Everywhere else but Washington, this would qualify as high irony. In the Beltway, however, it only qualifies as another pathetic attack on free speech. Bill Clinton attacked free speech on the Internet yesterday, telling CNBC that it would be “legitimate” for the government to create an agency to discredit political arguments and quash Internet rumors:
Bill Clinton doesn’t like all the misinformation and rumors floating on the Internet. And he thinks the United Nations or the U.S. government should create an agency to do something about it.
“It would be a legitimate thing to do,” Clinton said in an interview airing Friday on CNBC.
The agency, Clinton said, would “have to be totally transparent about where the money came from” and would have to be “independent” because “if it’s a government agency in a traditional sense, it would have no credibility whatever, particularly with a lot of the people who are most active on the internet.”
Hey, we could use existing models for a Ministry of Truth, too — kind of like NPR, the BBC in the UK, or other already-existing forms of government-controlled media:
“That is, it would be like, I don’t know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors” he said. “And also, they would also have to have citations so that they could be checked in case they made a mistake. Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it’s a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money.”
I could totally see this, too. Why, let’s say a salacious rumor involving a high-ranking government official started swirling on the Intertubes. The Ministry of Truth could then issue a televised statement, with an angry man scolding the American public by wagging his finger at us and telling us that the rumor was absolutely not true. You know, kind of like this:
We have free speech primarily to hold government accountable, not the Internet. The best remedy for bad speech is more speech, not government agencies churning out propaganda to protect the entrenched power elite. And even if this was a good idea, which it most certainly is not, Bill Clinton might just be the worst possible living spokesman for it.