The following is a transcript of Federalist Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky’s “Breaking Points” monologue from Feb. 20, 2023.
On Monday, the National Endowment for Democracy announced it was parting ways with the Global Disinformation Index. Most Americans have never heard of those two groups, but they’ve surely felt their influence.
The NED is mostly funded by the State Department. The GDI, a British organization that purports to police disinfo, received hundreds of thousands of American taxpayer dollars from NED and other entities, according to a deep investigation published last week in the Washington Examiner.
I want to give a quick shoutout to my former intern Gabe Kaminsky for this deeply reported series over at the Examiner, without which the power brokers involved here would have continued their quiet grift.
[READ: Disinformation Inc: Meet the groups hauling in cash to secretly blacklist conservative news]
Gabe’s series resulted in Microsoft and the NED both severing ties with the GDI. Amid pressure to deplatform alleged disinformation, Microsoft’s Xandr and the State Department funded GDI. In turn, GDI developed a blacklist of anti-establishment conservative websites that, to quote the Examiner, were “fed” to advertisers.
GDI’s list of the top 10 most and least risky news outlets is still on its website. On the left, literally, are all liberal sites. On the right, literally, are all conservative sites, including my employer, The Federalist.
Former State Department official Mike Benz explained to the Examiner why the GDI exclusion list matters. “It’s devastating,” he said. “The implementation of ad revenue-crushing sentinels like Newsguard, Global Disinformation Index, and the like has completely crippled the potential of alternative news sources to compete on an even economic playing field with approved media outlets like CNN and The New York Times.”
No publication is perfect, but much of conservative media correctly reported on major stories that corporate media, with all their resources, utterly botched in recent years. Sometimes they lied, other times they lacked the objectivity to see beyond ideology. But they were often wrong, and we were often right. More importantly, their errors all served the political establishment while our accuracies all challenged the political establishment. We’ll get fact-checked and then suppressed like crazy for reporting completely accurate information about, say, Pete Buttigieg, while The New York Times gets Pulitzers for reporting inaccurate information. That’s just how it works.
So you can understand why the State Department and a powerful corporation like Microsoft might turn to a group like GDI. Basically, taxpayer money was used to misinform taxpayers and disempower critics of the government. This helped major corporations feel better about their advertisements and effectively defunded anti-establishment conservatives who, like it or not, were reporting information much closer to the truth on several major stories.
Remember, the disinformation label is not and will not only be used to silence the right. Matt Taibbi’s reporting on Hamilton 68 showed clearly that powerful people were happy to categorize leftist journalism as the product of Russian influence operations so long as it threatened elites.
People are largely familiar with the corporate media’s failures on 2016, Hunter Biden, Russiagate, and much more. Many understand our elites are eagerly flinging charges of disinformation at their opponents to shut them down. But it’s important we realize their laundering the credibility of our government and using public money to undermine the free press. They are intentionally using your money to empower journalists who are lying to you.
GDI is not alone. Other groups are engaged in similar efforts and other corporations are taking the bait. The entire operation is complex and tangled, full of alphabet soup organizations, powerful boards, and long money trails. But the bottom line is that the serious issue of disinformation is being weaponized to silence critics of corrupt elites. And it’s happening right under our noses.