"Misinformation" Means Whatever Those With Censorship Power Want It To Mean

Government officials and their lackeys in the media often speak of the term “misinformation” as though it has some sort of universally-accepted, politically neutral definition. That’s always been total BS, but generating the mirage of neutrality has been a necessary ingredient in popularizing the “misinformation” concept over the past five years. Those who reject the impositions of mainstream cultural and political elites must not be simply wrong, but maliciously brainwashed by “misinformation” that complicit entities such as the social media platforms allow to proliferate.

In 2018, when these entities engineered a simultaneous cross-platform purge of Alex Jones, there was an avalanche of media apologia for this hitherto unprecedented act of censorship. Jones had caused unique harm, the journalists cried, and the platforms were merely “Enforcing The Rules.” But of course what they were oblivious to was that “the rules,” such as they exist, are just a function of power. “Misinformation” and other alleged infractions of social media “rules” are determined at the whim of whoever happens to wield censorship and speech-regulation power at that moment. Journalists themselves, chronically oblivious to their own power, were exactly the ones who agitated for the expulsion of Jones, and their agitation succeeded. 

Here is an article I wrote the day after this cross-platform purge:

Alex Jones’ lunacy is self-evident and needs no further comment. The only relevant question is whether we want a media landscape in which a tiny cadre of unelected private officials are empowered to decide, in secret and with no mechanisms for accountability, that the time has come to purge this lunatic from the public square.

Now, just around three years later, we receive a declaration from a spokesperson for the President that the Federal Government is seeking to coerce, mandate, or otherwise bring about routinized cross-platform purges. “You shouldn’t be banned from one platform, and not others, for providing misinformation out there,” press secretary Jen Psaki demanded, creepily calling on the social media giants to create “robust enforcement strategies that bridge their properties.”

So if you were under any illusion back in 2018 that this would ever stop with Jones — a figure believed to be sufficiently repulsive that any punishment doled out to him would not have broader implications for the average internet user — well, it didn’t take long for proof of just how wrong you were. Journalists and others with influential platforms, particularly those who spend all day everyday on the internet and rely on it for their livelihood, at least in theory have a duty to demonstrate some semblance of foresight. Meaning, to consider issues of public interest that go beyond their short-term desire for political vengeance. They consistently fail in this task, or never even bother aspiring toward it in the first place. Because one thing the post 2016-era has shown is that they’re primarily concerned with their own exercise of power, and if their peers at the social media companies serve them as a reliable power conduit, that’s just dandy.

Please don’t even try to argue that Psaki’s dictum is somehow going to be limited to “misinformation” surrounding vaccines, and that’s fine because of the unique danger of vaccine-related misinformation in light of the Delta variant blah blah blah. There’s always going to be a situation deemed sufficiently “dangerous” by those in power to rationalize encroachments on free expression. Always some “emergency” — Islamic terrorism, white nationalist terrorism, a communicable disease, severe weather events, racist Academy Awards ceremonies, whatever. It will never end. Because those in power are extremely adept at finding rationalizations for the power they seek to exercise. I personally got the vaccine, and I would generally recommend that others do so. But I flatly reject the logical leap to “social media companies must therefore systematically purge users from the internet at the direct behest of the federal government.”

Nothing about Psaki’s command should be the least bit surprising if you’ve been remotely sentient over the past five years, and if you have priorities beyond the instant gratification of political retribution. But there’s no mystery about the media’s priorities anymore.