To the editor:
How eerily timely was the insightful column last week by Rev. Ian Markham, dean of Virginia Theological Seminary, titled “Conspiracy theories abound?” At the very moment in which he so wisely reminds us that the classic liberal answer to dangerous popular theories is freedom of speech, the United States government announces the creation of a “Disinformation Board” to combat whatever it deems to be erroneous speech.
If we could staff the board with angels who know the truth, the concept might work, but as our founders so painfully understood, we simply cannot divine such angels, should they even exist among us. So, Markham advises, we must “permit a culture where the public square is full of many voices all seeking the truth. In an environment where news is not controlled by government, then truth will come out.” Indeed, history – including our own – is full of examples of government speech, usually well-intentioned, which are ultimately proven to be flatout wrong and even dangerous: Germans and Japanese must be incarcerated during World War II; “three generations of ‘imbeciles’” merit sterilization; races can be separated by law yet equal.
What “wrong” ideas that such a board in its then-constituted form might ban as disinformation will become the truth or merely sanctioned information by a succeeding board of a different political party? Indeed, those who refuse to learn from history, so often repeat its mistakes. Our very first Bill of Rights enjoins the government from abridging freedom of speech because “Here we are not afraid to tolerate any error, so reason is left free to combat it.”
Every true liberal must see the Disinformation Board for the dangerous and unconstitutional evil it can quickly become, howsoever well-intentioned some of its supporters might be.
-Lenny Marsico, Alexandria