Yesterday, patriotic and heroic Sally Yates heroically and patriotically testified on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, which she did with patriotism and heroism. She also rendered a great service for MSNBC, CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media by helping to get the Russiawank story back into the headlines.
In all seriousness, any honest observer who watched the hearing would have to agree that Yates did a good job on delivering her testimony. I was annoyed and impressed with how well she defended her refusal to defend the Travel Ban, which ultimately brought about her termination from the DOJ, against strong attacks from Grassley, Kennedy, and Cruz. Only an idiot would challenge her on that topic again, publicly.
As for the substance of her patriotic and heroic testimony, there isn’t anything there that we didn’t already know. More importantly, it’s still obvious that the evidence of any collusion between Trump and his campaign and Russia in “hacking the election” is still non-existent. I don’t have any commentary on that nor do I have anything new to offer since the last time I bothered discussing #Russiagate.
Instead, there was one particular exchange that really got my attention:
GRASSELY: Do you two believe that the government’s response, so far, has been enough to deter future attacks of this kind? And if not, what else would you think we should be doing?
Miss Yates, would you start out, please?
YATES: I think they’re coming back, and we have to do a whole lot more, both to harden our election systems, our state election systems, to ensure that folks out there know when they’re looking at news feeds, that it may not be real news that they’re reading.
I think that we have to do more to deter the Russians, and it wouldn’t hurt to prosecute a few folks, but I don’t think we should kid ourselves, that we’ll be able to prosecute our way out of this problem.
I want to say that there is absolutely no solution that Yates proposed in those two bolded parts of the statement that I’d be comfortable with, even though her testimony was totally patriotic and heroic and sure to win her a speaking opportunity at the 2020 DNC Convention.
First, how exactly do the federal and various state governments work to ensure, much less even judge, what is real or fake news? I can’t really figure out what she’s proposing here. Maybe some sort of state media outlet that functions as a version of Snopes? Is any serious person willing to entertain that idea?
It needs to be said that even if you favor something like this, it would unquestionably be subject to abuse, depending on who happens to be in in charge of said state media “fact checking” at the time. Additionally, its own credibility would become a partisan issue at every turn.
Be mindful that Trump bluntly called CNN “Fake News”, right to one of its reporter’s faces. CNN hasn’t done itself any favors with its slanted coverage. What would there be to stop the Trump White House from debunking stories posted by CNN or another news outlet and forcing social media sites to remove those stories it considered to be damaging? This concept isn’t well-thought out, if that’s what Yates was suggesting.
The second part that bothers me is the implication that purveyors of Fake News who are possibly colluding with foreign interests should be investigated and maybe prosecuted. This is not only perfectly anti-First Amendment on its face, but is even more ripe for abuse than the idea that the government should be evaluating the trustworthiness of crap your uncle posts on Facebook. It would absolutely have a chilling effect on free speech and is therefore un-American.
First off, even if you’re delighted by the fact that Breitbart and Infowars are being investigated for foreign collusion to spread fake news, you should probably be asking yourself whether or not Trump could similarly direct his Attorney General to investigate Buzzfeed over it publishing the discredited Russian dossier. Hey, it was fake and it was dependent on intelligence and misinformation gathered from foreign agencies, wasn’t it? Why should that be exempt? You want Trump to have that power and justification? Good luck.
Second, I’d like to know what will happen if I start linking to articles from foreign news sources in 2020. Am I going to become the subject of a FISA warrant simply because I might post about a story in Russia Today that later gets debunked during the next presidential election? I don’t know, but you can bet your sweet ass that I’m going to test it. Just because.
The bottom line is that the government regulating and even criminalizing free speech in the name of what it wants you to consider “truth” is exceedingly dangerous. Worse, it is an attempt to solve a problem that’s not even a problem. It’s a nuisance, sure, but it didn’t affect the outcome of the 2016 election. I’m not going to favor any sweeping and intrusive solutions to imaginary crises, sorry.
We should avoid harming our own freedom to talk about bullshit in the name of protecting our bullshit-filled elections from overblown threats. That would be a far worse outcome than anything Putin and all of his bots could ever inflict on us.
Let’s just call it what it is. Targeting of “alt-media” outlets by Democrats is nothing more than attempt to restore the mainstream media’s dominance in shaping public opinions. They’re fine with this as long as that media is friendly to them and providing what they consider truth to be.
This has nothing to do with truth and integrity in elections and everything to do with how threatened Democrats feel by the mere existence of opposition media. Have no illusions about it. We’ve seen this before with their efforts to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine and prevent people from airing documentaries that are critical of their presidential candidates.
I may not believe what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to tweet it.