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I messaged a friend on last night. For some time now, he has been sharing memes and diatribes about the theft of the election by Joe Biden, as well as the apocalyptic consequences for America should the scam be allowed to succeed.

Though this sentiment puts him in a large crowd, he seems to me particularly devoted; real passion, real anger.

I asked him whether he thought it possible that Biden had won without fraud, noting the Pennsylvanian was backed by the combined forces of media and capital, and that polls, near worthless as they are, had predicted a strong showing for him.

He answered that it was impossible (he used that word). Trump’s rallies were too full, Biden’s too empty. Where did the eighty million votes come from? From what well of conviction was the motivation to vote in such numbers pulled up?

I suggested the Biden rallies were emptier because of advised precautions over Covid; and that social distancing was displayed excessively to project the image of a medically conscientious and sensible alternative to Trump.

But he wouldn’t have this either. The very fact that thousands of people defied medical advice to show their support for the president was significant evidence of the crookedness of the outcome. Americans, he explained, do not ordinarily behave like this over a political candidate; even Obama, with his millenarian context, enjoyed hardly a tenth of the enthusiasm on display in every state Trump visited. Ordinary working people, shivering in plaid jackets, exhaling vapor in the middle of a respiratory pandemic, employed their time and energy to encourage someone they devoutly believed in, against (indeed, happily against) the instructions of their supposed betters.

Later on, my friend added some weird speculation about Biden’s love of children, moving from there to his son Hunter Biden’s very real (but questionably relevant) libertinism during the Obama years. I discarded this, as it deserves to be discarded. I do not believe Joe Biden is anything so devilish (or interesting) as what he implied, nor that Hunter Biden’s private degeneracy should necessarily incriminate his father. (My friend didn’t mention the dodgy deals Hunter allegedly made while in Ukraine, possibly on his father’s behalf, which is quite another, more serious matter.) Still, the better points he put across deserve to be considered; as does, perhaps more than anything else, his closing remark that “anyway, at the end of the day, Trump is the only thing standing between America and collapse.”

I pay special attention to that phrase – ‘at the end of the day’. It doesn’t always negate or replace what has already been said by a person – but it sometimes marks the beginning of a different, simpler, more lucid analysis.

It made me wonder whether some of Trump’s hardcore champions, in supporting the fraud narrative, are simply trying to force an ultimatum; whether they don’t really believe in the Dominion theory advanced by Sidney Powell, or in the dozens of possibilities floated by Rudy Giuliani; whether for such people the goal justifies the method.

America will probably not collapse when/if Biden is sworn in on January 20th. There will not be a civil conflict of unmanageable proportions. The country will merely pick up pace along the same trajectory of decay and Brazilianization Trump was elected to slow or reverse.

Nonetheless, tens of millions of people are willing to do whatever it takes to prevent a return to this negative stability.

Whether any meaningful number are prepared to feign belief I cannot confidently say. But it isn’t impossible. There are many ‘at the end of the day’ clauses in Parler discourse.

The same, incidentally, is true the other way. I know personally of many liberals who knew full well that Trump did not conspire with the Russian government in the 2016 election. The theory was nonsense, supported by half-truths and downright lies. But Trump was the devil, and the devil was winning and had to be defeated. If democracy stood in the way, then democracy had to be overcome. In the name of emergency, normal rules were suspended. Lies could be noble.

***

What’s wrong with a disinformation war? Why not present a crafty narrative to subvert or prevent a process you believe to be evil? Is that ever appropriate?

In North Korea, would it not be justified to spread a rumour about the commanding party so offensive to the human spirit that it united the people, giving them sufficient courage to liberate themselves from kimilsungist tyranny?

You could certainly make the case. With the North Korean regime smashed and humiliated, and the people, in a state of nervous euphoria, walking on free land for the first time in more than half a century, who would criticise the tactic? Who would claim it wasn’t justified?

Disinformation can work for good – in exceptional cases.

But now imagine that North Korea, in the same nightmarish state as today, was split 50/50. Imagine that half the population supported the regime and half opposed it. The disinformation would strengthen the regime, not weaken it. If the incitement to revolt fell short, all advantage would be gifted to the enemy. Their lies would seem relatively truthful. The opposition would have wasted an opportunity by crying wolf. 

To use a less extreme – and non-hypothetical – example, Donald Trump benefited greatly from the Russia probe. For all his ‘gaffes’, the liberal crusade to implicate him in something so ridiculous coloured the president as an honest victim of persecution, even in the eyes of centrists initially frightened by him.

I am unconvinced that electoral fraud is to blame for Trump losing the election; and while I have no right to a say in American affairs, I would strongly advise against maintaining otherwise. In Georgia and elsewhere, the left is beginning to reap the benefits.

David

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