We Don’t Need a Government ‘Reality Czar’
Does the federal government need a “reality czar” who would lead a group of high-minded officials in a crusade to “tackle disinformation and domestic extremism?”
There are some who think this is a very good idea, and the Biden administration should get cracking on it:
This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe harbor” exemptions that would allow platforms to share data about QAnon and other conspiracy theory communities with researchers and government agencies without running afoul of privacy laws.) And it could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.
Or if that doesn’t work, how about a round of social programs to get people out of the house?
One effective countermeasure, Mr. Clark suggested, could be a kind of “social stimulus” — a series of federal programs to encourage people to get off their screens and into community-based activities that could keep them engaged and occupied.
Encouraging offline gatherings would, admittedly, be easier after the pandemic. But there are interventions that seem to work on a smaller scale, too — like a series of “de-escalation” ads that Moonshot CVE ran on Google and Twitter, targeting high-risk potential violent extremists with empathetic messages about mental health and mindfulness.
“Mindfulness” isn’t going to keep anyone from gravitating toward conspiracies, or destructive behavior.
And putting the government in charge of truth? As Matt Welch writes, that’s asking an awful lot of an already reality-challenged group:
Politicians (such as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris) are incentivized to embellish their credentials, fictionalize their biographies, and misrepresent their records. Government agencies, given their druthers, would rather operate like the CIA—funding essentially guaranteed, details not available on request. As our resident Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filer C.J. Ciaramella frequently reminds us, it’s the norm for bureaucrats to “flout the spirit and, quite often, the letter of federal record law.” And the last time Joe Biden was in the White House, his boss left “a blueprint on how to suppress information and get away with it.”
Welch suggests that rather than truth commissions, reality czars, and midnight basketball tournaments, the chattering classes should mind their own knitting:
My recommendation to journalists and their cousins in government and academia will be neither popular nor satisfying, but here it is: Do your own jobs better. That’s it, that’s the memo. If government was efficient and helpful, if journalism was compelling and truthful, if the academe was relevant and unpredictable, their lectures would have far more resonance, and audience.
Image Credit: By Cellofellow (Gadsden_flag.svg) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons