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Again with the “disinformation tsars” – as if the attempt in the US to establish such a thing in the shape of the failed Disinformation Governance Board has taught them nothing, now politicians in the UK want to try their hand at it.
Leading the charge is Scottish MP Owen Thompson, who is on the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). And truthfully, where better to try to set up a “Ministry of Truth” than in the UK. The idea, after all, originated there – albeit in a work of fiction.
Some will say that claims the disinformation allegedly disseminated by the country’s own MPS is as big a threat to national security as Russia is also a work of fiction – but others, particularly in the obliging media, will no doubt dutifully agree.
The arguments in favor of creating a “truth tsar” (British English for “disinformation tsar”) has all the expected ingredients: even more forceful crackdowns on social platforms, and keeping MPs in line by exposing them to “fact-checking” and when need be, meting out punishment, but also forcing them to correct their statements that the “tsar” decides are not true.
Thompson’s hawkish attitude includes claiming that the infamous Online Safety Bill is not enough to combat disinformation – but he doesn’t think that this kind of policy is an “existential” threat to democracy. No, it’s “disinformation,” the MP is convinced.
Thompson blames Donald Trump and Boris Johnson for contributing to political lies supposedly only now gaining a prominent place in democracies, and promises that his “tsar’s” hammer would be non-partisan.
This apparent “doom superspreader” (to borrow from the alarmist vernacular) believes that “things will run riot” unless there is enforcement. And he seems to have thought the whole thing through, at least on the superficial level, i.e., how to best present it to the public.
Hence Thompson’s alternatives to the name “truth tsar” – “independent fact-checker” (ostensibly implying there are indeed “dependent” ones); another proposal is the positively Orwellian “regulator of fact.”
Thompson’s way of explaining the idea is a fascinating example of mental gymnastics: “Any truth tsar would need government funding – but politicians should have absolutely no power over it,” he said.
And that’s exactly how these things work. /s