Indiana’s Republican, State-Run News Service Might Be Even Scarier Than You Think

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Indiana, the trashcan where I was born, has come an inch closer to fulfilling its greatest ambition. More than ever it resembles Francoist Spain.

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star reported that Republican Governor Mike Pence’s administration will launch “Just IN” — the IN stands for Indiana — a taxpayer-funded, state-run news outlet that “will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration.” The outlet will feature “stories” and “news releases” written by state press secretaries.

Pence’s plan to outrun the state’s mainstream media is getting roundly and predictably drubbed across the consensusphere, but commenters who toss around keywords like “socialism” and “Pravda” are missing the point. Pence isn’t placing Indiana’s media apparatus under state control, he’s circumventing it. The idea is to reach into the minds of Hoosiers who live in small and rural communities, further choking them off from the reality that their state has become a laboratory for their own disenfranchisement. (“One target audience for the governor’s stories would be smaller newspapers that have only a few staffers,” the Star reports.) If it works, you can bet that other states will follow suit, effectively creating a network of disinformation across the country. The press will be as independent as it wants to be; the news will not.

You may remember Pence from his 12-year stint in the House, where he waged a holy war against Planned Parenthood and abortion — he now wants to place a federal ban on all abortions after 20 weeks. Yes, he is a nefariously pale shadow of the last Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels, whom Bush I nicknamed “The Blade.” But paleness and shadowiness are favorable traits when you’re considering an American presidential bid; so favorable, in fact, that Steve Forbes and the Koch brothers are already pledging their support for Pence’s 2016 candidacy.

Pence has always come across as simple and vile: simple enough to have such a stupid idea, vile enough to carry it out. There is no doubt in my mind that he will use this power — again, funded by taxpayers — to irrevocably alter the local news. He will use it, for example, to disparage Planned Parenthood and lionize his own deeply conservative administration. But it’s also clear that Pence and those like him prey on national indifference. The laughable stupidity of the idea — a Republican, state-run news outlet — betrays the fact that we live in a country where one could get away with such a thing. In fact, someone already has. It turns out that Pence’s “Just IN” is loosely modeled on a similar “news organization” started by Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois. None of this should be a revelation: entire regions of the US now serve as retrofitted testing sites for conservative policies. Sometimes, though, it takes a tiny British man to wake everyone up:

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to point out the considerable irony that what Pence is doing looks like socialism. (You can bet that Rand Paul will do that in the 2016 Republican primary.) That’s because what Pence is doing isn’t socialism. It’s corporatism, where the state is run like a corporation because the people who run it think of it as a corporation. Specifically, Pence thinks of the state of Indiana as a Reaganite company with a single set of white, conservative, Protestant values. And if Mike Pence becomes president, be sure that he’ll run the national state in the same way. Just imagine the US managed like a Chick-fil-A.