The news that the FBI is investigating Hunter Biden on suspicion of money laundering and foreign influence peddling should come as no surprise, given that the New York Post broke the story over two months ago. Of course, when that publication released the incriminating evidence that was saved to a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, the story was immediately censored on social media. Of the few major media outlets that were willing to acknowledge the existence of the story, virtually all of them did so only to emphasize that the reporting was “baseless” nonsense.
When pressed on the matter by President Trump in a debate, Joe Biden boasted that five former heads of the CIA said that the story was “a bunch of garbage.” A couple of days earlier, dozens of former intelligence officials had signed a statement that asserted the news had all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation: “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement,” the statement read, “just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”
Bush administration speechwriter and Atlantic editor David Frum claimed on Twitter that “The story could not have been more obviously fake if it had been wearing dollar-store spectacles and attached plastic mustache.” Weeks after the FBI investigation of Hunter Biden was confirmed, Wikipedia still labels their entry on the matter as a “conspiracy theory.” Thus, in spite of emails, photographs, and video-recorded evidence to the contrary, any claim that the Bidens did anything improper (let alone “wrong” or “illegal”) was deemed “baseless.”
And yet here we are, with outlets like Politico and the New York Times reacting to the “newly” confirmed evidence of an investigation as though they had just caught wind of the story. Given their craven, politically-motivated annihilation of the story back in October, one wonders: what other “baseless” claims that pose a threat to the left’s agenda might the media be lying about? The only thing that met with more journalistic skepticism than the Hunter Biden story were the claims that significant ballot fraud marred the presidential election.
Since November, the most obnoxious interlocutors I have encountered are the ones who claim to be devotees of “evidence-based reasoning” and rational thought—even while they sanctimoniously insist that you concede that “there is no evidence of fraud in this election.” As with Biden’s corruption, no rational person could claim that there is no evidence. First, there has never been a modern American election where there was no fraud, so the question isn’t really whether or not there was fraud, but how much fraud occurred. Secondly, in the case of this election, we have already documented more fraud than has been exposed in any other American presidential election.
The “evidence-based reasoners” are right about one thing though: there is not yet definitive evidence that Trump actually won the election. But there is enormous evidence that fraudulent means were undertaken to ensure that he did not. Those claiming that allegations of fraud are “baseless” insist that there is no “compelling evidence” of these claims. Of course, “compelling” is a fairly subjective term: we can reasonably disagree what evidence is compelling. Although the word “evidence” might seem more concrete, even the definition of that term now seems up for grabs. This new instability is a troubling indicator of a knowledge crisis that threatens our democracy: in light of the constantly shifting standards for the verification of claims, we can no longer agree on the basic facts of our shared reality. Until we find that agreement, the prospects for any productive democratic deliberation are nil, let alone the prospects for “healing.”
A MOUNTAIN WITHOUT A “BASE”: CONSIDERING THE EVIDENCE
Most people understand intuitively that there are different forms of evidence. There is statistical evidence, anecdotal evidence, historical evidence, circumstantial evidence, definitive evidence, and more. Further, there is an overlap between these kinds of evidence. Statistical evidence, for example, can be combined with historical evidence: when a statistical anomaly is detected, that anomaly is that much more compelling if it is anomalous in comparison to other sets of data, both contemporary and from the past.
Rational observers must acknowledge that each of these different forms of evidence vary in terms of how reliable and definitive they are in establishing a truth. Circumstantial evidence alone cannot serve as a sufficient indicator of truth: coincidences happen, and statistically improbable outcomes do, in fact, occur (somebody is winning those Powerball jackpots). But when it accompanies other forms of evidence, circumstantial evidence makes a contested claim more plausible. For example, if eye-witness testimony of ballot manipulation coincides with a historically-anomalous number of mail-in ballots with no selections in down-ballot races (a common indicator of fraud), then charges of misconduct become stronger due to this confluence of circumstantial, historical, and statistical pieces of evidence.
Each individual piece of evidence cannot be understood independently from the larger body of evidence: indicators that might be insignificant on their own might nevertheless contribute to a compelling portrait of evidence in aggregate. The irrational rush to entirely dismiss the possibility of any election fraud is enabled by an adamantine unwillingness to see the forest among so many trees. No recent American presidential election has come anywhere close to the number of process and tallying anomalies that have been reported in 2020. This discrepancy itself serves as an anecdotal indicator that justifies suspicion toward the results. With that in mind, it is worth reconsidering the claims of fraud in this election.
