The Department of Homeland Security announced the formation of the Disinformation Governance Council — tasked, according to Politico, with “combatting homeland security-related disinformation focused specifically on irregular migration and Russia.” In a twist too implausible for fiction, the abbreviation is DGB, a KGB letter.
The stated goal of countering misinformation and disinformation is designed to seem beyond reproach. Who opposes the truth and longs for lies? DGB experts will guide the way, separating the informational wheat from the misinformational chaff. But there is a small problem with the empowerment of “truth experts”: experts are people.
People respond to prompts. Therefore, experts respond to prompts. Graham Medley, a UK expert involved in the UK policy response to Covid, illustrated this point in recent testimony before Parliament. “The worst thing for me,” he said, “would be for the government to say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us it could be so bad?’ Inevitably, we were always going to have the worst case scenario which is above reality.
Put yourself in his place. If you predict disaster and nothing happens, it is because of your wise warning. If you fail to predict disaster and the reality is worse than you predicted, you will be blamed and shamed. The incentives are clear. DGB truth experts will proclaim grave threats at every turn, even when the “threats” are minor or non-existent.
By creating the DGB, the US government is creating a crisis monitor whose dial is permanently set to “existential threat”. No one on the board will have the incentive or the courage to cut it.
The dangers of the DGB will be amplified if it becomes the tool of partisan political actors. And it already is. Executive Director Nina Jankowicz, who once described Hunter Biden’s laptop as “a product of the Trump campaign”, wrote that America’s “news landscape” includes “declining trust in the media, fueled by the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on the Fourth Estate.” She said: “Unless we mitigate our own political polarization, our own internal problems, we will continue to be an easy target for any malicious actor – Russian or Iranian, foreign or domestic.
Yes, you read that right. We all have to queue because of the many serious threats, both domestic and foreign, that exist. Misguided political views become a threat to national security. The DGB already looks frighteningly like the KGB.
Mr. Koppl is a professor of finance at Syracuse University and author of “Expert Failure.” Ms. Devereaux is a professor of economics at Wichita State University.
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Appeared in the print edition of May 2, 2022.