March 14, 2023
Dear Biden administration: Please treat us like China.
In 2020 I contacted Michael Posner (Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) with a simple question: Ten years on, do you have any proof that your China strategy worked?
See, back in 2010, Posner hatched a plan to make the Chinese “come around” on the issue of human rights. He’d stand before the Chinese delegation and confess all of America’s past and present human rights sins. His submissiveness, candor, and self-deprecation would melt the Chinese delegates’ hearts and compel them to confess their own sins and pledge to improve their human rights record.
That quite literally was Posner’s plan.
In theory, it was supposed to go something like this:
Posner: “America is a genocidally racist nation. We enslaved blacks, interned the Japanese, slaughtered Indians, and waged wars of colonialism and conquest. Even today, we abuse Mexican immigrants and our police kill dozens of innocent blacks daily. I’m shamed by our vile history and foul present. Okay—your turn.”
Chinese Delegate [wiping away tears]: “If America can admit its faults, China can too. You have humbled us. Yes, we’ve sinned as well. And perhaps, together, we can work to end human rights abuses and forge a wondrous rainbow-colored world in which all people live in peace and freedom! Hug me my friend; we are brothers now.”
That’s how it was supposed to go.
Here’s what actually happened: After Posner confessed America’s sins, the Chinese delegate said, “Yep, you suck, and that’s why we’re gonna double our efforts to supplant you economically and geopolitically. You’re terrible people, as you just admitted. The world deserves a better superpower.”
When I reached out to Posner to ask if he still supports his strategy in light of its failure, he refused to respond (as Posner’s now in academia, and thus bound by codes of professional conduct to be doctrinaire leftist, closed-minded, uncommunicative, and detached from reality, his lack of response was exactly what I expected).
Looking back at Posner’s plan—express humility instead of arrogance to sell a message to those who might be resistant—we see the fatal flaw: That scheme only works when applied to parties who are acting in good faith. It doesn’t work on ruthless competitors. A competitor is always looking for an edge, a weakness to exploit. Posner showed the Chinks a chink and they ran roughshod over him. Anyone (except Posner) would’ve seen that coming.
But consider this: What if Posner’s strategy by itself wasn’t bad? What if he was just aiming it at the wrong people?
I thought about that last week while watching former Biden “disinformation czarina” Nina Jankowicz on her “victim tour,” doing the media circuit whining about how her attempts to “fight misinformation” were stymied, and how she was, “like, literally murdered” by evil right-wingers and their mean tweets.
Jankowicz, you’ll recall, was chosen to head a new DHS agency aimed at policing foreign and domestic speech (the Disinformation Governance Board). Jankowicz celebrated her new post with tweets and TikToks about how right-wingers and their Russian puppeteers were spreading misinfo. Her tone was ceaselessly hostile and patronizing: She’s the arbiter of truth, and redneck nose-pickers are a danger to democracy because they’re too ignorant to discern facts from falsehoods. She even sang a grotesquely condescending Mary Poppins song about rightist misinformation.
That was her attitude: She’s the schoolmarm, we’re the toddlers.
Trouble was, “Wiczi” (her Twitter handle is @wiczipedia) had herself been a purveyor of misinformation on a grand scale. She denied the veracity of the Hunter Biden laptop story and championed the completely phony Steele Dossier. Hence why “wiczipedia” is such an appropriate handle; it reflects her arrogance (“I’m an encyclopedia of truth”) while simultaneously giving a nod to the single most biased and disinformation-spreading site on the ’net.
As Wiczi prepares to testify before Congress (she’s been subpoenaed by the House GOP as part of its investigation into the weaponization of the government), a thought occurred to me: What if, when the DHS launched the now-dissolved Disinformation Governance Board, Jankowicz had approached Americans with humility and self-deprecation instead of lectures?
What if she’d approached us as Posner approached the Chinese?
“Nobody’s immune from falling for misinformation. I’ve fallen for it too! I got the Hunter Biden story wrong, I got the Steele Dossier wrong, and this humbles me. Understanding my own fallibility, I know that I, too, can improve when it comes to sifting fact from fiction. Please join me as partners in this fight.”
Wouldn’t that have been better than launching the agency with an insulting parody song that treated the commoners like kindergartners?
Posner and Wiczi had things backwards. Posner’s humility approach works best with people who are not sworn enemies (like, the citizens of your own nation). Wiczi’s ironfisted approach works best with foreign foes who exploit weakness and respect strength.
So the question is, why were the approaches inverted? Because Biden and Jankowicz see you as the enemy. That’s the rot at the core of the “anti-misinformation” crusade. It’s the U.S. government vs. its own people. And while elitists like Wiczi see “the people” as dumber than dogs, they forget that even dogs can sense hostility. Dogs can tell who’s a friend and who’s a threat. So yes, even the unwashed, unwiped Neanderthals of red America sensed that Jankowicz was hostile. The hostility she’s wailing about in her “pity me” media tour is merely her own hostility to the masses, returned in spades.