We have seen security footage of poll watchers being asked to leave in Georgia, after which the remaining officials pull containers of ballots out from under a table and begin counting after others were told counting would stop for the night. Another video shows a surreptitious hand-off of what looks to be a flash drive among poll workers. No one can claim that this is not an unusual circumstance to occur in a battleground state late in the night of a presidential election. In most criminal cases, video recordings are generally considered a highly compelling form of evidence.
Yet now, the media and Biden supporters tell us the videos are “missing context” and prove “nothing.” To an extent, that is correct: those ballots could be legal and there are rational, possible explanations for the actions captured on video. But no one has offered such an explanation that they can substantiate. Instead, the burden of evidence seems to be placed on only one side of the dispute.
If the video isn’t proof of procedural violations or fraud, then, what evidence would be required to prove that claim? It seems those who claim the allegations are “baseless” would require video footage that not only catches these poll workers in the act, but that would also show them verbally describing their actions and their malicious intent. Or, perhaps it would convince the skeptics if using the video we could definitively ascertain exactly which ballots were in those boxes, examine them, and prove that they were cast by ineligible voters or that they were inadmissible on other grounds. The problem is that these forms of “compelling” evidence are entirely implausible in themselves.
Typically, people don’t record themselves talking about committing a felony as they commit the crime. As for identifying which were the ballots in question, the progressive erosion of any safeguards or record-keeping on the chain of custody in the process of manual vote-counting ensures that any viable reconstruction of how the final tally was reached is impossible. Without required secrecy envelopes for ballots, with signatures not required or ignored, with mailed ballots allowed to be counted when arriving after the day of the election, with observers removed from the process, and with no other way to determine the chain of custody for mail-in ballots, the very means of producing “compelling evidence” of fraud have been systematically annihilated by the procedural changes for elections across the country.
These changes have been accumulating for a decade or more, but the pandemic was used to justify a flood of sweeping changes in the months before the election—modifications that “conventional wisdom” says plainly advantage Democratic candidates in battleground states, as late-arriving mail-in ballots tend to skew toward Democratic candidates.
Given that the “compelling evidence” that would convince those who insist these fraud allegations are “baseless” is basically impossible to produce, we are left with circumstantial indicators of the crime. Beyond Georgia, there is a mountain of other forms of evidence from multiple battleground states—anomalous statistical evidence, comparative historical evidence, evidence in sworn testimony from witnesses to the fraud, and anecdotal evidence. Many of these pieces of evidence are compelling on their own, and yet, even taken cumulatively, we are told the claims that there was any malfeasance in the election is a “baseless conspiracy theory.”
These are the contours of what has become a knowledge crisis in American discourse. The elites of our society pretend that President Trump’s “lies” have undermined public trust in the media, and they claim that our radical incredulity is a threat to democracy. This is more gaslighting. The media itself has created this crisis. What counts as knowledge, news, evidence, and proof are now totally dependent on the usefulness of reality in advancing the objectives of the cultural left. When a certain fact is useless for that project, its status as fact is either denied, mocked, or ignored.
NEWS REPORTING AND THE CULTIVATION OF UNCERTAINTY
Traditionally, journalism has been motivated by a burning curiosity among the reporters who pursue the news. Today, they demonize the curiosity of those with whom they disagree in order to avoid the difficult task of explaining how the accusations are “baseless” in spite of so many indicators of fraud. Thus, unverified opposition research in the form of the Steele dossier can circulate on the news as if it is unquestionably true and serve as sufficient evidence to open an FBI investigation, but physical evidence of Biden family corruption is immediately (without any further investigation) dismissed as so plainly fraudulent that news related to the topic will not even be allowed to circulate.
We are told to “trust the science” on the effectiveness of wearing masks, even as cultural elites systematically ignore biological realities when it comes to activist claims regarding transgenderism. Catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change is enshrined as “settled science,” even as the abortion lobby continues to deny the life of a fetus with a heartbeat, reducing it to a “clump of cells.” When it comes to the climate, scientific reality is supposed to be the primary determinant of public policy; in regard to abortion, scientific reality is reduced to merely one more “perspective” which makes no particular demand on policy-making.
