Germany — In response to putative chaos in the U.S. election putatively caused by “fake news” and Russian hackers — for which no evidence has yet surfaced — Germany plans to create a center of defense against disinformation in advance of its elections next year.
Der Spiegel reports that the Federal Press Office in the Chancellery will take a sizable role in creating this fake news defense center, which will roll out a dystopian “intensification of political education work,” specifically targeting those the German government feels might be impressionable to ‘fake news’ — particularly “Russian-Germans” and “Turkish-speaking people.”
Fears that “false” reports could sway elections in Germany led officials to surmise arrangements for the center “should be negotiated very quickly,” and rules for the 2017 election should be decided among the various political parties.
Plans for this center to slay false information sound eerily akin to the recent passage in the U.S. of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which included blueprints for a wholly Orwellian “Global Engagement Center” — effectively writing into law an American Ministry of Truth. As text of the new law states:
The purpose of the center shall be to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.
However, trepidation about fake news and covert but direct Russian influence over an election derive from a narrative posited by American officials — who have yet to proffer a shred of evidence backing the claims.
Although the Washington Post published an article declaring, in essence, every independent news outlet that discussed the content of WikiLeaks documents detailing corruption within the Democratic establishment had been a willing or witless employee of the Russian government — by publishing “fake news” and thus influencing the election — the once-famed media organization subsequently partly retracted its report, in part, due to lack of evidence.
But the Post — incidentally revealed in emails leaked to WikiLeaks to have colluded with Hillary Clinton’s campaign — didn’t stop there, and proceeded to publish an article asserting unnamed officials in the CIA had performed a secretive assessment which concluded The Russians had somehow hacked the U.S. election.
Again, however, the Post failed to provide even a thin shred of evidence to back the information it published, and — although the article claimed a consensus in the Intelligence Community — the FBI and others argued officials did not agree on the direct Russian interference account.
Despite a public statement dismissing the idea “fake news” could have influenced the outcome of the election, threadbare claims saturating American corporate media forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to initiate a plan to combat disinformation circulating on the platform.
In the near future, Facebook users will be encouraged to flag news items they feel aren’t valid, and a team of putative fact-checkers — including only decidedly left-leaning organizations like Politifact and Snopes — will then decide if the information should be branded “disputed” and suppressed in news feeds.
Germany quickly heightened the “fake news” hysteria, threatening the social media behemoth with fines of €500,000 (roughly $525,000) for each fake news item not removed within 24 hours.
Worse, as Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas alarmingly noted in an interview with Reuters, offenders could face up to five years behind bars if guilty of disseminating “malicious gossip” or “defamation,” saying,
Justice authorities must prosecute that, even on the internet. Anyone who tries to manipulate the political discussion with lies needs to be aware (of the consequences).
Now, Germany appears to be in lockstep with the U.S. with the establishment of an actual center focused solely on combating fake news — a topic that never was a problem to begin with, because, as Maas explained,
The acceptance of a post-truth age would be equivalent to political capitulation.
This McCarthyite fake news frenzy — in both the U.S. and Germany — can be facilely attributed to the political establishment’s fear of losing its long-held influential clutches. Without any evidence ostensibly fake news persuaded so much as a single American to cast their vote in favor of Donald Trump when they had considered voting Hillary Clinton, the war against disinformation seems far more akin to plan to make censorship palatable to a feckless populace.
As Jordan Shapiro penned in a Forbes editorial,
While well-meaning people run around trying to protect children (and gullible adults) from so-called ‘fake news,’ anyone in the United States who actually leans totalitarian must be ecstatic.
And proffering this false war on fake news is “an ideal first step toward squashing the First Amendment. Once the citizenry accepts the conceit that some news is ‘real’ (and, therefore, good) while other news is ‘fake’ (and, therefore, bad) they’ll voluntarily submit to censorship. Freedom of the press can easily be replaced by sanctioned propaganda.”
With what essentially constitutes a 1984-envisioned Ministry of Truth to be established in both the United States and Germany, it would appear State-sanctioned propaganda will — as in 1950s America — once again replace any semblance of an open and free press.