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Opinion >  Column

Sue Lani Madsen: HB 1333 and the Church of Wokeism

In a classic 1969 Monty Python sketch, a young Michael Palin bursts in on a proper British couple to announce, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” If HB 1333 makes it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, don’t be surprised to find Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s inquisitors knocking at your door.

What’s the connection between a 500 -year -old culture war in Spain and the HB 1333 establishing a Washington Domestic Violent Extremism Commission? Self-righteous certainty as a cover for consolidating political power. It plays out in disingenuous claims of using “public-health style” approaches to address potentially dangerous disinformation, misinformation or hate speech using “community-led and evidence based solutions.”

Except Ferguson, in drafting this legislation, only includes relevant stakeholders as determined by the attorney general and his congregation. And those evidence-based solutions will not likely be drawn from the body of work of conservative academics like Thomas Sowell because that evidence doesn’t fit the narrative. The attorney general and his carefully limited commission will determine what qualifies as a part of the canon for this religious test of loyalty to the state.

HB 1333 is based on Ferguson’s 2022 Domestic Terrorism Study. If this was about protecting the community from organized groups carrying AR-15s in public, the attorney general would have said something when the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club was patrolling in Seattle in the summer of 2020. Videos went viral and the far-left Daily Beast was proudly reporting on the “rise of leftist gun clubs” in the halcyon days of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, before it changed its name to CHOP and people started getting killed.

While there are legitimate public concerns about violence coming from the far fringes, the last paragraph from the 2022 study concludes “there is little evidence that state-based efforts to combat domestic terrorism … have been effective in light of the federal government’s jurisdiction over all significant cases and for the propensity of these types of state efforts to be misused against social justice advocates.” It would seem we don’t need a new commission when we already have law enforcement sharing information through the Washington State Fusion Center, operating under the Department of Homeland Security since 2002.

While there is a working definition under federal law for the term domestic terrorist, HB 1333 goes further by adopting the catch-all “domestic violent extremist” to attempt to “combat disinformation and misinformation.” The very last sentence of the 2022 study, the rationale for writing HB 1333, says, “The state policy landscape is ripe for innovative thinking on community-based efforts to prevent domestic terrorism and inoculate against disinformation.”

“To inoculate” brings to mind vaccination, and indeed HB 1333 uses the used-to-be friendly sounding phrase “public health-style” in developing a response. We’ve seen public health-style include shutting down schools, businesses, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. The image of public health has been tarnished by three years of misinformation, disinformation and manipulation, and now it’s being used as a shield for Ferguson’s inquisition.

Misinformation refers to spreading false information, whether or not there is an intent to mislead, like the recent letter to the editor claiming Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers renamed the House Energy and Commerce Committee. False. The oldest committee in Congress, it received that name in 1981 to recognize the importance of energy. Was there intent to mislead to score political points or an innocent mistake? Hmm … might be reportable under the new inquisition.

But surely we’d all like to be protected from disinformation, commonly defined as the use of deliberately misleading or biased information, or a manipulated narrative. But heck, that sounds like every political campaign, news release or social media post declaring the day’s wonderfulness or excoriating an opponent. Even a simple news story is manipulative in the choice of what to tell and how to tell it, questions asked and questions avoided.

Who gets to decide when statements are misinformation, disinformation or hate speech? In a free society, it is the one who hears it. Under HB 1333, it’s the government, and that’s not kosher.

Uh oh, is somebody going to be triggered because a gentile culturally appropriated the word kosher?

HB 1333 doesn’t have a chance at passing constitutional muster. Perhaps “it’ll be constitutional when pigs fly.” Wait, that might irritate pig farmers, although the ones I know have a good sense of humor. Snowball’s chance in hell? Probably get me labeled a global warming denier.

John McWhorter warned us about the dangers of losing the separation of church and state in his recent book “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.”

If you understand how badly Chinese immigrants were treated under the law in the 19th century in the name of public health and protecting the public good, you’ll protest to your legislators against HB 1333 while protesting government actions is still allowed. Before the Church of Wokeism turns a sincere concern for justice into an inquisition.

Contact Sue Lani Madsen at

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