May 19, 2022

Nina Jankowicz is an expert in Ukraine, Russia and disinformation. Fox News did her in, and with her, the unit she was heading up at DHS studying and analyzing disinformation, the admittedly poorly named Disinformation Governance Board. If only the Biden administration had paid attention to the 18 years worth of writing here and elsewhere about how the Rupert Murdoch Disinformation Amplification Machine works, they could have saved her job and done the world a great service.

Instead, they let Rupert Murdoch and his gang of thugs win. On Wednesday, the day after DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the "pause" of the Disinformation Governance Board, Nina Jankowicz resigned after enduring three weeks of painful silence by everyone except Jen Psaki about what her job was and what it wasn't.

As Taylor Lorenz explains for the Washington Post the entire right wing campaign was coordinated and amplified in order to destroy the effort -- and hopefully Jankowicz as a pleasant side effect.

It was a classic Fox Effect pile-on.

First, disinformation from Jack Posobiec, a right-wing amplifier of lies and "influencer" on social media, as Lorenz reports.

Just hours after Jankowicz tweeted about her new job, far-right influencer Jack Posobiec posted tweets accusing the Biden administration of creating a “Ministry of Truth.” Posobiec’s 1.7 million followers quickly sprung into action. By the end of the day, there were at least 53,235 posts on Twitter mentioning “Disinformation Governance Board,” many referencing Jankowicz by name, according to a report by Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts public-interest research. In the days following, that number skyrocketed.

This is exactly what they do. It starts on the blogs and social media, and then escalates as the hashtags multiply. And from there, it goes to Fox News.

A search of TVEyes indicates that just across two Fox cable stations -- Fox Business and Fox News -- the term "ministry of truth" was mentioned 127 times since May 1st.

Here is today's New York Post headline -- another Rupert Murdoch property.

screenshot of Murdoch publication mocking Jankowicz

And here's the Wall Street Journal. Both of these are emblematic of how Jankowicz and the entire project have been treated by Murdoch publications.

screenshot of Murdoch publication mocking Jankowicz

The next step was amplification by politicians:

Posobiec’s early tweets shaped the narrative and Jankowicz was positioned as the primary target. Republican lawmakers echoed Posobiec’s framing and amplified it to their audiences. U.S. Senate hopeful and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) both posted similar tweets to Posobiec. Former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also posted a video repeating Posobiec’s statements.

Had Republicans controlled the House and the Senate, guaranteed the next step would have been hearings in which Jankowicz and Mayorkas would have been hauled before them to explain why they were creating an Orwellian agency not accountable to anyone to monitor and censor Americans' free speech.

Which of course, is not at all what this particular little board -- however ineptly named -- was intended to do. It was purely advisory, with no power to do anything other than study Russian disinformation and figure out how to counter it.

Instead, Mayorkas just caved to a right-wing smear campaign which completely derailed something this country desperately needs. It reminds me of the way the right-wing domestic terrorism report was withdrawn under Obama, to disastrous consequence.

As Lorenz notes in her article, the attacks on Jankowicz and subsequent smears to her reputation by the right have all the hallmarks of a classic disinformation campaign, amplified by Fox News and the even farther-right Newsmax and OANN, alongside Murdoch's plethora of online and print publications.

The campaigns invariably start with identifying a person to characterize as a villain. Attacking faceless institutions is difficult, so a figurehead (almost always a woman or person of color) is found to serve as its face. Whether that person has actual power within that institution is often immaterial. By discrediting those made to represent institutions they seek to bring down, they discredit the institution itself.

Harassment and reputational harm is core to the attack strategy. Institutions often treat reputational harm and online attacks as a personnel matter, one that unlucky employees should simply endure quietly.

I was an early target of the right-wing attack campaigns back in 2012 when I was attacked for defending the StopRush effort (also a counter to right-wing smear and disinformation campaigns). They don't stop with social media. They stop when they know they've destroyed your reputation -- or at least think they have. Their efforts were pretty quaint back then. Some Google bombs, a pack of lies on social media, a couple of goons driving by your house. Today they're far more sophisticated and coordinated, which was Ginni Thomas' dream for Groundswell -- a group of media, politicians, think tanks and provocateurs -- with the sole goal of creating a "groundswell" of right-wing messaging. Or smears. Whatever it took.

Nevertheless, we'll persist. It's just a damn shame that Nina Jankowicz isn't doing the job she was hired to do. This country will be less safe as a consequence of Rupert Murdoch and the right-wing smear machine.

Watch the video at the top, where she very clearly explains what this "board" was about to Chris Hayes. If only they had let her say these things 3 weeks ago. What a ridiculous failure of communications strategy.

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