Mich. Republican’s ‘Fact Checker Registration Act’ Threatens Free Speech

The republican fascist death cult (because we can’t call it a “party” anymore) has embraced Donald Trump’s big lie about a rigged 2020 presidential election, and is running full-bore voter suppression in an attempt to reclaim a congressional majority next year and the White House in 2024.

But if we think that’s as far as its war on truth and democracy extends, we are underestimating how low the ailing “Grand Old Party” will deign.

One way republicans maintain fealty from a middle and underprivileged class offered nothing but fear, outrage, xenophobia (FOX), and conspiracy theories is by manipulating the flow of information.

Discerning Americans are quickly figuring out the con around Fox so-called News, One America News (OAN), Townhall, the National Review, the New York Post, and other right-wing hate media.

Yet there are still millions of our fellow Americans convinced what those propaganda outlets are peddling is “truth” while the other, so-called “liberal,” venues pump out nothing but “fake news.”

So what can republicans do to keep facts from rearing their ugly heads?

Manufacture their own set of “facts.”

That’s exactly the idea behind Michigan State Rep. Matt Maddock’s “Fact Checker Registration Act,” which would require “certain fact checkers” to register with Michigan’s secretary of state and arm themselves with $1 million fidelity bond insurance.

Maddock reportedly conceived of the legislation after proposing Twitter fact checkers ought to be licensed.

According to the bill, a fact checker would be anyone in Michigan who publishes in print or online whom a fact-checking organization has compensated, and holds membership in the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.

As the Detroit News reported:

“The bill requires qualifying fact checkers to file proof of a $1 million fidelity bond with the Secretary of State’s office, which will be tasked with developing the “form and manner of registration and filing.

“An ‘affected person’ could bring a civil action in any county district court to claim the bond for ‘any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.’ The bond could be forfeited at the discretion of the judge for ‘demonstrable harm’ stemming from something a fact checker wrote, Maddock wrote.

“Fact checkers found to be in violation of the registry requirements could be fined $1,000 per day of violation.”

In a text message to HuffPost, Maddock stated:

“I don’t think anyone knows how many fact checkers are doing business in Michigan but we will find out! But is there any accountability when a fact checker gets it wrong?There isn’t. Sloppy fact checkers like Snopes destroy lives, destroy business, destroy politicians and there is no penalty when they get it wrong.”

Hyperbole aside, Maddock neglected to provide an example of any misinformation for which Snopes is responsible.

Perhaps he is a little sensitive about Snopes featuring the Associated Press piece “Michigan Republican Wants to Register Fact-Checkers.”

If you’re wondering if this runs afoul of First Amendment protections against government interference in the press, the “fourth estate,” you’re not alone.

But Maddock has a personal interest in obfuscating facts.

His wife, Meshawn Maddock, is the Michigan Republican Party co-chair, and both she and the representative have faced scrutiny for peddling fake news, including Trump’s big “rigged election” lie.

In fact, they led the state republican party’s attempt to invalidate President Joe Biden’s victory, with Meshawn Maddock boasting about organizing about 20 buses of Trump supporters for the attempted Jan. 6 Capitol coup d’etat.

Despite claiming they weren’t able to access the area reserved for Donald Trump’s inciteful jeremiad about “stopping the steal,” Meshawn Maddock tweeted:

Interestingly, when asked how lawmakers guilty of promulgating lies and debunked conspiracy theories ought to be held accountable, Maddock said:

“All elected officials should be held accountable via elections.”

The very elections his party are working indefatigably to undermine, delegitimize, and, yes, cancel.

Image credit: Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.