Hearing on Disinformation Spreads Disinformation

In yesterday's Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections hearing, Democratic Chairman Butterfield made it clear that the hearing's purpose was to support the January 6 Committee and combat disinformation. Ironically, the Chairman himself spread disinformation by citing two discredited allegations: 1) that five people died as a direct result of the January 6th protest, and 2) that Representative Barry Loudermilk had conducted a "reconnaissance" tour of the Capitol with protesters pretending to be constituents.

Ranking Member on the full Committee Rodney Davis pointed out that the Capitol Police had exonerated Representative Loudermilk after an investigation and repeating those claims was itself "disinformation."  The Capitol Police Chief J. Thoman Manger wrote in a letter to the Ranking Member Davis,

"There is no evidence that Representative Loudermilk entered the U.S. Capitol with this group on January 5, 2021. We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious."



The majority of the panelists described the rise of disinformation as a development that causes harm to the electoral process and society as a whole; however, surprisingly, they considered it only to have started in 2020. When members questioned author and journalist Mike Rothschild, he alleged that he had not heard about Stacy Abrams' repeated claims that her election was stolen in Georgia's 2018 gubernatorial election by Governor Brian Kemp.  Furthermore, Mr. Rothschild excused similar claims from Hillary Clinton that the election was stolen when she lost to former President Trump in the 2016 presidential election, saying her reaction was that of a normal losing candidate.  Witnesses refused to acknowledge the express disinformation of these statements. 

Against the backdrop of partisanship, the testimony of Gary Lawkowski stood out. Mr. Lawkowski, a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Free Speech and Counsel with the Dhillon Law Group, looked at the bigger picture and emphasized that the real problem is determining "who decides what is disinformation?" The solution to disinformation is more information. The more information is in the public domain, the more the American people can make an educated decision on what to believe.  Mr. Lawkowski stated in his testimony: 

When thinking about regulating “disinformation,” it is important to remember that political fortunes rise and fall; the party in power today may be out of power tomorrow. Thus, anyone advocating for regulating speech today should consider what would happen if their worst political opponent were to wield the same power over them tomorrow, because there is a very high chance it will happen sooner or later...

The solution today is the same as it has been for the better part of our national history: more speech, which allows true speech to outshine false statements in a marketplace of ideas. As distasteful as that may be at times, the alternative, positioning government as an arbiter of truth, is far more dangerous to the long-term health of American democracy.

If Democrats were inclined to address actual disinformation, they would cease suppressing speech from the opposing side and stop censoring viewpoints that undermine their narrative. Furthermore, Democrats need to call out the misinformation spread and affirmed by those on their side.