To fight against “disinformation”, the government should not control speech

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Four military officers who describe themselves as “researchers” at the Army’s highly respected Cyber ​​Institute published an article that adds to growing concern about the military’s current politicization. Published by the Army’s National Defense University (NDU), their article purports to analyze the dangers of misinformation and disinformation and to advise the Biden administration on how to counter it.

The authors of the article are all military officers and at least two are professors at West Point. They say their article “is written in response to the Capitol uprising.”

Ironically, the article itself is misinformation. That this disinformation is published by military officers associated with two very prestigious institutions, the NDU and the Cyber ​​Institute, makes it all the more inappropriate and dangerous.

The article attempts to address a real and dangerous problem: how disinformation and disinformation can endanger national security. Preparing for and tackling disinformation is a complex issue that involves disciplines ranging from sociology and psychology to the highly technical issues of cyberwarfare.

The difference between disinformation and disinformation is generally considered to be a question of intention; disinformation is intentionally and maliciously misleading. Disinformation is as old as the war itself; only the techniques vary. It has been practiced and studied by the United States military and related disciplines for many years. Disinformation has been a staple of military operations since the days of the Trojan Horse and Sun Tzu.

January 6 riot on Capitol Hill caused by disinformation?

The Cyber ​​Center authors’ thesis is that the “insurgency” on Capitol Hill on January 6 was a mortal danger to the country which was caused by disinformation, namely the idea that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or stolen. The “insurrection” generated by this alleged disinformation then becomes the justification for the government censorship proposed by the authors (although they avoid the term) of freedom of expression.

The article suffers from several flaws. One of the most notable – and dangerous – is that the authors have dug deeper into political wars by advocating for increased government control over speech they see as outside the mainstream or, as they put it, contrary to a desired “shared reality”.

The authors’ misinformation begins in their very first paragraph: “On January 6, 2021, long-held assumptions about the meaning of US national security were challenged when insurgents stormed the United States Capitol, attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election ”(emphasis added here and elsewhere).

False premise

Warming up to their theme, the authors then say that “recent polls indicate that nearly 20 percent of Americans have endorsed the insurrection“And that their article is” written in response to the Capitol insurrection. “This alleged support for a”insurrectionThen becomes the driving force behind the authors’ advice to the Biden administration to crack down on freedom of expression.

But this initial premise is wrong: Although some politicians used the term, there was no “insurgency”. “Insurgency” is a violation of the Federal Criminal Code, 15 USC §2383. Had there been an insurgency on January 6, Attorney General Merrick Garland would have laid related criminal charges against the suspected insurgents. Although nearly 300 people arrested for the events of January 6 have been charged with “parade” in the Capitol building, none have been charged with insurgency, indicating that prosecutors have no evidence to indict them. of this crime.

Moreover, the authors’ quote does not support their claim that nearly 20% of Americans support “the insurgency.” The poll data they cite in their very first footnote doesn’t even mention the word “insurgency,” let alone claim that one happened on January 6.

As these Cyber ​​Institute researchers fully appreciate, in the war of disinformation, words matter. However, they wrongly equate “insurrection” with “riot” or “protest”. It is ironic that in an article denouncing the dangers of disinformation and disinformation, the authors indulge in disinformation by falsely claiming that 20% of Americans support an “insurgency.”

The authors then use this chilling but spurious statistic to substantiate their call for increased government control over speech. Because they argue that the “insurgency” was caused by the misconception that the presidential election was rigged or stolen, they use this so-called crisis to call on the government – aided by private actors – to quell opinions they disapprove of. They urge such censorship because they say disinformation and disinformation are “America’s most pressing national security challenge.”

The definition of disinformation

So how would these military officers identify “disinformation”? It’s hard to know, because the authors never define misinformation or disinformation. But apparently that’s all that’s contrary to what they call “shared reality”.

They repeatedly call for a “shared reality”, which can be facilitated by, in their words, government “pressure, if not regulation” to “bury the spurious sources”. They give an example: “It may be necessary to consider requiring social media companies to adjust their algorithms to ensure that users see a variety of legitimate professional sources of information.

The authors acknowledge (in a footnote) that it can be difficult to achieve “universal agreement” on “legitimate” sources of information. They never identify who should be the arbiter of truth; they are simply leaving that to unidentified actors in “the private sector, government and the public”. And they don’t say how they would identify what needs to be censored, other than speech that deviates from group thought shared reality.

But, of course, one person has to be the arbiter, if only to write the algorithms for tech companies. Who will it be? A 23-year-old intern on Twitter? A committee of technicians approved by Mark Zuckerberg? House Intelligence Committee chairman and serial liar Adam Schiff? Government bureaucrats like Anthony Fauci, who lied to the American people because they thought they “can’t handle the truth”? The authors provide no answer.

Hunter Biden cover shows how it would work

The insanity inherent in the muscular proposals of Cyber ​​Institute researchers for government and private collaboration aimed at limiting discourse to a “shared reality” has manifested itself fully in a campaign of disinformation that the authors ignore. These are the successful efforts of Team Biden (which includes the media and much of the intelligence community) to effectively censor the New York Post revelations about Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails proving his corruption. and that of President Biden.

Just two weeks before the presidential election, and with early voting underway, Biden’s allies falsely portrayed the New York Post’s revelations about Hunter’s laptop and emails as Russian disinformation. In an article titled “Russian Disinfo”, Politico reported that “more than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed a letter” describing their shared reality that the recent disclosure of Hunter Biden’s emails “has all the classic features of ‘a Russian information operation. . They concluded: “It is high time for Russia to stop interfering in our democracy.

These former “senior intelligence officials,” including former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, have claimed they are doing exactly what scholarly researchers at the Cyber ​​Institute are advocating. in their article: Countering the Post’s alleged misinformation. And their bogus theme of “Russian disinfo” quickly became a “shared reality” among Democrats, the media, and other Biden supporters.

But they were completely wrong. It can no longer be seriously disputed that the laptop was Hunter’s and that the emails were genuine. The “shared reality” published by the more than 50 “intelligence officials” was in itself disinformation which, unlike the Capitol riot, may well have been decisive in the election.

A serious and intellectually honest article on the dangers of disinformation would also have mentioned the largest and most effective disinformation campaign in recent history – the Big Lie that Donald Trump plotted with the Russians. It was first-rate disinformation. It was propagated by lies concocted by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in collusion with the Russians, to overturn the 2016 election results.

Yet these Cyber ​​Institute researchers ignore this misinformation and that Biden allies such as Clapper have publicly disseminated misinformation about Trump’s supposed collusion with the Russians to undermine the elections, while also admitting under oath in sessions at behind closed doors that they knew of no supporting evidence. Such glaring omissions at the very least give the impression that the authors are reluctant to accuse prominent Democrats of disinformation for fear of being seen as helping Trump when seeking to advise the Biden administration.

As this author already pointed out in The Federalist, there is no greater long-term danger to the country than the politicization of the military. For this reason, the military has a culture of not publicly engaging in partisan disagreements.

The regrettable direction of the NDU article by the Cyber ​​Center authors creates an unfortunate appearance that this non-partisan culture may be at risk. These authors have shown little reluctance to wade through partisan thickets. Hopefully this is an outlier and not a trend.

John Lucas is a practicing lawyer who has tried and argued a variety of cases, including before the United States Supreme Court. Prior to entering University of Texas Law School, he served in the Army Special Forces as an enlisted man, then graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1969. He is an Army Ranger and fought in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader. He is married and the father of five children. He and his wife now live in Virginia.


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