Is Biden’s Disinfo Czar Qualified?
Plus, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
Programming note: Sorry for the multiple newsletters yesterday. There was a Substack-related issue.
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MONIKA RICHTER: Is Biden’s Disinfo Czar Qualified?
Thanks to a vacuum of official information, negative media coverage has dominated—particularly among right-wing sources, whose uproar about a party-political attempt to censor conservatives and undermine free speech in America helped set the tone of the public narrative. Meanwhile, much of the press coverage, starting with the original Politico item, conflated disinformation with misinformation, even though it is important to preserve the distinction between those terms. “Misinformation” refers to the unintentional spread of false information, whereas “disinformation” consists of deliberate fabrications cooked up to deceive people for strategic purposes. This sort of definitional confusion, particularly on such a complex and sensitive issue, undercuts public confidence while encouraging uncharitable speculation and conspiracism.
There is a good reason why the U.S. government has historically stayed away from the minefield that is domestic disinformation. As any expert in this field will tell you, one of the core aims of contemporary authoritarian disinformation is the erosion of trust in democratic government. What does it say of the Biden administration’s readiness to take on this problem that the launch of its anti-disinformation initiative does just what it’s meant to oppose by arousing skepticism—even among digital media and rights experts—and undermining public trust?
Compounding these issues is the matter of the individual selected to lead this new initiative. Nina Jankowicz, the Wilson Center fellow tapped for the job by DHS, launched her career as an expert on Russian disinformation with a one-year Fulbright Fellowship to Ukraine from 2016-17, during which she says that she served as a communications adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is reason to be skeptical that an American-educated twentysomething with a year and a half of postgraduate work experience in Washington (per Jankowicz’s own account) would serve as much of an “adviser” on counter-disinformation strategy for the government of a country that has been on the front lines of Russian information warfare for decades.
No, letting states resolve abortion rights won’t lower the temperature. Plus, Trump is strangely silent on the SCOTUS news, why didn’t Esper say anything before the election, and what is Pompeo up to in the PA Senate race? Bill Kristol joins Charlie Sykes for the weekend podcast.
MIT’s Robert Pindyck shares wisdom on climate and joins the discussion of the Roe draft opinion.
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Hey!… I don’t have COVID! But say a prayer for our colleagues who do. And yesterday’s newsletter? A Substack issue screwed me… and I was on assignment. Nothing I could do.
Some links from yesterday:
How the leak might have happened… A theory.
Should six year olds be running marathons? Uh, no.
I miss George Carlin… And I am 100% gonna watch this special.
Ohio is not sending their best. Between J.D. Vance, Max Miller, and, well, just read this story about my sister’s former law school classmate.
Mike Piazza is the new Art Modell. He may have wanted to go home to the old country, but his destruction of a football team will result in people pissing on his grave.
From back home… This is a wild story, in two parts.
More Madison Cawthorn ethics violations… In case you care.
Your new favorite recipe. Thank me later.
Mastriano’s Meltdown… Not a good look.
The D.C. Zoo massacre… Foxes on the loose.
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
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