Don’t you love a farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry my dear
But where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns
— Stephen Sondheim, Send In The Clowns
I guess I find it reassuring that the current efforts to muzzle free speech are being conducted by clowns. The announcement of a Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board sounds ominous — and the Republicans have certainly been given a handy club engraved with “Orwellian” with which to pummel hapless Democrats, who seem unable to recognize that, between this and melting down at the prospect of Elon Musk owning Twitter, they’re pantsing themselves and painting their collective ass bright red.
The idea that the Biden administration would pulp the First Amendment and institute an authoritarian regime through its agents at DHS is immediately dismissible if only because it is one of the most ineffectual departments in the president’s Cabinet. Had Biden given the task to Agriculture or Commerce or another department with a better GPA in governing, we should be afraid. But DHS couldn’t stamp out disinformation or erect an American Reich if we reallocated to it all of the arms we’re currently shipping to Ukraine. It’s peopled by a confederacy of dunces and botch-artists, incapable of carrying out its current mission.
Nobody seems to know what this board is actually supposed to do, which even The Washington Post finds vaguely embarrassing. WH spokesperson Jen Psaki has no clue, and her response is (presumably unintentionally) rather amusing itself:
“I really haven’t dug into this exactly. I mean, we, of course, support this effort, but let me see if I can get more specifics.”
As I read this: I have no idea what the fuck is going on, what this is or who’s doing it or why. But I support it.
At least they tapped somebody of genuine gravitas to run the show — one Nina Jankowicz.
Oh, hell yes! The woman who calls herself “The Mary Poppins of Disinformation.” No, seriously.
— Nina Jankowicz 🇺🇦🇺🇸 (@wiczipedia) February 17, 2021
She’s quite the entertaining singer. Here, a few years ago, she asks Santa who she has to fuck to be rich, famous and powerful. Well, Santa delivered on the fame…
Ms. Jankowicz’s has what I think we’re supposed to consider an impressive CV:
Nina Jankowicz studies the intersection of democracy and technology in Central and Eastern Europe. She is the author of How To Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict(Bloomsbury/IBTauris). Ms. Jankowicz has advised the Ukrainian government on strategic communications under the auspices of a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and others. She is a frequent television and radio commentator on disinformation and Russian and Eastern European affairs. Prior to her Fulbright grant in Ukraine, Ms. Jankowicz managed democracy assistance programs to Russia and Belarus at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She received her MA in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and her BA from Bryn Mawr College.
So, there’s that. She was also against (dis)information promoting masks before she was for it, hectored parents who let their kids go on dates during COVID, and dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story, though it proved to be “real” and not Russian disinformation. She has not yet circled back on that one. I’m sure she will at some point. She’s been busy.
Then there’s this:
THAT Chris Steele is responsible for the dodgy dossier that kicked off the whole Russiagate flim-flam. I guess she’s right — he’s well-positioned to provide context on the evolution of disinfo. So there’s that.
I can’t help thinking that maybe, despite that impressive CV, Nina Jankowicz may just be a partisan hack. If I had a job opening for a disinformation hall monitor, I think I’d make one of the qualifications the ability to recognize it when you see it, but…
Like I said at the top, maybe we should be reassured by all of this. I mean, if guvmint people are pursuing information control, I’d rather they be clowns than highly competent operatives. But there’s also something disquieting about the realization that the whole shebang in Washington, DC, is a clown show.
In other censorship-related news, I see that some high school library in Florida has pulled Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander from the school library —presumably on account of the sexy bits. Hint: Banning books for the sexy bits makes them more attractive to teenagers who want to read the sexy bits.
Don’t you love a farce?