So Long 2022

Upon publication of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” the Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have said  “Dear Lord please let it not be true, or at least not be widely known”. Today Progressives and their sympathizers have said essentially the same thing with respect to the Twitter files. 

In a year full of big stories—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation, the collapse of FTX, the conviction of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, the overturning of Roe v. Wade—the revelations contained in the Twitter files may seem at first blush like weak tea. But they are not. The revelations go to the heart of the American experiment in self-government which depends on an independent press and freedom of expression. 

The Twitter files—internal Twitter documents that Elon Musk provided to some admittedly sympathetic journalists—have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that Twitter was actively engaged in censoring content that did not follow the woke party line. Not only that, Twitter (and Facebook for that matter) worked hand in glove with the FBI, the Biden campaign, and later the White House to suppress stories that ran counter to the preferred narrative of liberal Pooh-Bahs.  

Consider for instance, the Hunter Biden laptop story. Hunter Biden left a laptop containing all kinds of unflattering information, possibly including evidence of criminal activity by Hunter and the entire Biden family, with a repair shop. The NY Post got hold of it and wrote about it in late October. 

Twitter’s response (quickly followed by Google and Facebook) was to shut down the NY Post account in order to prevent the story from being disseminated further. Then 51 members of what naifs call “the intelligence community” wrote a vaguely worded letter implying, without a shred of evidence, that the information was actually Russian disinformation. Signers of that letter included James Clapper and John Brennan, both of whom had previously admitted to lying under oath in Congressional testimony. 

Unfortunately, the laptop story is not an isolated incident. It is of a piece. 

For instance, critics of the extended COVID-19 lockdowns, which produced such disastrous results in education and mental health, suffered a similar fate. Those critics include the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration: Sunetra Gupta (Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, Oxford), Jay Bhattacharya (Professor of Medicine, Stanford) and Martin Kulldorf (biostatistician and Professor of Medicine, Harvard). They were subjected to shadow banning and suppression by Twitter.

The essence of their argument was that it was virtually impossible to stop the spread of the infection and that a risk-reward analysis indicated that policy ought to be targeted at protecting the most vulnerable. In retrospect, their analysis proved to be largely correct. But that didn’t (and hasn’t) stopped the smears. Nor has it produced much by way of a belated acknowledgement by the people who sought to silence them. 

If this were merely a story about a journalistic error it would be one thing. But it is not. The real story is about how the media-government complex cooperated to stifle debate and discussion. Debate and discussion are supposed to be what science and a free press are all about. And, to put it mildly, government has no business putting its thumb on the scale. 

An attempt to control the mechanisms of information dissemination combined with government interference turns journalists into stenographers. That is the model that dominates the “news” in China, Russia, Iran and other authoritarian regimes. It is not how a free marketplace of ideas is supposed to function. 

Perhaps in 2023 liberals of a certain age will remember that back in their college days they favored free expression instead of cheering for conformity and group think the way they do now. That’s my New Year’s wish. 


Here We Go Again?

Although less likely than before, it seems horrifyingly possible that the Republican and Democratic parties will contrive to inflict upon the body politic a rematch of the 2020 presidential contest in 2024. In that national embarrassment, Mr. Biden narrowly bested Mr. Trump in the electoral college to assume the Presidency, although Mr. Trump is apparently still unaware that the fat lady has already sung. 

Prior to the midterms in which a widely anticipated red wave never materialized, it was expected that Mr. Biden would announce that he would not be running in 2024. But the unexpected success of the Democratic showing in the midterms has reportedly persuaded Mr Biden to carry on and he is even now preparing for another run—or shuffle as the case may be.

For his part, Mr. Trump displayed a mastery of electoral politics not seen since George McGovern managed to lose 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon. He did so by engineering the nominations of: Kari Lake for Governor and Blake Masters for Senator of Arizona; Pennsylvania nominees for Governor (Mastriano) and Senator (Mehmet Oz);  New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc, Nevada Senate nominee Adam Laxalt and for the Michigan Governor’s office, Tudor Dixon. 

They all lost. Bigly as The Donald might say. 

In fact, across every region of the country, Trump’s candidates lost and lost convincingly in what were eminently winnable races. The only major Trumpkin who managed to successfully cross the finish line was JD Vance in Ohio, and he ran something like 15 points behind the other statewide Republicans. 

Meanwhile Brian Kemp of Georgia, who was personally targeted for extinction by HRH Trump, beat Stacey Abrams handily in the Governor’s race. She even conceded this time around. By doing so, Kemp became a political figure to keep an eye on. 

Not that losing, and losing badly in 2018, 2020, 2021 (Georgia runoffs) and 2022 would serve in any way to deter the mighty Trump. He is, after all, trying to settle scores with Republicans who failed to kiss the ring. To that end, shortly after his latest series of losses, he assumed that Republicans were gluttons for punishment and announced that he intended to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. 

He did this despite (or maybe because of) the fact that he is on the cusp of being indicted in several jurisdictions for various crimes that he almost certainly committed. The decision to announce his candidacy may quite possibly be part of a larger legal strategy that is divorced from electoral politics. 

On the other hand we might invoke Occam’s razor to explain Mr. Trump’s increasingly erratic and cringeworthy behavior. The evidence is clear: The man is a lunatic, an easily observable fact that has been recognized by roughly everyone blessed by the touch of rationality.

So why do so many Republican office holders stare at their shoes and mumble when asked about the latest burst of idiocy Mr. Trump manages to utter?  He, for instance, just recently suggested that the Constitution should be “suspended” so that he can be inaugurated as the “real” winner of the 2020 election. Failing that, he suggested there should be an electoral do-over. 

Calling for the suspension of the Constitution requires an impressive dose of Chutzpah. Especially when you consider that the Presidential Oath of Office contained in Article II obligates the President-elect to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”   Then again, Mr Trump, who has never shown the slightest inclination to tell the truth when it’s inconvenient, notwithstanding a pesky thing like an oath, will no doubt soon be championing law and order. 

What is a mystery of sorts is why Republican office holders don’t simply come out and say the obvious. The Constitution is not going to be suspended; that there is no way short of a coup  for it to be suspended; it simply doesn’t matter what Mr. Trump has to say on the subject, and by the way he simply doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about, which is not an entirely unusual phenomenon. 

After all, this would not take much courage—not that Republican courage is in noticeable surplus these days—because it has now been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that following Mr. Trump’s leadership is a surefire path to losing.  

Alternatively, they could just say he is off his meds.