The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” that said,
The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.
These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence.
Does DHS really think it takes “foreign or domestic threat actors” to “undermine public trust in government”? They’re assuming, of course, that all of us should trust “government institutions.”
And, they seem not to take into consideration that individuals and agencies in the government have, over the years, done a fine job of sowing discord and eroding trust all on their own.
As for mis-, dis- and mal-information, within the DHS is an agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security (CISA), which has a Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation team, “charged with building national resilience to mis-, dis-, and malinformation and foreign influence activities.”
The MDM team defines the three different types of “false or misleading narratives” this way:
- Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
- Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
- Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.
CISA’s MDM team says, “Foreign and domestic threat actors use MDM campaigns to cause chaos, confusion, and division. These malign actors are seeking to interfere with and undermine our democratic institutions and national cohesiveness.”
The bulletin listed three factors that have “increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment”:
(1) the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions;
(2) continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and
(3) calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.
You may notice that one of these things is not like the others. Numbers two and three have to do with actual calls for attacks and violence, while the first factor has to do with words – “false or misleading narratives” – and with “undermining public trust in U.S. government institutions.”
And what are the main threats CISA and the MDM team point to? DHS lists two topics where there have been “false or misleading narratives”: COVID-19 and “unsubstantiated widespread election fraud.”
Yes, we want DHS to go after real foreign and American terrorists, but labeling those who disagree with government narratives on elections and the coronavirus “domestic threat actors” is surely a bridge too far.
Of course there are people who have spread untruthful rumors about COVID or who try to capitalize on the unwary with coronavirus scams, such as pretending to be from the government, offering COVID-19 relief, and asking for your Social Security and bank account numbers (hint: don’t give it to them).
But then there are those like Alex Berenson, the journalist and author of Pandemia: How Coronavirus Hysteria Took Over Our Government, Rights, and Lives. Berenson has researched the efficacy and necessity of masks, lockdowns and school closures; written about the low risk of the virus for healthy young people; and questioned the effectiveness and side effects of mRNA vaccines.
Is he producing mis-, dis- or malinformation? After all, he was banned from Twitter for his reporting. Is he subverting trust in the government?
Berenson had this to say about the DHS’ threat advisory:
I have no doubt whatsoever that I fit as a terrorist threat under these guidelines.
So does Joe Rogan. And Tucker Carlson. After all, we’ve “undermine[d] public trust in government institutions” about Covid and the mRNA shots (I try not to call them vaccines anymore).
This bulletin marks an extraordinary escalation of the war on speech and the First Amendment.
As for questioning election integrity, we doubt that DHS is targeting those in media and politics who promoted the deceptive narrative – for years – that “Russian Collusion” was the reason for former President Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. Will DHS go after Rachel Maddow, CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post for their part in promoting this “false or misleading narrative” that undermined “public trust” in the presidency and the 2016 election?
It’s more likely they are targeting people like Hans Von Spakovsky, from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and the co-author of Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote. Heritage just published an “Election Integrity Scorecard,” which Von Spakovsky worked on, and which ranks the security – or vulnerability – of election practices in each state.
The scorecard lists best practices for elections, like voter identification, rules governing absentee ballots, maintaining an accurate voter registration list, citizenship verification, and restriction of automatic registration. Are Heritage and Von Spakovsky “domestic threat actors” for questioning states with poor election practices?
Radical activists, on the other hand, really are promoting deceptive narratives that threaten our children, families and churches in real ways. It’s doubtful that DHS is thinking about any of these narratives, which include:
- Government-mandated Covid lockdowns worked.
- Men can be pregnant (so we must have pregnant man emojis!).
- Boys can be made into girls – and vice versa.
- That’s not a person in a woman’s womb, it’s a lump of tissue.
- More government spending will solve __________ (pick an issue).
There’s more we could list – or that you can think of as well, we’re sure.
But the point for Christians and conservatives is this: We don’t want DHS or CISA or the MDM team picking and choosing which narratives are true and which are false. We want the freedom to argue our points in the public square – without government interference.
In his article about this alert from DHS, Berenson warns that it takes a huge step from previous bulletins that did not equate speech with terrorist activity. He warns that the government has already leaned on social media companies to clamp down on “Covid vaccine skeptics,” less than 24 hours before Twitter shut down his account.
He gives a dire warning, “Now, though, the government appears to want to target my First Amendment rights directly.”
Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
DHS has just issued an alarming bulletin demonstrating the truth of his warning.
Photo from Shutterstock.