A few weeks ago, a dirty, broken down laptop took center stage in American politics. However, I don’t really care about the laptop, and neither should you.
The laptop belonged to Hunter Biden (no one has seriously objected to this as factual), and contained correspondences (which again, nobody has seriously objected as being factual) which suggest, but do not prove, that the then Vice President of the United States, Joseph Biden, exerted some influence over various international counterparties to obtain some sort of compensation for Hunter, and perhaps himself.
Since this rather innocent (and I mean that, really) paragraph causes many people to lose their minds, I think it requires some unpacking.
First, let’s keep in mind that influence peddling on political power is endemic to all governments, and always will be; a politicians power and contacts are brokerable commodities. Most sell their contacts after they give power up by becoming highly paid lobbyists; but quite a few more, even most, are perfectly OK with lending their name as a favor, even without any quid pro quo.
Put into actionable terms — — it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Joe made a few phone calls on behalf of his son, AND that his son dropped his dad’s name liberally if it was to his benefit. That is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the materials on that laptop, since there is no messaging from the VP *himself* that contained threats or a quid pro quo to any international counterparty.
At the other extreme, of course, is the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” view, and further investigative journalism may turn up those threats or quid pro quos at a later date. But today, we don’t have them.
So, where I am on all this is this:
- Without any implicating correspondence from Joe himself, I view this as a “meh” matter. In politics, trading on names and positions is common practice. I understand that there are those who believe that Presidents should be free from any and all appearances of corruption, but that seems like kind of a fantasy dream in the Age of Trump. So, claims from the right that this is some sort of “proof” that Biden is an Evil Creature fall flat.
- On the other hand, the left seems indignant at the mere suggestion that Joe Biden is anything other than a male version of Mother Theresa, which is odd because of Joe’s long history of prevarication. Honestly, if there were no allegations at all, over nearly 50 years in public life, that Biden traded on name recognition or power at all…. well, THAT would be more shocking than what’s on the laptop.
But, what’s more disturbing to me is what’s happened to the REPORTING about the information.
Having been given the information on the laptop, the New York Post, after some level of fact-checking (viewed as flimsy by some, but nobody denies that they did do some homework to verify the material), on October 14th, published a series of articles relating and interpreting the contents of the laptop drive. Without commenting on the quality of that endeavor, this is where things started to go sideways.
The New York Post has a political perspective. Everyone does, and suggestions that the Post has a perspective while the Times, WaPo, and CNN do not are so far into fantasyland that it’s not worth discussing. But, these are all media platforms, and they are free to use them any way they wish. But in this situation, please remember:
The Post’s reporting on the facts of this matter are corroborated, BUT their conclusions from those facts are simply opinions.
We should all understand that. However, when Twitter and Facebook jumped into prevent the dissemination of these stories on their platforms, this should be a bridge too far for any classical liberal to accept.
Put another way, there is no reason for any platform, public or private, to censor material where the facts of the matter are corroborated. Nor should we, in a liberal democracy, censor opinions unless they promote violence, which the Biden material most certainly did not do.
Twitter first censored the material because, they said, it was “hacked”, or obtained fraudulently. If they remain true to that standard (they won’t, because it’s a smokescreen) they’ve just disabled investigative journalism forever, and given the governmental authorities carte blanche to carry on whatever sorts of mischief they would like without any fear that they’ll be called to task.
Care for a short list of information that never would have seen the light of day, had the standards of the Twitter censors been upheld at the time?
- Watergate. Nixon would have finished his term without issue.
- Pentagon Papers.
- Abu Gharib.
- Anything provided by Chelsea Manning
- You wouldn’t know who Edward Snowden is.
- Trump’s tax returns
So, to conclude, Twitter’s censors (these are not fact-checkers) decided to erase the existence of a legitimate news organization who was reporting on legitimate information may be consequential in determining who to vote for.
Do we like that idea? Seriously, now.
Facebook was more obtuse. They simply said that they saw the stories from the Post gaining traction, and limited their distribution while their own “fact checkers” (who, to be sure, have far less ability to fact check anything of this sort than do professional journalists) verified the story. Different reasoning, same problem.
As I said above, from what we know so far about the contents of the drive, and from years of watching Joe Biden and how he operates…..the highest probability here is that the materials turn out not much more than a son trying to get leverage from the name of a powerful father, who may have made a couple of “Hey, help out my kid if you can” phone calls. Thus, these are pretty irrelevant in the large scheme of things.
But Twitter and Facebook have become the “public square” where all information is interchanged. And if that information is not interchanged without regard to content…..it puts democracy at risk. Unfortunately, this censorship seems to be acceptable to some, as long as it helps them achieve a political goal. If that’s you, I suggest you rethink.
I leave you with this: