Monday, July 4, 2022

Jack DeVine: Professor Obama Lectures About Disinformation

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In his rambling lecture at Stanford University last week, former President Barack Obama reaffirmed the Left’s views on free speech. In short, “progressive” Democrats believe that disinformation from the Right is destroying democracy; they consider themselves to be the arbiters and guardians of truth; and they want to do more — not less — to control what Americans hear, read, and think.

OK, the speech wasn’t quite that stark. Obama is a talented orator — his address was articulate, authoritative, persuasive, and silky-smooth. But his bottom line was fundamentally Orwellian. Big Brother should be in charge.

Obama’s explanation of our underlying problem with social media is sound. These platforms reach nearly all Americans, and they exercise enormous — and dangerous — influence over public opinion. Essentially, Obama implied that Big Tech has the power to elect presidents. He’s right. The 2020 election demonstrated exactly that.

But from that point, Obama delivered garden-variety left-side talking points, ignoring an entire herd of elephants in the room. He offered examples of harmful right-wing disinformation, while deftly side-stepping his own party’s massive contributions to the disinformation cesspool.

Obama rails about “lies, conspiracy theories, junk science, quackery, racist tracts,” but he’s evidently blind to the baseless Russia collusion hoax, spawned (likely with his personal knowledge) by the Clinton campaign and shamelessly touted by Leftmedia for three-plus years.

Our former president clearly supports the prevailing leftist view that it is unpatriotic for any American to express concern about unexplained 2020 election irregularities. Evidently, he agrees with Joe Biden’s DOJ that parents’ strident opposition to what their young children are being taught about sex and racism poses a dangerous societal threat. He refers to the January 6th riot as an insurrection without qualification or evidentiary basis. And he asserts that new state election security laws are actually intended to suppress voting.

Obama tells us that COVID disinformation has actually claimed lives. But has he not noticed the gibberish emanating from Washington, DC, lately on masking? Officials do backflips trying to explain why it’s no longer necessary to expel illegal aliens with unknown COVID status, but imperative for airline passengers to be 100% masked. After two years of such double talk, it’s no wonder that many consider the Biden administration’s COVID guidance to be driven by politics, not science.

All these are matters that have often been banned from social media. None are disinformation — they are simply political views with which the Left disagrees.

Most importantly, Obama largely ignores the most compelling kind of disinformation of all — censorship, withholding valid and vital information from those who deserve to have it. Facebook and Twitter both shut down all information — now confirmed, and readily verifiable then, had they chosen to do so — regarding substantial influence peddling by Biden family members to American adversaries and attendant massive conflict of interest on the part of the candidate himself.

Clearly, that censorship was the conscious decision by corporate management to influence the upcoming election. For anyone worried about damaging democracy, there it is, plain and simple.

And have we forgotten that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all silenced the sitting president of the United States shortly after the January 6th riot — acting as immediate judge and jury on a matter that is still being investigated 16 months later?

Obama proposes to fix the problem by increasing government control over social media decisions on disinformation. That’s exactly wrong — it’s putting the fox (i.e., self-serving government) in the hen house. And my suggestion to that side of the political divide is to be careful what you wish for. Pretty soon there’s likely to be a different fox guarding that hen house.

Perhaps it’s arrogant for a small time op-ed writer to suggest that the former U.S. president is out of touch with mainstream America. But I can say with certainty that he’s out of touch with me — and I suspect many others feel the same way. During his presidency and now, Mr. Obama fails to address a central concern of many Americans: We are being force-fed — by our government and via a compliant media apparatus — a steady diet of far-left dogma with which we disagree and which we’re told not to challenge.

Social media is the 21st century town square. Communications on social media should be governed by the First Amendment, and we can expect the courts to eventually confirm that. Rather than propose some new mechanism for government oversight, leaders of both parties should reassert the principle of freedom of the press, reject partisan cancel culture, and insist on social media censorship policies that reject only overtly dangerous messages, not politically controversial ones.

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