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Friday, September 30, 2022

The End of Debate

In New York City, world leaders dodged traffic, deranged panhandlers and the city’s unique fall funk, to lecture the planet about their views at the United Nations General Assembly.

Their theme was the threat that “misinformation” or “disinformation” poses to their power.

“Hate speech, misinformation and abuse — targeted especially at women and vulnerable groups — are proliferating,” UN Secretary-General Guterres claimed.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov blamed his country’s PR problems on, “disinformation, crude staging, and provocations”. “Today I have listened to further instalments of Russia’s catalogues of distortions, dishonesty, and disinformation,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly retorted.

Catherine Colonna, minister for Europe, countered that, “Where Russia employs disinformation and propaganda, justice must be grounded in facts.”

The one thing the Russians and Europeans can agree on is that the whole matter of the war can be reduced to “disinformation”: bad speech that we would all be better off without. The only issue, as Lenin put it, is “Kto Kovo” or “Who, Whom”. Who gets to censor whose speech?

No regime, no matter how debased, hesitated to rant about “disinformation” at the UN.

Islamist tyrant Muhammadu Buhari argued that, “Nigeria has had many unsavoury experiences with hate speech and divisive disinformation” and urged “efforts to protect communities from the scourge of disinformation and misinformation.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose destructive Christchurch Call to Action had already been used to eliminate political dissent and suppress speech in a variety of countries, including the United States, had her own disinformation take.

“As leaders, we are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” she argued, before tossing away the highly valued values of free speech.

“After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble? How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?”

How indeed? If only it were possible for us to use free speech to debate these ideas. But whether it’s Europe or Russia, Nigeria or New Zealand, world leaders seem united in turning their backs on the very notion of debate. The only difference is that the ex-liberal leaders like Ardern pay some sort of lip service to free speech before taking it out back and shooting it.

“If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition our democracy doesn’t work,” Obama complained a few years ago. “I can have an argument with you about what to do about climate change,” he explained his limitations. “I don’t know what to say if you simply say, ‘This is a hoax that the liberals have cooked up, and the scientists are cooking the books.’”

Debate is hard. Especially to leftists like Obama or Ardern who have lost the ability to recognize that anyone can fundamentally, rather than procedurally, disagree with them in good faith.

Disinformation rapidly became a catch-all term for delegitimizing disagreement on moral grounds using conspiracist fig leaves to depict dissent as an existential threat. To the political establishment, there are no legitimate grounds for disagreeing with it on any issue.

The establishment designates experts to establish a manufactured consensus, denounces those who disagree as pawns of some larger conspiracy whose ideas endanger us all. When everything is either a public health crisis (COVID-19, racism, transgender mutilation) or a threat to the survival of the human race (war, global warming) the threat is too serious for democratic norms. The only thing to be done is to expose the conspiracy and silence its perpetrators.

An AP story quotes a Stanford University academic who claims to track ‘fossil fuel disinformation’. “We are living within an extended multi-decade campaign executed by the fossil fuel industry,” he insists. “The debate was manufactured by the fossil fuel industry in the 1990s.”

The rhetoric, “they faked the moon landing”, “they killed JFK”, and “they invented doubt about our pet cause” is familiar from a thousand conspiracy theorists, but the difference is that it’s a conspiracy endorsed by the establishment to end the debate. If the opposition is really part of a conspiracy, then there’s no point in debating them, is there? Or even allowing them to be heard.

Disinformation charges rapidly move from delegitimization to criminalization. World leaders like Ardern insist that we could solve problems if people didn’t insist on disagreeing with us. Obama contends that a society can’t function if we can’t all agree on what’s true. Someone has to decide that. And who better than the leaders who gather at world conferences?

As Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock put it at the G7, “It is disinformation that prevents an open debate. It discredits. It suffocates those who hold a different view. Disinformation is an attack on the very values of our liberal democracies: our openness, our transparency, our ability to debate and to argue fairly and freely.”

The only way to protect free speech is through censorship. Censorship becomes freedom. And free speech is the ultimate censorship. Only by destroying free speech can we save it.

Disinformation is the ultimate ad hominem argument. It’s become the first resort of echo chamber establishments that have lost the ability to debate because they don’t understand how anyone can or should be allowed to think differently than they do. The obsession with fighting disinformation just takes the safe space university model nationally and internationally.

And in the perfect example of horseshoe theory, it brings together totalitarians from across the world who don’t agree on anything except that different opinions are a threat to their regimes.

The rejection of debate is the ultimate in illiberalism. And yet the war on disinformation is being championed by western leftist governments that warn about illiberalism from their opponents.

