The Global Engagement Center (GEC) was established by President Obama to “counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations.” What seemed like a noble and necessary endeavor to fight terrorism became the spark that lit the wildfire of government sponsored suppression of free speech. As with many government actions with noble intentions, the establishment of the GEC will be remembered as the beginning of restrictions on our 1st amendment rights.
The focus of GEC, which is housed in the State Department, soon turned away from fighting terrorism to silencing the domestic voices which did not fit the liberal agenda of the liberal elite.
Initially, it was thought that the GEC would mirror the United States Information Agency (USIA) which was established to respond to international groups attempting to smear the United States. An example of this was when the USIA countered Soviet claims that the United States had caused the AIDS crisis.
The GEC was not initially focused on dampening conservative voices. Government agencies, however, are usually full of employees that tend to be liberal and in the case of GEC employees and subcontractors, they soon began to focus on shutting down conservative voices.
Like any government agency, growth at GEC occurred quickly. The GEC began setting up disinformation labs around the world. These labs were set up at schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Pitt, University of Washington and Clemson. These labs began experimenting with methods of identifying “bad actors” around the world who needed to be silenced.
With no real expertise, the labs began chasing government funding by searching for groups to monitor. The criteria they used to determine who the “bad actors” were soon began to include US citizens involved in “domestic misinformation.”
Follow this reasoning: the government was attempting to silence foreign “bad actors” but the methods they used to accomplish this noble task just happened to include domestic actors whose views were counter to the views of the elite political class. Once the GEC slipped on this slippery slope they were knee deep in the muck and began finding “bad actors” in every conservative twitter post. It harkens back to the 1950’s when certain groups could find a communist behind every oak tree.
These government-funded disinformation groups saw the election of Donald Trump as their worst nightmare. They soon moved from being left-of-center arbiters of disinformation to biased agents attempting to undo the harm of the Trump presidency.
The algorithms these government- funded labs implemented to identify “bad actors” began to identify conservative voices as producers of disinformation. The GEC began contacting platforms like Twitter, PayPal, GoFundMe and Facebook and urging these platforms to remove these conservatives from using their sites.
This was a huge moment in the history of our country. The government was now attempting to silence critics which is a violation of the First Amendment rights of these organizations. This infringement of constitutional rights was justified because so many government actors were afraid of the potential re-election of Donald Trump. Questionable, unconstitutional actions were justified because these groups thought Donald Trump was a greater threat to our country. Sam Harris, a noted intellectual, epitomized this behavior when he declared any tactic was allowed if it helped to defeat Trump.
Soon, other politicians began using this tactic in their individual campaigns. Senator Angus King’s campaign contacted Twitter in 2018 to provide an “enemies list” of hundreds of “suspicious” accounts which was mainly composed of supporters of his political opponent.
In less than 3 years, Obama’s GEC had evolved into a network of government funded labs that used their research to convince public speech platforms to diminish or eliminate conservative voices.
Much of this information has come to light because Elon Musk bought Twitter and allowed the journalist Matt Taibbi to peruse the company files. Americans should be horrified to see the government silencing political voices. The saddest part is seeing the national press ignore the whole issue.