Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been accused of proposing a ‘Ministry of Truth’ following her suggestion that a government commission needs to ‘reign in’ the press in order to stop ‘misinformation.’
The New York Democrat made the remarks in an Instagram livestream on Tuesday, saying her colleagues in Congress were discussing ‘how we rein in our media environment so that you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.’
The comment drew furious backlash from free speech advocates and conservative critics, who accused the self-avowed Democratic Socialist of hatching a dystopian plan to establish government control over news outlets and journalists.
‘Let’s unpack this proposal, she wants to basically establish a Ministry of Truth — we’ve all read ‘1984’ and, you know — to determine what is truth and what is not. So who sits on this committee exactly?’ said Joe Concha, a media columnist for The Hill, in an interview with Fox News.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been accused of proposing a ‘Ministry of Truth’ following her suggestion that a government commission needs to ‘reign in’ the press
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments came towards the end of an hour-long video address to more than 100,000 of her followers.
She was responding to a question from a follower about whether Democrats are planning a ‘federal truth and reconciliation or media literacy initiatives to help with healing’ as their party takes control of the White House and Congress.
‘I can say, there is absolutely a commission being discussed but it seems to be more investigatory, in style rather than truth and reconciliation, so I think that’s an interesting concept for us to explore,’ she replied.
‘And I do think that several members of Congress, in some of my discussions, have brought up media literacy because that is a part of what happened here and we’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation,’ Ocasio-Cortez said.
The American press is specifically protected from government intervention or control by the U.S. Constitution, and critics including Concha quickly raised questions about how government ‘fact checkers’ could politicize the role.
‘How does Mrs. Ocasio-Cortez define truth exactly? She was asked in a [60 Minutes] interview, this was a couple of years ago after she was fact-checked on some very dubious claims, about those particular claims and she said, ‘People want to really blow up one figure here, or a word there, I would argue they are missing the forest for the trees, I think there is a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, semantically correct than being morally right,’’ Concha said.
‘Oh, so it’s not about being factually correct, it’s what she sees as being right and wrong from a moral perspective,’ Concha continued.
Joe Concha (right), a media columnist for The Hill, said ‘she wants to basically establish a Ministry of Truth… to determine what is truth and what is not’
‘Let’s say I want to argue against defunding the police or adding two states, which therefore would add four Democratic Senators, does that make me morally wrong and therefore do I have to testify before this committee? Am I pulled off the air?’ Concha asked.
‘That’s the thing when you have a Democratically controlled Washington — Congress, Senate and White House – this sort of thing in terms of government regulating speech should stay in China, or stay in North Korea or, I don’t know, 1984,’ he continued.
Several critics compared the proposal to Orwell’s novel 1984
David Harsanyi, a columnist for the New York Post, also compared the proposal to the plot of 1984, George Orwell’s famous novel about a totalitarian socialist government that controls all news and entertainment through its Ministry of Truth.
‘It’s just creepy, not to mention wholly un-American, for an elected official to advocate the state as adjudicator of veracity of our political speech,’ Harsanyi wrote in a column on Wednesday.
‘Perhaps in the political systems favored by AOC citizens are impelled to look to government for ultimate truth, but that’s not the case in the United States. At least, not yet,’ he added.
‘Here, the Constitution “reins in” Congress from intruding on the speech of citizens, journalists, or any private institutions, not the other way around,’ he wrote.
Harsanyi explained that the type of ‘truth and reconciliation committee’ that Ocasio-Cortez’s follower mentioned was most famously used in South Africa after the fall of apartheid.
‘The insinuation by those who use this phrase is that 74 million Americans who voted for the Republican presidential candidate are racist thugs in need for similar programs,’ he wrote. ‘It’s a disgusting smear, and speaks to the dangerous and illiberal inclination of progressives.’
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks with colleagues on the floor of the House Chamber during the first session of the 117th Congress on January 3
Writing for the libertarian magazine Reason, Robby Soave also criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks.
‘It’s true that both traditional media and social media sometimes spread “disinformation and misinformation.” But the federal government has no formal role to play in suppressing its spread,’ wrote Soave.
‘If the government could ban disinformation, after all, it could use that as a cover for banning speech that is not actually false but merely critical of the government, or of specific politicians,’ he continued.
‘Recall that Democrats swiftly denounced The New York Post’s report on Hunter Biden’s foreign connections as “disinformation,” even though many underlying aspects of the story have since been confirmed,’ wrote Soave.
Soave also pointed out that President Donald Trump had also made threats against the free press for covering his administration negatively, remarks that drew backlash from the media.
‘It’s critical that the law not be changed; the media must be free to vigorously criticize the president, Congress, or any other aspect of the government, even if the reporting is sometimes wrong or off-base,’ he commented.
Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce also blasted Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion of a government commission to control the press.
‘It also exposes, doesn’t it, the idea of the power that they think they have. That this is now what their job is. Their job, instead of this kind of garbage, is to try and convince Democrat governors to distribute the d**n vaccine,’ said Bruce on Thursday on Fox & Friends.
‘They’re down at their little desks looking at what it is they can do to control the conversations in the United States,’ Bruce said. ‘Considering what we’ve just been through, and the imperative of transparency, we need more conversation.’
‘It also presumes… that the American people are babies, that they need to be controlled by government,’ added Bruce added.
Twitter users also had a go at Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, with one writing: ‘Implied in these calls to “reign in our media environment” is that the one making the calls has cornered the market on truth and everyone with whom she disagrees is “spewing disinformation and misinformation.” VERY authoritarian.’
‘How dare you, how dare you say a commission is needed to “reign in” free speech! Did you train directly under Maduro?’ another chimed in, referencing the socialist leader of Venezuela.
‘You aren’t going to silence us, not a chance! I suggest you go read the US Constitution because it’s clear you haven’t! You are indeed extreme and INSANE!’ the person continued.
‘It is worth taking into account that just months ago, AOC was talking about making extensive “lists.” This is not a “reign in,” this is a move towards a strict level of techno-censorship and technofascism, just by more government control, less billionaire control. Dangerous,’ another wrote.