I've got an op-ed in today's Washington Post, about the legal threats that ES&S - the litigious, private-equity-backed voting machine monopolist - sent to SMART Elections, a citizen group that criticized ES&S products to NY election officials.
I blogged the story in Jan, after reading Princeton's Andrew Appel's defense of SMART; Appel has done important, careful, peer-reviewed research on defects in ES&S's Expressvote XL, and he defended the claims that ES&S was threatening to sue over.
The point that Appel made, that really struck home with me, was that the timing and character of ES&S's claims echoed the claims of Dominion Voting Systems against trumpland's most unhinged conspiratorialists, like Rudy Giuliani.
Dominion was the target of baseless conspiracy claims that were part of a plot to overthrow American democracy. ES&S's threats made it sound like anyone who criticized voting machines was part of the same movement.
This is a cynical ploy straight out of the Trump playbook, as when he took the term "fake news" (coined to describe fraudulent anti-Clinton stories) and used it to dismiss all media criticism of his regime.
The conclusion Trump wanted us to draw from the fact that some political scandals are ginned-up hoaxes is that ALL political scandals are frauds.
Likewise, I read ES&S's as saying that anyone who criticizes voting machines is pulling a Giuliani.
It's a devastating attack on the truth itself, a challenge to our ability to ever know anything. And it's especially grave to wield this weapon against voting-machine critics, because voting machines are, in fact, garbage (including ES&S's).
For that matter, *Dominion's* machines are *also* trash, just not for the idiotic reasons that Giuliani and co came up with. Appel followed up his post on the Expressvote XL with an equally damning post about Dominion's devices.
ES&S's gambit reminds me of the "tankies" who deny the Chinese Uyghur genocide. After publishing on Intercepted's primary source docs on the human rights atrocities yesterday, I was inundated with accusations of aiding US imperialism.
The argument goes, "The US has historically ginned up cases against its economic adversaries by inventing or exaggerating their flaws (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, etc), *and* the US right wants a new cold war with China, *therefore* anything bad you hear about China is an op."
As one source put it to me, our media is about affect, "picking what you believe is correct or not based on if it makes you feel good."
Once you arrive at the (actually correct) shortcut belief that US state claims about human rights abuses overseas are pretexts for aggression, then it's easy to fall into the trap of defending anyone the US criticizes as blameless or at least not as bad as they seem.
But your enemy's enemy is not your friend. The reason the US is able to sell claims about its adversaries' bad human rights records is that...they have bad human rights records.
The issue isn't that the US fails to identify human rights abusers - it's that it only defends human rights when it serves its political interests, and the rest of the time, it's happy to collaborate on the abuses.
Likewise, the reason that Giuliani and co were able to sell their unhinged conspiracy about Dominion's voting machines is that voting machines are and always have been garbage, and the companies that make them are profiteering bullies who use the law to silence critics.
The problem with Giuliani's conspiracy theory isn't that voting machines aren't garbage - it's that he's wrong about how they're garbage, and what that means for election integrity.
Giuliani's targeting of voting machines isn't a signal that they're good because he's an idiot who's wrong about everything - it's that he's so wrong that he's even wrong about the things that he's wrong about.
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