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Rachel Marsden: Western democracies are invoking ‘disinformation’ to protect their own fake news

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 11/22/2022 Rachel Marsden, Tribune Content Agency
Disinformation word in a dictionary. © Dreamstime Disinformation word in a dictionary.

PARIS — How critical is dissenting information and analysis? Just consider the series of events that transpired last week when a “Russian” missile landed in Poland. Western leaders were quick to console Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and direct outrage at Russia as Zelenskyy spread the fake news that the missile was fired by Russia — until it emerged that the missile was, in fact, fired by Ukraine and from Ukraine. Imagine if there had been no push back on the initial official narrative allowed to disseminate in the public domain. World War III could have popped off. In this particular case, the dissent came from the Pentagon, which thankfully challenged Zelenskyy’s accusations. But what if no official source had contradicted Zelenskyy’s disinformation, or had been blocked from doing so?

Rachel Marsden wearing a dress shirt and tie © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Rachel Marsden

“Disinformation” warriors are a plague on democracy. Want to label something fake? Then qualify it publicly. Show your work. Why should governments using the term to crack down on inconvenient opinion and fact that challenges official narratives be given the benefit of the doubt and be spared from dissent when their own deliberate lies are too numerous to count?

Remember during the Covid crisis when President Joe Biden was saying that the anti-Covid jab would prevent catching and transmitting the virus? That’s now proven fake news. The Canadian military even deployed propaganda tools honed during its military involvement in Afghanistan to align public opinion with the state’s agenda, according to an internal survey investigation by retired Major-General Daniel Gosselin. In other words, the Canadian military went to war with public dissent on Covid using weapons-grade war zone disinformation techniques.

Or how about just last week when former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Mitt Romney, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others took to social media to denounce the fake news that the Iranian parliament had voted to mass execute thousands of anti-hijab protesters? Pompeo himself might know something about the value of spreading fake news with impunity while those denouncing it as such are silenced. “When I was a cadet, what’s the cadet motto at West Point? You will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do. I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment,” Pompeo said to an audience at Texas A&M University in 2019.

Back in March during a visit to Poland to shore up European support for Ukraine, Biden said, “Putin has the gall to say he’s “de-Nazifying” Ukraine. It’s a lie. It’s just cynical. He knows that. And it’s also obscene.”

But it’s Biden who’s misleading the public. The U.S. and its allies have indeed trained and equipped actual neo-Nazi fighters in Ukraine, which have since been folded into the country’s military. “Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine produced a briefing on the Azov Battalion, acknowledging its links to Nazi ideology,” Canada’s Ottawa Citizen reported in November 2021, nearly four months before the conflict in Ukraine went red-hot, stating that the U.S.-allied Canadian government knew of the fighters’ ideology at least as far back as 2017, but was more concerned about hiding the fact from the press.

It wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve seen the re-branding into “freedom fighters” of Western-backed proxies’ with inconvenient or distasteful ideologies. But what’s different now is the terrifying rise of state power that aims to quash contradictory information or analysis — all under the guise of national security.

Biden tried to create a Disinformation Governance Board in the Homeland Security Department earlier this year. The outrage that the move provoked may have prevented its implementation, but the censorship work nonetheless persists in a different form. The Intercept recently published an investigative piece highlighting internal Homeland Security memos, documents, and emails that “illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission has just approved its Digital Services Act to fight what it considers online illegal speech, and which threatens freedom of expression, according to the Center for European Policy Analysis.

The new law obliges online platforms to mitigate “manipulation or disinformation”. But defined by whom? By European bureaucrats in Brussels already prone to shamelessly and unilaterally censoring information without due process under the pretext of fighting “disinformation”, and without ever providing any actual detailed and verifiable specific proof of their claims?

EU Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton even directed an ominous message at Twitter’s new owner, billionaire and self-described free speech absolutist, Elon Musk. “In Europe, the bird will fly by our European rules,” Breton tweeted at Musk. And those “European rules” are increasingly protective of state-backed narratives which aren’t immune from propagating fake news themselves.

Freedom of speech desperately needs to be protected at all costs from self-styled disinfo warriors who all too often just want to spread their own narratives with impunity.

(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of independently produced talk shows in French and English. Her website can be found at

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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