disinformation.” Have you ever wondered why none of those false claims was censored as M or D or M?
It’s because no matter how flat-out false, misleading or out of context speech in furtherance of the Biden Administration’s line might be, it is categorically not M or D or M. As a categorical matter, anything that promotes the Administration’s line cannot be M or D or M because it promotes the Administration’s line.
We are dealing with the same Orwellian good/ungood thought-binary discussed in my last post (here): the Administration is the good, and its policies further the good; that which opposes the good is ungood, therefore all that opposes the Administration and its policies is ungood. Because all speech that furthers the Administration’s policies furthers the good and is therefore good, and because all speech that opposes the Administration’s policies impedes the good and is therefore ungood, the truthfulness or untruthfulness of that speech is immaterial. All that matters is whether it is good or ungood. The ungood shall be labeled MDM and shall be scrubbed from the public square, true or not, while the good – the un-MDM — shall stand alone in the public square, serving the good, whether true or not. It’s a matter of saving Democracy™ itself! It’s a matter of life and death!
This is the cognitive infrastructure that the progressivists have constructed, and that the Biden Administration intends to protect by all means necessary.