At the first White House press conference with President Joe Biden, many noted that the second question was directed to PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who had previously been criticized for breathless reports about Biden and his “superhero” cabinet . Alcindor addressed the problem of the crisis at the border with a massive increase in unaccompanied minors. However, she asked her question whether Biden can resolve the “tension” with people coming to the US because he is such a “moral” and “decent” person. However, one critic complained that the question was unfair to Biden and based on disinformation. That was Jennifer Rubin, of course, who was repeatedly criticized for misrepresentation from Congressional hearings to court decisions and Shakespeare. She even attacked me once over a theory that I disagreed with in a column that I did not write. During the week of the House hearing on calls for expanded censorship of “disinformation and misinformation” on the Internet, the resulting disagreement between Alcindor and Rubin shows how fluid these concepts have become, in which Alcindor could be accused of spreading misinformation just to ask the question.
Biden was challenged on his statistical claims, and even NBC News found he was wrong.
Alcindor preceded her question by first giving Biden’s stated defense and then highlighting the appeal of this moral character as the reason parents “trust” him with their children:
“You kept saying that immigrants shouldn’t come to this country now … This message is not being received. Instead, the perception of you who chose you – as a moral, decent man – is what causes a lot of immigrants to come to this country entrusting you with unaccompanied minors. How do you resolve these tensions and how do you choose which families can stay and which can leave … and is there a schedule when we won’t see these overcrowded facilities at CBP when it comes to unaccompanied minors? “
For critics, the question (and the media’s mild treatment of Biden) was a continuation of the protective cushion offered by the media. In fact, prior to the press conference, both post-media columnist Margaret Sullivan and Rubin publicly discouraged reporters from being too harsh on Biden at the press conference.
Even Alcindor’s scratchy, tortuous question was too much for Rubin, who complained, “Yamiche makes the statement unproven that his words sparked the boom. That is factually incorrect. “The problem for Rubin is that Alcindor made any connection between Biden and the shaft in the first place. Rubin apparently believes the media should have refused to make such a connection – unless it declares that such connections are factually false.
As a result, Alcindor hit back, Rubin ignoring widespread coverage that families came because of Biden: “Maybe you haven’t interviewed migrants and asked them about this question, but the coverage confirms what I said, which is that some migrants come because of the perception that Pres[ident] Biden is more humane and allows unaccompanied minors to stay. So unfortunately you are factually wrong. “(Also, many immigrants wear T-shirts with Biden’s name and the Mexican president also said Biden is the draw for the recovery).
My interest in the dispute is how it captures the seemingly endless flexibility of the terms “misinformation” and “disinformation”. Rubin believes Alcindor spread false information, the basis for calls for increased censorship on the Internet. She replied that Alcindor had to read the news: “Maybe you didn’t interview migrants and ask them about this Q, but the coverage confirms what I said, namely that some migrants come because of the perception that Pres[ident] Biden is more humane and allows unaccompanied minors to stay. So unfortunately you are factually wrong. “
The last hearing followed the same pattern as was evident in the previous hearing in which I testified. Previous hearings have shown that censorship is a touchstone for democratic politicians today. This was made clear in the Senate hearing with the Big Tech CEOs. Rather than addressing the dangers of such news censorship, Senator Chris Coons urged Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing what he sees as “climate denial.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to be taking the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said he was “concerned that your two companies are actually falling behind or pulling back, that you are not taking action against dangerous disinformation”. Accordingly, he asked for an answer to this question:
“Will you commit to the same kind of solid game books for changing content, including fact checking, flagging, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps in the upcoming election, even for politicians in the upcoming runoff?”
“Robust Content Change” now includes “disinformation and misinformation” on a variety of topics, from climate change to election fraud to immigration on gender issues.
The difference is that objections to statements made by people like Alcindor are likely to be limited to Twitter, while others will have to cancel campaigns. Such “friendly fire” incidents, however, show the subjectivity of such labels in our cancellation culture.