Tearing into homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a heated exchange at a Senate hearing, US Senator Rand Paul has said that Washington has no right to tell its citizens what the truth is.
The Kentucky senator interrogated Mayorkas over the creation of the agency's “disinformation governance board”, supposedly aiming to help social media platforms filter out ‘fake news’, listing examples of where Washington has lied to its own people and the rest of the world.
“Due to its long track record of disinformation, the US government has no right to tell the American people what the truth is,” said Paul, the son of former three-time presidential candidate, Ron Paul.
He was referring to a controversial report that relied on information from unknown sources to allege collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.
In a high-intensity verbal spat, Paul asked Mayorkas whether the anti-Trump dossier included "Russian disinformation." Mayorkas refused to give a clear answer, leading to a heated exchange over the scope of the controversial US government office.
"Here's my question: The FBI concludes that the Steele dossier was full of Russian disinformation. CNN propagated this disinformation gladly for years and years," Paul said in an exasperated tone.
"The difference, I guess, between your opinion and our opinion is that as despicable as it is that CNN propagated this disinformation, I wouldn't shut them down, I wouldn't lecture them, I wouldn't put it on a government website that CNN is wrong for propagating disinformation."
The senator went on to suggest that the disagreement between the two sides on what is and what is not "disinformation" was a serious and unresolvable issue.
“Here’s the problem: we can’t even agree on what disinformation is,” Paul asserted. “You can’t even accept if it was disinformation that the Russians fed information to the Steele dossier.”
“If you can’t accept this, how are we going to come to an agreement on what misinformation is so that you can control it on social media?”
In a strongly-worded jibe, echoing what governments across the world have long claimed, the Kentucky senator said the United States was the “greatest propagator of disinformation”.
“Do you know who the greatest propagator of disinformation in the history of the world is? The US government!” Paul said.
To prove his claim, the Republican senator cited several examples of lies and misinformation spread by Washington over the past several decades.
Among them were the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that the US government had been misinforming the public about the scale of its military operations during the Vietnam War.
The documents were officially declassified in 2011, but the media had been reporting on them since 1971.
He also mentioned former US president George Bush and the weapons of mass destruction, dismissing American claims that Saddam Hussein’s regime had owned WMDs, which the Bush regime had used to justify its invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“I mean, think over all the debates and disputes we’ve had over the last 50 years in our country. We work them out by debating them. We don’t work them out by the government being the arbiter,” he said, addressing Mayorkas.
“I want you to have nothing to do with speech... You think the American people are so stupid they need you to tell them what the truth is?”
The creation of the Disinformation Governance Board was announced in late April.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it seeks to help counter disinformation, which is being spread by “foreign” states, and human traffickers operating on the US-Mexico border, among others.
The DHS gave assurances that it won’t be targeting US citizens, but it has already been dubbed ‘The Ministry of Truth’, after a fictional organization from George Orwell’s iconic dystopian novel ‘1984’.
Recastled CEO Kosha Gada on a Sky News show said what the Biden administration was doing was “very, very serious”.
“It is sort of an expansion of power, and censorship as a tool for the consolidation of power away from the people and freedom of speech,” he said.
US Senator Joni Ernst also compared the Biden administration’s new government censorship bureau to the “Ministry of Truth” in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
“A Disinformation Governance Board? Seriously? The Biden administration is quite literally taking a page out of George Orwell’s 1984,” said the Iowa senator.
“I won’t be answering to Biden’s new ‘Ministry of Truth’ for what I write, speak, or think, and no other American should either! This government censorship bureau needs to be shut down before it even gets off the ground.”
On Thursday, China described the United States as "the biggest lie maker" after Washington accused Beijing of helping Russia produce propaganda against Ukraine.
“The United States accused China of helping Russia spread false information, which itself is a typical form of false information,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference.
His remarks came after an article published on the US Department of State website accused China of spreading Russia's propaganda and fake news about Ukraine.
“The United States fabricated such an article, which once again proves that the United States deserves its name as the biggest lie maker,” Zhao said.
“From the so-called ‘genocide’ to the Wuhan virus, from the hacker attacks to the overseas military bases, the United States has done too much to smear China,” he added.