Washington State is considering a bill that threatens freedom of expression and thought in dangerous new ways. The proposed legislation would establish a commission on “domestic violent extremism” (DVE) under the control of the state attorney general’s office. The commission would be tasked with developing ways to combat “disinformation and misinformation” while also collecting data on incidents of DVE.
Critics argue that the bill could punish conservatives who express ordinary traditional American ways as “domestic extremists.” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sponsored the commission, even described DVE as broad enough to include noncriminal activities or speech.
Again, Washington State making national news . . . Dangerous!
AG pushes state level 'Ministry of Truth' critics say could jail conservatives who express mainstream views https://t.co/WXLSQyfDWq
— Robert W Malone, MD (@RWMaloneMD) March 6, 2023
The legislation was spawned by the Attorney General’s 2022 “Domestic Terrorism” study, which recommended the creation of a commission to explore data collection and potentially add a definition of DVE to state statutes. The commission would also examine ways to treat DVE as a public health issue through community intervention, such as counseling. The bill claims it intends to take preemptive measures to stop domestic terrorist acts through “community intervention.”
Free speech advocates argue that the legislation will lead to a state-level “Ministry of Truth,” undermining democratic norms and freedom of speech in Washington state. The Ministry of Truth was a central object of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984.” Critics also argue that the bill could lead to criminalizing certain forms of expression based on what members of a state commission consider their definition of “domestic extremism.”
Opponents of the bill include the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which was initially guaranteed a spot on the commission but was removed via a committee amendment. The ACLU declined to comment on the bill or its removal from the commission.
During a hearing on the bill in the House Appropriations Committee, Sue Coffman with Informed Choice Washington warned that the proposed legislation is “bad publicity on an unlawful effort.” Coffman argued that the state should “focus on actual criminal activity and intent to commit a crime, and not upon the people who exercise their right to freedom of expression.”
The commission would be required to submit a report of its recommendations to the Attorney General’s Office by 2025. After that, the office would write its own final review “guided by the recommendations in the Attorney General’s 2022 domestic terrorism study.”