If you heard about the recent birth of a new government committee called the Disinformation Governance Board—which will operate out of the Department of Homeland Security and be run by a woman named Nina Jankowicz who writes songs about misinformation for fun—you could be forgiven for thinking you hit your head and woke up in 1984. Rest assured, you did not. It’s entirely real.
The Disinformation Governance Board, or the Ministry of Truth, as critics dubbed it, has an ambitious mission: to stop the spread of misinformation. That sounds nice. Except, what one woman calls “misinformation” another might just call “information.” As you may recall, recent stories labeled “misinformation” include some that look increasingly legit, like Hunter Biden’s forgotten laptop, the Covid lab leak theory, and Wayfair selling cabinets full of stolen children (ok, that one might actually be fake).
While the federal government determining what’s true and what’s fiction may sound ominous, Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of Homeland Security, promises you that it’s not. Any rumors to the contrary, any concerns about this at all, are just more “misinformation,” he insists, and this new effort is designed purely to combat disinformation spread by human traffickers and the Russian government. Well, if there’s someone we should all trust, it’s definitely the guy who runs a surveillance service.
Details about how exactly this department will operate are scarce, but we can look at old posts to parse our futures. Jankowicz wrote last year about her mission: “The biggest challenge in identifying this content both for our team and for platforms is what we’ve dubbed ‘malign creativity’—the coded language, memes, and context-based content which allow harmful posts to avoid detection.” In-jokes, take note. They’re watching.
Without further details, I like to imagine Truth Ministers will take the form of Snopes Officers who pop into your DMs to tell you that the meme you just shared is false and no, Snickers isn’t getting rid of the dick vein.
What we do know for sure: Jankowicz is the perfect person to head this particular board. Not only is she a former fellow at the Wilson Center with expertise in both Russia and Ukraine, she’s also the author of a new book called How to Be A Woman Online, where she takes on one of the most pressing issues of the day: Men on the internet telling me to shut up.
That’s right, ladies and gentlefolk, our improved internet as envisioned by Jankowicz will be a kinder, gentler place for women. And as a woman (as far as those things can be determined without a degree in biology), I, for one, am ready to capitalize on it.
Jankowicz’s book, which came out in April, is a semi-humorous look at the problems women face online, all of which are the fault of penises and the men attached to them. There are the reply guys, the dick pic guys, the guys who can’t google, the old men who email in ALL CAPS, and the men’s rights activists, or, as she dubs them “@AntiFeministFranks.” These are all types I’m familiar with, and when Jankowicz writes that “To be a woman online is an inherently dangerous act,” I found myself nodding along. YAS QUEEN, I thought, before remembering about cultural appropriation and revising my thought lest the Ministry be listening: YES WOMXN!, I mean.
In Jankowicz’s telling, the internet is a virtual street corner where men harass, leer, belittle, and fondle themselves when you’re just trying to post brunch pics. It’s dark, dangerous, violent, and those we’ve entrusted to ensure our safety are failing at their jobs—to protect women—in the name of so-called “free speech.” Prime among the victims is the most powerful woman in America, Kamala Harris, who has been accused online of—steel yourself—sleeping her way to the top. Men on Twitter even called her “Heels Up Harris”! Someone tag the content moderators; I’m literally shaking. And since the platforms can’t stop the harassment and hate, it must be the government that protects us.
Jankowicz has yet to explain how, exactly, the Disinformation Governance Board will fix this problem for us gals, but I have a few ideas of my own, starting with mandatory civics lessons on how to behave online starting in elementary schools before young male folk are too ruined by patriarchal expectations. Between traditional classroom lessons on reading, math, and gender identity, boys will be taken into a separate room and taught how to be nice on the internet.
Step One: No dick pics unless requested in writing, and even then you should draw a little mustache on it to make it less threatening. Step Two: Stop following Joe Rogan. Step Three: Please, for the love of God, take the fish out of your Tinder pic. While they’re busy with that, girls will be taught how to break glass ceilings and appropriately respond to catcalls on the street. (Call the police, but only if the offender is white.)
Of course, even if the men of tomorrow can be groomed out of their misogynistic tendencies, we’ll still need to do something about the men already online today, specifically @fishballs666, who will not stay out of my goddamn mentions. In light of that, I propose a modest solution for future Truth Czar Nina Jankowicz: When a man is an asshole online, a representative from the Disinformation Governance Board should call his mother.
I can hear some of the men reading this complaining right now. What about us? What about studies that find men report more online harassment than women? Well, boys, consider this: Here at the Ministry of Truth, we call those studies “misinformation.”