Russia Hacked or First Amendment Attacked?

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Have you been wondering why there has been so much “news” of late re: Russia’s alleged hacking into our recent election? At the very least, news about how Russia has allegedly been influencing the election via disinformation, which reminds many of the old Soviet propaganda machinery, the mention of which still triggers paranoia and a call for immediate retaliatory action?

I mean, when the other news, you know, the kind with facts that revealed the truth about the failed re-count, for example, that the “hackers” were more like people who voted two or three times than some Russian tekkie in Babushka’s basement, that faulty voting machines switched votes electronically, that dead people voted, that Trump picked up even more votes in the recount while Clinton lost some?

Does this resurgence of paranoia over Russia, like in the old days of the Cold War, make you as suspicious as it makes me?

Consider the following for one possible explanation.

WHILE WE WERE HOLIDAYING…

Late last Friday, while Americans were distracted with the holidays, quietly, with very little fanfare, our president signed away our First Amendment Rights to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press.

Think this is hyperbole?

Consider.

By signing into law, on Dec. 23rd, 2016, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Barack Hussein Obama for all intents and purposes negated our First Amendment Freedoms because tucked into the provision of this otherwise anticipated and protective Act, is the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 (H.R,5181).”

To underscore the great significance of Obama’s move–and help get the word out about what exactly worries true–and thoughtful–researchers, here are excerpts from 5181 of particular concern:

From Section 2. Sense of Congress, i.e. the rationale.

It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) foreign governments, including the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, use disinformation and other propaganda tools to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and key allies and partners;

(2) the Russian Federation, in particular, has conducted sophisticated and large-scale disinformation campaigns that have sought to have a destabilizing effect on United States allies and interests;

(3) in the last decade disinformation has increasingly become a key feature of the Government of the Russian Federation’s pursuit of political, economic, and military objectives in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Balkans, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe;

(4) the challenge of countering disinformation extends beyond effective strategic communications and public diplomacy, requiring a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power;

(5) the United States Government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and

(6) an important element of this strategy should be to protect and promote a free, healthy, and independent press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation.

 From the sense of this writer:

  • The term “disinformation” is inserted six times, the term “propaganda,” twice…in very close proximity to “Russia” and “Russian Federation”
  • The rules of rhetoric include the use of repetition to better persuade people.
  • Of course, Russia is not necessarily a “good guy” in world affairs, thus the suggestion Putin is the one who is really behind the disinformation and propaganda easily trends believable…EVEN THOUGH THE DISINFORMATION CITED IN THIS BILL COULD EASILY REFER TO AMERICAN NEWS OUTLETS…

HOWEVER, of MOST concern in that little summary of Congress’ “sense,” is this:

(4) the challenge of countering disinformation extends beyond effective strategic communications and public diplomacy, requiring a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power;

“Whole-of-government”?*

The term sounds like it means that all governmental agencies across the board will be in on it. And, actually, that is what it means: a network of government news-minders will be on the lookout for not only Russian propagandists but also, it can be argued, disinformation-ers down the street, next door, maybe YOU, too, if you are deemed to go against the grain of what the government decides is “real news.”

*But to be clear, here’s the official definition of whole-of-government:

“An approach that integrates the collaborative efforts of the departments and agencies of a government to achieve unity of effort toward a shared goal. Also known as interagency approach. The terms unity of effort and unity of purpose are sometimes used to describe cooperation among all actors, government and otherwise.” Tags: W

So, not only will the government talk-the-talk about regulating the media, it will walk-the-walk in every nook and cranny of communication via any and every agency, bureau, and department in any way applicable to controlling “disinformation.”

If THAT doesn’t scare the dickens out of American citizens with regard to the end of First Amendment rights, I don’t know what can.

BUT, critics will cite the majority of the of the Bill as directed at misinformation/propaganda from Russia (and other foreign players). And most of it is.

HOWEVER, little phrases like the following leave Grand Canyon rhetorical gaps wherein one might easily insert the suggestion that the misinformation is coming from sources right here in the good old U S of A:

  • “Collecting, integrating, and analyzing relevant information, including intelligence reporting, data, analysis, and analytics from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think-tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations” (point 2, Section 3), and
  • ” Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes” (point 6).

It wouldn’t take some college educated slick tongue with a brain-load of rhetorical razamataz much time at all to make world-salad out of those two points in order to spin them around to include United States citizens in the groups cited there, and in the “gaps…relevant to the Center’s missions,” etc.

But, of course, the big question is: Who will be determining what disinformation is? Who will be the arbiter of “real” and “fake” news? It is no stretch of logic to assume that it will be someone who is hired to follow the party line (whichever party may be in power at any given time) amid all the hopefuls in the multiple agencies, departments, and branches of the “whole” government involved.

But it doesn’t really matter who, as long as they have been properly vetted as one with the hive-mind of D.C. group-think.

Oh.

And other critics are citing the following as evidence that the concerns of skeptics are unfounded: “The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall not compromise the journalistic freedom or integrity of relevant media organizations” (section 3, c.E).

But, consider the many and varied and creative and deceptive and obfuscatory ways the word “relevant” can be spun in the mouth of a rhetorical mastermind, at least, a good teleprompter reader…

Some are calling this the unveiling of the Ministry of Truth right here in what used to be the “land of the free,” and where it is going to take a whole lot of “the brave” in the homeland to counter this stealth attack on the First Amendment.

And, unfortunately, it will be difficult because we are still as a nation collectively afraid of the Big Bad (Russian) Bear, thus it will be an easy sell to many Americans who take their news from mainstream memes and seven second sound bytes. Indeed, the minds of many have already been prepped to accept the urgent “need” for such a media-restrictive law, having been softened prior due to the “Russia Hacked the Election” headlines…looping as they have been… for weeks already…

I think we’ve been hacked, alright. But not by Russia.

By those who want complete control, “selling” the need for negating our Constitutional rights a crisis at a time, real or fake.

As never before, we need to stay awake, skeptical, and diligent.

 

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