by Daisy Luther
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The current culture of outrage and cancellation is busily trying to shut down dissenting opinions. They’re picking through social media posts from a dozen years ago and “canceling” someone for a meme they posted or an offhand remark they made way back when. It’s obvious that the goal is to silence anyone who might have some small amount of influence over others in order to show the rest of the country, “Look, everyone agrees! We must be right because all the popular people say we are!”
It’s a worrisome fact that most of the people holding the microphones right now have the influence, power, and money to set the tone for our country. They have the platforms, the money, the power, and the ability to silence the rest of us peons who simply want to be left alone with our guns, our gardens, our favorite websites, and our own religious beliefs.
The fact that the United States is even considering a position called the “reality czar” should alert you to the fact that reality will not be judged by what’s happening – you know, actual reality – but by what this “czar” is told the people should believe to be the truth. And yes, there are people who really, truly believe there should be a reality czar like this yahoo at the New York Times.
Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a “reality czar.”
It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant. But let’s hear them out.
Right now, these experts said, the federal government’s response to disinformation and domestic extremism is haphazard and spread across multiple agencies, and there’s a lot of unnecessary overlap.
Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, gave the example of two seemingly unrelated problems: misinformation about Covid-19 and misinformation about election fraud.
He even admits it “sounds a little dystopian.” You THINK? Perhaps that is because it is positively and unarguably dystopian. That might be why it sounds that way. And he’s not alone.
Another dude at Wired thinks we need a literal federal Ministry of Truth to monitor deepfakes and disinformation. (Much like the Patriot Act is not patriotic, I’m pretty sure we should not expect a Ministry of Truth to be truthful.)
So, what about a new federal agency? A central body tasked with combating disinformation, parsing fact from fiction and thereby ensuring Americans’ collective sanity when the flood of fakes truly arrives: a Bureau of Information, a Department of Facts, a Ministry of … Truth!
Full circle, and we’re back at dystopia. The idea might sound absurd, unimaginable even: Washington bureaucrats regulating reality itself, dictating to Americans what’s true and what isn’t.
Is it really so crazy? The EPA protects our environment, the FDA protects our bodies, the DHS protects our borders. In the era of indistinguishability, difficult choices will need to be made in order to protect our minds. When the fakes come for you and yours—when, for example, your adolescent child is deepfaked by an internet bully—you might want a Ministry of Truth that actually lives up to the name, that doesn’t falsify but certifies the truth, that assertively stamps its authority atop fake videos: “This content is not real.” American history includes no shortage of necessary (if at first uneasy) interventions, in which citizens trade some degree of individual autonomy for collective peace of mind: “FDA-approved” food and drugs; “MoT-approved” audio and video.
All these people are admitting these ideas are dystopian but they’re absolutely and totally cool with that and they want you to be cool with it too. THEY LITERALLY WANT A F*CKING DYSTOPIA.