02 May 2022

Disinformation Governance Board: Transparency vs Political Nepotism?

How can we not consider the problem of transparency at all levels of government to not be based on political nepotism?  Numerous instances illustrate it is - especially at the more local levels where all oversight, if any is claimed to exist, often is determined by a network of family nepotism that expands to become political nepotism.  Does the Department of Homeland Security's new misinformation board, verify the political corruption that has long been in play, has now institutionalized corrupt political nepotism?  It would behoove us to concern ourselves with the possibility.  This article: "DHS secretary says disinformation board won’t infringe on free speech: We’re not opinion police" expresses concern about free speech.  Perhaps it is more pressing to be concerned about the board institutionalizing an increased lack of government transparency.

Will the Disinformation Governance Board infringe on free speech?  I don't know. I agree that propaganda disinformation is used to create conflict, that it originates with a self-declared enemy we must consider to at least be a threat in specific ways.  However, it has been proven many times over that we can learn facts about our own government from outside sources when transparency is lacking in our own media. I am not referring to the myriad of Russian propaganda internet sites that have become so prolific online in the past years.  I am referring primarily to facts that we can sometimes verify as accurate when people file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about information from sources outside our nation - and/or Pulitzer worthy investigative journalism.  It seems that a practical concern is more about the possibility of government efforts to institute less transparency rather than curtail our personal freedom of speech.
This does no mean freedom of speech is not always under attack in some way or another.  However, it is difficult to understand why disinformation is considered a freedom of speech issue when it is a libel and/or slander legal problem.  Banning what people and processes of a misinformation board might consider to be damaging misleading disinformation harmful to supposed public naiveté, likely could interfere with prosecuting those who originate disinformation for their libel and/or slander.  When we consider any information to be  propaganda we don't look further but instead make a choice to believe or not believe what could be ill-intended libel and/or slander that needs to be prosecuted at any level - from personal to international.

Of course the board is concerned with disinformation about our government.  But overreach into interfering with exercising our freedoms is easy especially when there is a lack of transparency about such a board. What is perplexing is that misinformation is not being responded to with prosecution for libel and/or slander - or at least not denied when government at any level is the target.  Instead it is ignored by government.  Yet, we see social sites cracking the whip with one-sided "fact checking" designed to set us straight by telling what to think, about what is or is not accurate.  It is  probably at their advertisers' bidding, and to some extent government's too - when government threatens to lower the boom based on the small print in the ways applicable regulations are interpreted.  Also, our media offers too much useless "news" coverage that instead focuses on anything about which conflict can be encouraged, since conflict seems to be what is assumed will draw the interest of viewers and readers.  But libel and slander are legal issues and when prosecuted are usually not broadcast about, during the process.  So the focus of news programs and publications on what is often deemed to be disinformation, suggests prosecuting for libel and/or slander is not occurring.  What does that suggest to us about supposed disinformation? 

Those who investigate
through FOIA what may or may not be misinformation, in the event that actual sources are provided, sometimes are able to verify whether or not the information is factual.  However, we also need to keep in mind that our news has been controlled for a very long time.  This does not refer to what is broadcast obsessively instead of news, which may be more driven by corporate advertising than by government.  In this case the concern about control is what government does not want on the news.  Corporate advertisers have likely been government's hand-maidens in that way by driving what news reports obsess about to redirect interest as a way to avoid reporting actual news.  A misinformation governance board seems destined, on the surface at least, to be direct manipulation of news from government - social media fact checking style  on a larger scale.  In effect that would be little different than the way dictatorships control what is not allowed to be broadcast and published. 

Considering the problem of
a lack of transparency because of political nepotism, is advisable.  There are many instances indicating exactly that. Many of us recall coming to this abrupt realization about controlled news when news of Viet-Nam was not being broadcast honestly because of a lack of transparency.  The American public needed to know because we were and continue to be a collectively self-governing citizenry whose responsibility is to educate ourselves enough about issues to be able to do our jobs of advising those who are elected and appointed government officials.  I also want to mention one particular personal experience that illustrates transparency based on political nepotism which I encountered within the past decade when asking about "real id".

The only information available about real id is what is needed to apply for it. 
Try asking exactly what information is conveyed via "real id" and see what happens.  Stonewalled.  Try telling the "powers that be" you need to verify the accuracy of the information being conveyed via real id,- and see what happens!  Again - stonewalled.  As individual we should never be prevented from the right to verify and/or correct information used by real id to profile us - which, denied, becomes unacceptable overreach on an individual basis that is an unacceptable lack of government transparency.  Credit Bureaus exemplify the serious problems that can occur because of financial profiling errors.  Any collection of data about us, to profile us financially or any other way, needs to be freely subject to our perusal so we are able to correct what is not accurate. Try telling that to information dealers online, used for background checking. Stonewalled.  No doubt not only info gathered from online social sites, but also official records about us actually need to actually be fact-checked by us for errors!

I asked about real id years ago via e-mail - about the information that is provided through real id, and how we can access it to be sure it is accurate.  A response was not forthcoming. Is it only coincidental that unwarranted, harassment has increased exponentially since that time in my own life - prior to covid since there is more occurring because of covid?  I finally requested a birth certificate last year to use for my real id drivers license, and received a notarized piece of paper with a few facts.  Then covid happened so I still have not applied for my real id drivers license.  I had a problem with the limits of what was sent, and the only way possible to acquire it.  When I had requested a copy of my birth certificate in summer 1970, I was sent a faxed copy of my birth record - which is exactly what I needed. Was that considered to be a "birth certificate" at the time, or was the notarized copy in use today considered the birth certificate then too?  Of course that is also considered a pesky question to ask people who should know the answer.  Uh huh - stonewalled.

Of course the photosensitive paper used in fax machines in the early 70s eventually became a blank sheet of worthless photosensitive fax paper. Once again I need a copy of my birth record which is what I expected the birth certificate to be. One need not be a genius to realize that a notarized stable copy of the actual birth record is far more trustworthy for real id than a notarized copy that extracts a few facts.  I found nowhere online to ask for my birth record which I still need.  What comes up in a search is ONLY the option to pay a company to serve as a middle man to request and sends the birth certificate, which I reluctantly did having no other choice.  No search produces anything other than middle-man services which says states use that service for birth certificate requests. Looking at state websites, only the costly middle-man service is used for birth certificate requests.  I have enjoyed doing genealogy research for decades and know it has been possible to request birth records.  I still need my own birth record - the same document genealogists request and are sent. As verification for real id - I repeat - a notarized stable copy of the actual birth record as a birth certificate, is far more trustworthy for real id than a notarized copy that extracts a few facts.

The point being?  Without transparency about who is serving on the board, how the board is selected, and the processes that govern what the board actually does and how. we would do well to be concerned about what otherwise
seems to be further institutionalization of  corrupt political nepotism that has already been increasingly limiting transparency in government - possibly as long as governments have existed.  No doubt the extent of corrupt political nepotism has always vacillated - dependent on the governed and the use of the freedoms with which they are empowered to maintain their freedoms.  Knowing all that does not insure the misinformation governance board is not already rife with the problems of political nepotism.  The extent of resistance to transparency about requests for details and clarity - needed information about the disinformation board, will suggest in what ways we need to productively direct our concern.