One of the greatest evils infecting rational thought today is the conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories begin in speculation, speculation that is then allowed to congeal into certainty without evidence. Very often the conspiracy theory conveniently advances the claimant’s own personal or political agenda. It ought to be an article of faith for those of us on the political Left that speculation remains just that, and that it never be permitted to harden into fact absent solid evidentiary support.
One of the most effective deceptions employed by conspiracy theorists is the withholding of information. Very often a “stunning” revelation breathlessly revealed by a conspiracy theorist becomes substantially less compelling when all the full facts are known. The conspiracy theorist is often well-aware of these mitigating verities, but hopes that you are not. It is tempting for individuals to believe that what they know is all there is to know, and conspiracy theorists make full manipulative use of that bit of naïveté.
Two deadly conspiracy theories being cynically advanced by the Trump administration for political gain are that mail-in voting will lead to a rigged election in November and that Antifa is a real organization, and that organization is behind the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. Both are advanced without evidence and are therefore substantively invalid, and yet both are steadfastly promoted by the president of the United States and the Attorney General. This became clear in the course of the hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday.
When Representative Cedric Lewis asked Barr, “Do you believe, as Attorney General of the United States, that mail-in voting will lead to massive voter fraud?” Barr replied, “I think there’s a high risk that it will.” Barr offered no evidence to support this claim.
Mail-in voting, also known as absentee voting, has been used for decades in numerous states with minimal fraud or incident. It has never been the cause of “massive voter fraud.” I used absentee voting all the time when I lived in California and found it convenient, safe and effective.
What makes voting by mail unusual in the 2020 election, possibly unique, is that it’s highly useful for urban voters as a means to avoid coronavirus infection. Suburban and rural voters have less cause to worry because their lines are generally shorter and their voting venues less crowded. But in cities, where infection is hardest to avoid, mail-in voting would keep tens of thousands of voters safer and preserve many lives.
But Trump and Barr both know that cities contain the greatest number of Democratic voters and people of color. So their call to abolish mail-in voting is nothing less than a transparent ploy to suppress the vote. In fact, Trump acknowledged as much when he tweeted last April:
Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.
In other words, it’s not really the “voter fraud” he’s so much worried about. He knows it will go badly for Republicans, so he wants to do away with mail-in voting. As with all things Trump, he buries his motives in shallow graves.
Next, there is no credible evidence that there exists a terrorist organization called “Antifa” intent on disrupting and turning violent peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across the country. There is some violence among the protesters, some of which is fomented by white supremacists. But there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the notion that it’s organized nationwide and anything but ad hoc.
But it is a handy way to give Republicans a cause for counterfeit “concern,” to deflect away from systemic racism in the police department, to give a name to the “problem,” and to distract from the grim fact that a nation comprising only 2.4% of the population has ten times that percentage in world Coronavirus deaths. (Indeed, as I write this, 1,872 Americans have died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours.)
Barr claims to believe in Antifa. I see no evidence to suggest that he really believes it, but he uses it as an essential bete noire for his racist policy and focus. Representative Pramila Jayapal highlighted Barr’s hypocrisy when she said, “Let’s look at how you respond when the protesters are supporters of the president. On two separate occasions when president trump tweeted ‘liberate Michigan’ to subvert stay at home orders to protect the public health of people in Michigan, protesters swarmed the Michigan capitol carrying guns. Some with swastikas, Confederate flags, and one even with a dark haired doll with a noose around its neck. Are you aware that these protesters called for the governor to be lynched, shot and beheaded?” To which Barr replied “No.” That I knew it and am an American expat living in Britain and the Attorney General of the United States didn’t know it is nothing short of shameful. And if he’s lying, so much the worse.
Barr’s pro-Trump political agenda seems to drive his decisions at the Department of Justice, and that agenda was laid bare by the hearings. This, in and of itself, is cause for impeachment of Barr, and I think, based on his testimony concerning mail-in voting, Antifa and other things, that the House should draft articles of impeachment against him, and arrange to be finished with their impeachment inquiry by early January when a new Senate majority is likely to be sworn in, so that the new Senate can convict and eject him prior to the 20th of January.
It’s instructive that this is an article about William Barr’s testimony on Tuesday, because when I first reported his scheduled hearing in June in the pages of Palmer Report I was told by several people, in no uncertain terms, that I was naive for believing that he would show. Several people stated categorically — and without evidence — that Barr would never voluntarily testify. Clearly they were wrong, and this is another instance when care needs to be used. I made no representation that Barr would or would not appear before the committee. I merely offered options about what could happen if he did.
Anyone who claims to know the future is lying, and if circumstances accidentally coincide with their predictions they are not vindicated — not even by accident. They are still wrong. Confident “predictions” that leave no room for contradiction are poisoning the Democratic well, particularly when those predictions come in the form of sweeping proclamations of negativity and divisiveness. Again, no one knows the future for certain. Trump’s defeat is not a fait accompli, so we must all vote and get this monster out of office. We must vote as if our lives depend on it. It just might literally come to that. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.