One of the more short-lived projects of the Federal Government was the so-called Disinformation Governance Board, which was announced on April 27th and “paused” three weeks later on May 18th. While no charter for the board was ever published, its apparent intended purpose was to identify, control and eliminate disinformation. As of this writing, no date has been announced for its revival.
This would certainly not be the first attempt by a government to eradicate what it considered disinformation. In the 1640s there was a bill in the English Parliament that would have required printers to receive government approval for their publications. The stated purpose was to prevent the spread of heresies by John Milton and some of his contemporaries. Milton, whom some alert readers (ARs) may recall from college English classes as the author of Paradise Lost, responded in 1644 with what many consider the world’s first important essay in defense of free speech.
Milton’s compelling treatise was titled Areopagitica in honor of the Areopagus, an area near the Acropolis in Athens where free debates took place. It was reportedly where Paul delivered a sermon described in Chapter 17 of Acts of the Apostles. In the course of Areopagitica’s nearly 18,000-word denunciation of government censorship there’s a brief reference to Milton’s visiting “the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise then the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.”
ARs who are familiar with English history will realize that Milton’s quarrel with Parliament took place during the English Civil War, when Parliament’s far bigger worry was the English monarchy and its supporters known as Cavaliers. As some ARs will recall, Parliament resolved its dispute with the Royalists by beheading King Charles I for treason and subsequently replacing him with the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
In all candor I have to admit that my memory of whatever I learned about the British monarchy in high school or college has been supplemented by a book titled Crown & Sceptre by Tracy Borman. Thanks to this eminently readable history I now know that the House of Plantagenet, which originated in the lands of Anjou in France, was named for planta genista, a bright yellow flowering plant that was part of the house’s heraldic badge. I also learned that the Union Jack was created by King James I of England (James VI of Scotland). The “Union” refers to the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland, whose two symbols, the Cross of St. George and the Cross of St. Andrew, are combined in one flag. And “Jack” is a colloquial reference to Jacobus, the Latin version of James’s name.
I also learned that Henry VIII didn’t simply behead two of his six wives. In the course of his 36-year reign he is estimated to have executed up to 57,000 people for disloyalty. Considering that this represented more than two percent of England’s population at the time, that’s a lot of heads rolling because of royal paranoia or displeasure.
One of the main gripes that Henry and other English kings had against their respective wives was their failure to give birth to sons. The irony of course is that if anyone was to blame for the dearth of sons it was the kings themselves who failed to provide the Y chromosome needed to produce a male heir. My guess is that no royal physician in the 16th Century who was familiar with this biological truth would have pointed it out to Henry lest his head be added to the thousands that had already rolled.
On the 4th of July Americans will once again celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Britain and a monarch who, in the word of Thomas Jefferson, had “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” At The Schlafly Tap Room on the 3rd of July we’ll also be celebrating another important milestone for liberty in The United States, the 19th Amendment to The U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.
As some ARs may recall, I have written in this space in the past about the Golden Lane on Locust Street when women in yellow sashes demonstrated in support of women’s suffrage during the 1916 Democratic Convention in St. Louis. Thanks to a partnership between The National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites and The William G. Pomeroy Foundation, a plaque commemorating the Golden Lane will be installed next to The Schlafly Tap Room where demonstrators lined the street 106 years ago. While we had hoped to install the plaque in 2020, the centennial of women’s suffrage, we were delayed by COVID and supply chain issues. Now that the plaque is here, we could think of no better time to commemorate this historic moment than the weekend when all Americans celebrate their independence.
It’s especially fitting that this plaque be placed next to a brewery where both the CEO and head brewer are women; and that the brewery is directly across the street from the only Major League Soccer franchise with an ownership group is majority female. Moreover, more important than their gender, the ownership of St. Louis City SC stands in stark contrast to that of Los Angeles Rams (from whom we can also celebrate our independence) when it comes to integrity and honesty.
The owners of St. Louis City SC are making a substantial investment in our community in order to benefit the entire region. They are not seeking to plunder the community for their own benefit. Nor are they lying to us. When you consider the serial falsehoods on the part of Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke, his chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, it would be easy to conclude that NFL stands for Notoriously Flagrant Liars. Perhaps it’s the NFL that needs to establish a Disinformation Governance Board, not the Federal Government.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery