The Biden Administration Is Trying to Criminalize Dissent. We Must Resist | Opinion

America now has its very own Ministry of Truth. On February 7, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a "Summary of Terrorism Threat to the Homeland," calling out "the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions" as the primary terrorist threat—ahead of threats of violence and calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks against the United States. Later the same week, DHS issued a warning to law enforcement that U.S. truckers were attempting to organize a protest of Covid mitigation mandates, emulating the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration now bedeviling the Canadian government.

Those familiar with George Orwell's classic book 1984 know that the Ministry of Truth is the highly effective propaganda agency of Orwell's fictional totalitarian regime. But these days, it's reading as eerily familiar.

Consider how a DHS policy paper, ominously titled "Combatting Targeted Disinformation Campaigns: A Whole Society Issue," has created its own taxonomy of dangerous speech, called "MDM" for short—an acronym for "mis-, dis-, and mal- information"—which DHS believes it must "combat." Per the paper, "misinformation" is false information; "disinformation" is false and is "deliberately created to mislead, harm or manipulate"; and "malinformation" is based on fact, but "used out of context to mislead, harm or manipulate."

This matrix of wrongthink should terrify us. Every American should recoil at the thought that the DHS will now determine what is false, harmful, out of context and worthy of "combatting." Every American should be horrified by how the Biden administration routinely deploys the term "misinformation" to refer to criticism of the administration.

And deploy it they do. Just this month White House spokesperson Jen Psaki referred to reports that the administration was funding and distributing crack pipes to addicts as "misinformation." In fact, those news reports were well founded, on a publicly available request for proposals to distribute "safe smoking kits," which the New York Times reported sometimes include crack pipes.

The President and his officials routinely call upon social media giants to stamp out COVID "misinformation" in the digital public square. And among the dangerous MDM to be targeted by our tech overlords have been peer reviewed medical articles reporting evidence that Ivermectin is a useful treatment for some COVID patients.

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DHS claims it is focusing on those who "exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest," because such actors breed violence. But in essence, this is a targeting of dissent. And it is not content neutral.

The DHS Summary cites only two forms of "false or misleading narratives": statements critical of the government's COVID-19 policy and claims of election fraud. DHS claims that "grievances associated with these themes inspired violent extremist attacks during 2021." But no such attacks are listed. Putting aside whether the January 6 Capitol Riot is fairly labeled terrorism, surely we can all agree that no obvious "violent extremist attacks" have been inspired by proponents of the lab leak theory, opposition to mask and vaccine mandates, proponents of Ivermectin, critics of Dr. Fauci, or vaccine skeptics.

Unfortunately, this is part of a trend. The DHS memo comes on the heels of Attorney General Merrick Garland's October memo calling for FBI action on a purported nationwide threat of violence by irate parents speaking up at school boards. The highest law enforcement official in the country claimed to be responding to a National School Board Association missive asking that parental dissidents be labeled domestic terrorists. But it was later revealed that the White House helped draft the request.

Lest there be any doubt about the selectivity of the government's current misinformation crackdown, Attorney General Garland repeatedly denies that Antifa is worthy of special attention by law enforcement—yet Antifa's presence at the racial reckoning riots of 2020 was directly linked to an upsurge of violence and property damage resulting in over $1 Billion in insurance claims—the most in history.

Meanwhile, on November 11, 2021, Black Lives Matter leader Hawke Newsome threatened the newly elected mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, promising "There will be riots. There will be fire. And there will be bloodshed." Yet there were crickets from DHS and the Department of Justice.

Justice Gorsuch recently wrote that if the state could use criminal laws "to silence those who voice unpopular ideas, little would be left of our First Amendment liberties, and little would separate us from the tyrannies of the past." How much has changed. COVID lockdowns and our seemingly endless compliance with them gave our government a taste of the vast power tyrannies of the past enjoyed. And, it turns out, they like it.

It is past time for both parties to recommit to the core political values of American life. The first among these—literally—and the right on which all others depend is the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press, which Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo rightly called "the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom."

We can ill afford, and should not tolerate, the criminalization of dissent.

Maud Maron is a public school mom of four and a Congressional Candidate in NYC's 12th District.

The views in this article are the writer's own.