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Since 2016, America has been engaged in a divisive partisan debate over one of the most fundamental principles of American democracy: free speech. Progressive Democrats have been pushing for Big Tech giants to curb “misinformation” and “disinformation,” a call that has been contested bitterly by the GOP.
The crucial debate has now moved from the national political sphere to the dynamic world of Hispanic politics. Just a few days ago, the House Committee on House Administration held a hearing on the “Impact of Mis-and Disinformation on elections in the Spanish-speaking community,” where a panel of six Democratic Representatives interviewed a body of witnesses and experts, including two former Democratic politicians, over the alleged impact of misinformation and disinformation in the Latino community.
Just last year, a group of Democratic politicians and other activists made a push to get the FCC to look over the content of a slew of Spanish-speaking radio talk show in South Florida, which were accused of spewing misinformation to Hispanic voters.
The fight over alleged misinformation in Latino communities comes at a time when the Hispanic voting bloc has become a coveted prize for both Democrats and Republicans. The GOP made significant inroads with Hispanic voters in 2020, a trend that continued in local elections in South Texas in 2021. Polls have also shown how Latinos are especially skeptical of Biden’s performance as President, and the Republican Party has made significant investments in the Hispanic community.
As the debate over free speech or misinformation (depending on who you ask) bleeds over the Latino community, we talked with Daniel Garza, president of The LIBRE Initiative, a center-right grassroots organization that has been attacked by some Democrats on the issue of misinformation to get his point of view on the fate of free speech in both America at large and the Latino community in specific.
Daniel Garza, president of the LIBRE Initiative, says the solution to misinformation is more, not less, speech
Democrats, progressives, and liberals have been arguing and pushing against so-called misinformation and disinformation for at least six years, and it has become part of kind of the political lexicon. Why people, regardless of their ideology, should be worried about this push against alleged misinformation or disinformation?
Let me start with this. I think America has always been a country filled with a diversity of views. I mean that that’s been our history, right? it’s one of the biggest reasons for our country’s success, right That our differences help us, you know, find a better path forward.
America’s Systems of democracy and freedom of speech invite dialogue invite debate to deliberate over those differing, diversity of views.
So anytime you mess with that formula, then you know really what you’re doing, you endanger that democracy that many presume to be saving. Voices on the extremes increasingly are claiming that that different opinions and beliefs are dangerous things, ss this committee was sort of like trying to emphasize.
They call it disinformation. But really, it almost sounded like it’s just information that they don’t agree with, speech that they don’t agree with. This is splintering America into opposing camps. It’s deepening divides and I think it’s stoking resentment and it’s not going to end well.
I don’t think these folks are doing any service by launching into efforts that are stifling speech instead of welcoming more speech.
This argument has also gone from just the general political discussion to also the specific discussions of the Latino electorate, as Democrats have accused misinformation for their recent failures among Latinos. Why would you say Democrats do that? And how do you respond to those who accuse Conservatives like yourself or some media outlets of misleading the public?
Look the Committee and even the panelist, were acting under the pretense that that disinformation must be stifled and eliminated. But what they are really targeting are dissenting voices. You know, folks who don’t conform to the radical leftist thought, and Latinos, more and more are rejecting a lot of these bad ideas from the left.
That’s what has these people upset. This hearing is dangerous as it serves to encourage those people who increasingly aren’t willing to work, talk, or live with those who don’t hold their views right.
It gives license to even the Executive department of the Federal Government, such as the FCC to shut down media platforms that don’t conform to their ideas and their thought. In this case, left of center because if you notice their aim here was to use the levers of a powerful government to enhance the voices that they agree with and diminish the voices that they disagree with, for political interests, to make sure that they control the conversation in the Latino community.
So the thing was to crush the voice of opposition while financing voices that they agree with. Again, if you notice they only mentioned voices on the center-right as problematic. They never once mentioned voices on the center-left who have transgressed this notion of accurate information. You know because that’s what presumably this disinformation campaign is about is to put accurate information out there.
The one example they keep coming up with is to give voters a different date of the election. What is that? You know, nobody is doing that, and it’s just you know it’s just ridiculous on this space, right? Really what they’re talking about are dissenting voices.
They’re increasingly you know willing to silence those who don’t think like them. I think it’s a vicious cycle of division that just constantly drives people further apart, and I think that’s not a good thing, especially in a diverse society like us, where we value freedom of speech.