Fantastical accusations that Brett Kavanaugh was a serial rapist justified a thousand columns and a circus masquerading as a confirmation process. Meanwhile, much better-corroborated allegations that Joe Biden digitally penetrated a woman against her will are studiously ignored or attacked. In the former case (where the accusations decreased the prospects of a conservative appointment to the bench), the mere existence of an accusation was proof of misconduct. In the latter (where the accusations might stymie the prospects of a Democratic presidential candidate), the accusations were found to be lacking the requisite evidence for serious consideration.
Journalists lectured the nation about the vulnerability of the American voting system to interference in 2016, only to insist, four years later, that any assertions related to domestic election interference are patently ridiculous. (All this, to say nothing of the fact that the media’s unending effort to manufacture and influence public opinion is a form of domestic election interference in itself.) And yet the field of journalism continues to celebrate itself for being uncompromising defenders of truth.
These manipulations have cost the country enormously. The very institution that Americans have historically relied on to seek and convey the facts about political life has become a non-stop psy-op aimed at advancing a particular ideology. And, when that objective requires distortion or ignorance of reality, most journalists are perfectly happy to comply.
Ultimately, people no longer know what to believe, which means that they also don’t know what not to believe. Only when our shared notion of reality is in radical flux could theories as ludicrous as Pizzagate and QAnon take hold. And while the cultural left maintains that these sorts of conspiracies are a threat to their interests, the truth is the opposite. The left benefits from this sort of fantastical reasoning; it provides support for their refrain that their opponents are cognitively damaged. Further, it undermines any conservative claims to truth that oppose the left’s account of reality: hyping the most outlandish theories on the right justifies the mocking dismissal of even well-supported, plausible assertions.
The media’s efforts to curate the information available to the public would be easy to circumvent, if those efforts were undertaken by the media alone. But the mass media is only one branch of a much more expansive coalition of powerful actors working to implement a reimagining of public life in the western world. This project is advanced through a coordinated effort by the elite segment of our societies—people in the media, the technology industry, academia, public education, government, Hollywood and the culture industry, and corporate boardrooms.
In short, the public’s confusion regarding what is true is the product of a purposeful effort by the great institutional powers of our society. When uncertainty, skepticism, and disbelief reign, there are fewer “true believers.” The resolute commitment of true believers to a cause is a prerequisite for any successful revolution. Thus, the pervasive uncertainty of many Americans works to diminish the prospects for organized, grassroots resistance to the elite consolidation of power in this nation.
THE FALSE EQUIVALENCE OF EVIDENCE, PROOF, AND TRUTH
In the media’s gaslighting about the (il)legitimacy of Election 2020, we can discern one of their most inventive ploys for cultivating this knowledge crisis: the false conflation of evidence, proof, and truth. These are three discrete concepts, but they are increasingly treated as one by the major media outlets. For example, there can be substantial evidence for a claim that is nevertheless unproven; then, there exist truths for which there is neither evidence nor proof. Even more torturous is the fact that there are some things that are proven (with evidence), that are nevertheless false. But the left recognizes none of these distinctions. They falsely maintain that there is “no evidence” for claims of election fraud, when what they mean is that there is no proof that fraud produced a false outcome.
Needless to say, the erroneous conflation of these concepts is used to undermine claims of truth that are undesirable for the left’s agenda. Their conflation is also used to advance “proofs” for claims that the left would like to be true, despite the fact that they actually only have circumstantial evidence.
Consider how Russian Collusion circulated for years as a “proven” truth, even though there existed only the barest, biased indications of its possibility.
Consider how one woman’s uncorroborated assertion that she was pinned to a bed 30 years ago by a future Supreme Court nominee—on a date and in a place that she could not recall—was sufficient to upend the entire Constitutionally-mandated process for confirming a justice to the highest court. Similar examples of this rhetorical misdirection by the left are legion.
Our knowledge crisis is a deliberately manufactured means to undermine public confidence in a shared sense of what is real, as a means to minimize the prospect of organized opposition to the new order that our elites are working to install. This crisis demands that each of us rely on our own perceptions—perhaps more than we ever have.
Doing so takes courage, especially given that saying what you saw (when it undermines the Narrative), ensures you are denigrated as a sub-rational lunatic who traffics in “baseless conspiracy theories.” Let the talking heads talk. But the concerns about the legitimacy of this election are anything but baseless. Evidence abounds. They are counting that our cowardice and shame will be sufficient to make us deny those facts. If we will not testify to that evidence openly, then it might as well not exist. We cannot be cowards and we can’t be ashamed. Speak—and speak in the knowledge that the only baseless claim is the one that says it is “baseless” to assert the truth that this election can never be construed as free and fair.