Governments and individuals can and do lie, they can argue in bad faith, spread propaganda, and demonize the other side. That is what debate looks like. Speech isn’t just good speech, it’s all speech. That includes the exchange between two British 18th century notables, “You must either die of the pox, or on the gallows” to be met with, “That depends upon whether I embrace your Lordship’s mistress, or your principles.”

If the only legitimate kind of free speech is truthful, good or fair, that’s just censorship with lipstick. Someone will have to decide what kind of speech needs to be censored and the invented class of experts put forward by leftists to fight disinformation will ensure that their speech will be protected and those of their political opponents will be suppressed.

Speech, like elections, is either free or it’s not. The closing of political systems encompasses general principles and specific applications like the Bill of Rights. An international censorship coalition is growing. Its purpose is to ensure that the only debate to be allowed anymore will consist of world leaders reading from prepared speeches at the UN General Assembly before returning home to oversee countries where free speech and all freedoms have been eliminated.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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Thank you for reading.


  1. This meeting of the minds seems to the purpose of collaboration in the way of criminals getting their story straight before the cops arrive. Agreement must come before broadcasting to the world. Also, a planning for the most plausible, effective, expedient means to stamp their brand on the kind of speech they playfully seek to discredit and stigmatize.

    Queer ain't it; using pseudo-logic to cast aspersions on authentic speech. It is to say, We decide what speech is permitted. We must limit free speech in order to save it.

    There is the epitome of elitism; We decide for you, for we know better than you. Of course they are prepared with expert studies, the better to magnify a supposed authority, to persuade the masses of the veracity of their tyrannical dictate, to foster acceptance by the means of propaganda: We restrict even your speech because it is best for you. We cage you because we care.

    [The term, propaganda, carries a strong negative connotation. Therefore, it is now known as disinformation.]

    1. it's the open conspiracy and it's taking place right on stage in front of our eyes

  2. Anonymous30/9/22

    Leftist culture has three mighty weapons: "Fact
    Checkers", "Think Tanks", and Ivy League
    Graduates Steeped in Sophistry. These emit
    Condemnatory, High Sounding, Certainty Dripping
    Denunciation of Heresy. With footnotes aplenty.

    Woe to the generous parents who send precocious
    Bert or Meg to Reed, Carleton, Harvard. They've
    fed Moloch and gotten back even worse; destined
    for Snopes, Brookings, the Swamp, Academia.

    Evil most certainly does exist.


    1. all of these amount to an ideological system manufacturing experts who then manufacture experts and demand that everyone listen to them

      this is done under different guises but amounts to the same thing

  3. The way each speaker invoked the word disinformation is reminiscent of a National Press Club luncheon circa 1988=1992. It was broadcast on NPR. That day the keyword repeated was not disinformation. It was draconian. Each speaker, presumably members of the press and its academy spoke of the need for the American public to experience draconian rule.

    I wish I could recall the names of the various speakers, but who would be surprised to learn that each one has risen to prominence since then.

    It would be useful to unearth the names of those speakers. One suspects every last one of them still rants (or would if they haven't die off yet) against right wing populism that has been subsequent to implementation of their beloved draconianism.

    I certainly wish I had access to the recording of that luncheon so those rascals could be flushed out into the open where we could quiz them on how much they love the consequences.

    1. it's a mass propaganda complete with keywords and a herd effect

      lately it's "authoritarian" and "disinformation", but it's a basic advertising principle, get everyone to repeat a key word, a key phrase and a set of basic ideas and you set the tone for the national conversation

      e.g. "income inequality", "homelessness", "climate change"

    2. Anonymous2/10/22

      Ha, ha; this is so much fun! "Gravitas",
      "Deplorable", "Islamophobe", "How Dare You!",
      "All in This Together", "I Feel Your Pain".


    3. Anonymous2/10/22

      The truth has to come from somewhere for all to gage it and act accordingly. The problem is there are so many lies, and people will not agree on what is the sole truth.
      today most people fight (literally) for the lie they believe it. Is that not the craziest thing you ever heard? Ignorance is not bliss. What happens then? People die for the lack of knowledge; they fear whom they should not fear. They are unwilling to check out the facts for themselves, whatever sounds right that we will do. But... they don't realize the lies they were fed lead to destruction on many fronts. It is a war we are in. Try to change a person's ridiculous beliefs-you can't! It is like a giant cult and there are many guru's. Now we get to the crux of the problem, it is a religious war too, a battle for your soul. I personally find true peace reading the Bible.? Why? Because it came from God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He cannot lie!

  4. Anonymous2/10/22

    I'm trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel for our present society. Perhaps my eyes are old and tired, but I'm just not seeing it.

    1. Anonymous9/10/22

      No, there's no light at the end of this tunnel.



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