So they’re bitter that they’re bleeding Latino votes and so this is the way that they’re going to answer the problem, by stifling freedom of expression, not focusing on bad policy that they’re trying to push.
Democrats have also been targeting Miami radio talk shows for alleged misinformation. Some also have said a lot of times that WhatsApp itself is the center of misinformation. How are they even proposing to control this supposed misinformation? Are they going to watch our conversations on WhatsApp? What are even the policies that are trying to pursue?
Yeah, well that’s just it, right?
That’s what this committee presumably is for is to begin the formulation of policy that is going to address disinformation in the Latino community. If you notice that the speakers, the one request that they just often repeated, was more resources, more personnel, to monitor.
Uh, and monitor who? Us, Latinos, who are just talking to each other. It is all meant to make sure that they control the conversations, part I think, of the frustration of the center-left is that they used to control the conversation within the Latino community.
Before, they had a clear field because those on the center, right? Frankly, just kind of stayed away from minority communities for some reason, and the ones who made the investments and the outreach and the engagement within the Latino community for decades were Unions, Spanish language television and media platforms, the party itself, the DNC, non-partisan, presumably you know nonprofit organizations (like La Raza and Dulac) and all these folks, they dominated the conversation in the Latino community.
Now that things have changed completely, well they don’t like that. They want to go back to where they control the conversation. Because now they have to defend the merits of their bad policy, and they’re having a tough time doing it, and Latinos align more with the center-right, it turns out, and the more they hear from the center-right, the more the center-right invests and engages and mobilizes Latinos, the more response they get from the Latino community.
This just upsets them to no end, so this is their solution, it is to come up with some kind of policy position where they’re going to stifle free speech within the Latino community.
This is just pathetic.
One question and this is something that I have been asking myself for a while so they talk a lot about disinformation and misinformation, both used interchangeably. Is there any difference between both terms? What difference does it make?
I don’t know, to be honest with you I imagine like one is this information factual right?
Is this grounded on facts on reality on what is the truth is I assume that that’s what misinformation means. Disinformation is frankly any expression or speech that they don’t agree with that doesn’t conform to their ideas or their thought. And to them, it’s all one and the same, right? They don’t like either one.
But it’s OK if the left does it. If the center-left, media organizations, individuals, unions, Spanish language TV, university professors, if they practice this kind of speech, then that’s OK. Because of course, they are morally superior to those in the center, right?
So if you’re morally superior you’re allowed these transgressions and that’s what you’re seeing, right?
As things play out is that there is a high tolerance for misinformation and disinformation on the left, but there is 0 tolerance for that on the right. Because of course, Latinos are responding to the center-right, and their ideas and they don’t like that.
Democrats argue that these efforts will protect democracy and will defend democracy, however, you said before this will only embolden the extremes. So do you think these efforts would either protect democracy or make it even worse?
Yeah correct, yes. It will definitely worsen and undermine democracy. It will deepen the divisions within the American people. Because again, what you’re doing is using the machine of government to squash one voice and enhance another. This is about fairness and justice, right? It’s about freedom. It’s about the ability of people to express their ideas, whatever thoughts they have.
Look, the best way to counter true disinformation or misinformation is with more speech, more conversation, more dialogue, so we can get to the truth, we get to solutions or you know those ideas that are going to win out in the marketplace. Not by less speech.
At the end who the hell is controlling speech? Do you know who gets to decide what is misinformation and disinformation? Well, it turns out it is bureaucrats in government. You want to create this Orwellian system that is going to decide who gets to speak up and who doesn’t, whose ideas matter and whose doesn’t that that that that that is totalitarianism, that’s not the America we want.
What can Americans have but Latino specifically in this case, of all political ideologies, what can they do to get factual information? Because there are some concerns about that about what is true and what’s not. Secondly, how to fight against this push by some people on the left to stifle speech
Well, it’s going to take doing exactly counter to what these people are proposing, which is to speak up more to have more speech, more expression about what is happening in the Latino community, how public policy is impacting us on a daily basis.
That means you know talking about those policies that are generating prosperity and one of the policies that are generating poverty. To do this freely and more than ever before, again counter to what these people are proposing.
It’s not less speech, it’s more speech and that’s why you know we’re out there creating the events, the policy platforms where we, you know, welcome debate, welcome deliberation about ideas, diversity of thought that we want more of that not less of it.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.