If you mistreat a dog, that dog won’t like you. Jankowicz is free to see us as dogs, but she shouldn’t be shocked when she isn’t slobbered with affection.
The problem with the “battle against misinformation” is that it always ends up partisan, and therefore, always ends as a stalemate. Both political parties and both ends of the ideological spectrum finesse the truth, embrace unfounded claims, and dismiss uncomfortable facts. If a “debunker” or “misinformation fighter” is beholden to a party apparatus, a philanthropist with an agenda, or an editorial board wary of offending a readership base, then that “debunker” will invariably highlight the other side’s misinfo while downplaying or ignoring the misinfo that’s dear to the debunker’s political party, benefactor, editors, or readership base.
This is a Michael Corleone “we’re all part of the same hypocrisy” situation. Yes, disinfo comes from all sides, but there’s no money or political edge in admitting that. And whereas private orgs can be freely hypocritical, it gets tricky when a government agency tries to target the speech of just one side. Wiczi’s Governance Board would’ve focused on fighting rightist disinfo, a risky proposition for a leftist administration when there’s a conservative-majority SCOTUS.
Jankowitz was too much of a partisan hack to be trusted to do the balancing act a department like hers demanded. Unable to say, “Liberals can spread disinfo too,” she almost certainly would’ve engendered a SCOTUS rebuke for engaging in viewpoint discrimination, something the private sector can do but the government can’t.
Frankly, the whole Governance Board idea was unnecessary anyway. Private-sector orgs do way better for the left when it comes to speech suppression, because First Amendment issues don’t factor into their actions. The Washington Examiner reported last month on a collection of “dark money” orgs, some of them foreign, that spend millions of dollars to blacklist right-leaning sites and drain them of ad revenue.
And then there’s this character, Indian-born millennial fraudster Nandini Jammi, who devotes her time to strong-arming advertisers into pulling support from right-leaning sites in the name of “fighting disinformation and hate.” Jammi is nothing more than a Kolkata “Microsoft security” phone-scammer who lucked out by securing George Soros dough for a much more consequential con. And it’s working well for her. Just as Indian phone scammers scare Granny into thinking she has a malicious virus on her computer, advertisers are equally spooked by scare tactics like “Your brand is spreading disinformation! And hate! And you’re genociding trannies daily because you advertise on a site that says biological women exist!”
Takimag has been the target of Jammi and her thuggees, and she’s been effective. Because she strikes from the shadows, another reason Jankowicz’s board was such a misfire for the left. Wiczi’s an attention seeker; when she had her “official government portrait” taken, she tweeted it out as though it were a royal coronation. Jammi, on the other hand, is content to destroy from the darkness.
It’s a point I make time and again in this column, the difference between attention-seeking blowhards and focused foot soldiers. I usually make that point to illustrate why rightists are less effective than leftists (Rightists: “Let’s make a film to change the culture and be movie stars!” Leftists: “Let’s infiltrate public schools, school boards, and DA offices and quietly effect change before anyone knows what happened”), but Jankowicz vs. Jammi illustrates that the same principle is at play even among leftists.
Wiczi wanted to be a star. Jammi doesn’t want you to know her name. Guess who’s more effective.
Which one’s out of a job, begging for cash on GoFundMe, and which one gets a steady stream of Soros money to stealthily go about her work?
So what’s the solution? Well, advertisers are always going to have weak stomachs. In the past, conservatives took advantage of that as well (remember when Bill O’Reilly got JetBlue to disassociate from the Daily Kos?). But the left’s focus on identity and fake genocides (“You’re killing trannies! You’re killing blacks!”) is exceptionally effective. Leftists have an edge in the “pressuring advertisers” game.
As a result, independent, dissident sites like Takimag (and VDARE, AmRen, etc.) cannot count on advertisers.
I know some of you get huffy when I criticize Trump and MAGAs just as I criticize the left, but that’s because Takimag is one of the last remaining sites where writers get paid to not be “part of the same hypocrisy.”
That deserves your support.
That’s not a pitch for me; I get paid the same regardless of ad revenue. But it’s important to know that the Nandini Jammis are out there, working tirelessly to remove sites that pose a genuine threat to the prevailing orthodoxy. And I admit that I can come across like a petty little bitch when I carp at Shapiro/Boreing for their incessant fundraisers to produce the next “change the culture” movie (which never changes the culture), but the truth is, the speech suppressors are totally fine with you wasting your cash on paywalled potboilers nobody will see. What truly bothers them is Google-searchable contrarian views, like you’ll find here, and at VDARE, AmRen, etc.
Nandini Jammi doesn’t care about the next Gina Carano/Nick Searcy “subtle family values” Western. She cares a lot about taking down Takimag.
Nina Jankowicz is toast.
And thank God.
But she was the easily lanced boil, the visible sickness. The unseen cancer thrives underneath.
The first step to fighting a cancer is knowing it’s there.
The second step is draining it of strength.