Slate: spend Christmas "debunking" family's "conspiracy theories"

AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I am definitely in the camp of people who advise “avoid politics at the Christmas dinner.”

As you might guess, I care a lot about politics and can have a difficult time doing this myself as the only conservative in my family. I used to be terrible at this, but have gotten better.

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But when I visit with some family it is impossible; not because I can’t shut up about politics, but because my existence offends others’ cocoon. The best policy is to ignore provocations because nobody is going to change their minds, particularly those who consider it their job to needle you.

Every year we are confronted with advice about how to convince your Uncle Joe that socialism is really a good thing or that he is a racist in need of reform. I like to go through these articles just to find out what the narrative pushers are trying to convince the masses to believe.

Slate’s version this year is a doozy. As a “news and opinion” publication that is mainstream-adjacent, if not exactly MSM itself, it has taken up the task of convincing the average IQ Lefty that debunking the Hunter Biden laptop “conspiracy theories.” It does an especially poor job of it because the laptop itself is filled with conspiracy proofs.

There is pretty much no way to spin the laptop in such a way that anybody involved comes out looking good, so their argument boils down to “there is no proof that Joe himself was involved” in all the evil stuff revealed in it. And besides, since there is no proof nobody should care.

This from folks who actually argued that the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution forbade Donald Trump from being president.

The reason, conservatives claimed, was that the vice president’s son, Hunter, was on Burisma’s board, and that the vice president wanted to protect his son’s interests.

Now, three things are true: Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma, starting in 2014 and until 2019. As vice president, Biden had pushed Ukraine to remove its top prosecutor in 2015. And he had used the $1 billion in aid as leverage to help get that done. But that’s because the prosecutor was widely seen as corrupt by the international community. (Other Western leaders had also called for the prosecutor’s ouster before Biden got involved, and Biden was, according to the Washington Post, “carrying out a policy developed at the State Department and coordinated with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.”)

Furthermore, one of the reasons the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was seen as corrupt was in part because he had failed to investigate allegations of embezzlement and other wrongdoing at Burisma.

It’s fair to say (to Uncle Bob, or whoever else needs to hear it) that claims that Joe Biden protected Burisma to safeguard his son’s interests are politically motivated, and constitutemisinformation. If the vice president had been trying to shield his son (or enrich his son), in this particular circumstance, he chose the exact wrong way to do it.

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“If the vice president had been trying to shield his son (or enrich his son), in this particular circumstance, he chose the exact wrong way to do it.” Really? I don’t recall that Hunter Biden’s relationship to Burisma was ever investigated by anybody. In fact, those connections have been memory holed, despite being obviously corrupt. Burisma had literally no reason to hire Hunter but for his political connections.

It’s pretty hard to argue that Joe’s bullying of Ukraine–a notoriously corrupt country–did anything but protect Hunter Biden. It’s not like there are numerous other examples of Biden or anybody else threatening to bully Ukraine to clean its politics up. Perhaps such examples exist of which I am unaware, but it is hardly ridiculous to raise one’s eyebrows at this unique example of Washington’s concern about Ukrainian corruption. After the prosecutor was ditched we sent $1 billion to this still corrupt government.

The laptop scandal is where Slate truly shines. There is no way to spin the laptop story in a way in which everybody involved doesn’t look awful, but Slate gives it the old college try:

in October 2020, the New York Post published a story featuring emails and other materials recovered from a laptop that the paper said had belonged to Hunter Biden. Those materials included a couple of emails that were misread to imply that Joe Biden had been involved in some of his son’s business deals in Ukraine and China in a way that would have been potentially corrupt, or at least a conflict of interest.

Later, the New York Times did verify that these emails and other materials—or at least a fair amount of them—were authentic. But at the time, many in the media worried that these emails had been hacked, stolen, or doctored, or weren’t real at all. Twitter responded by banning any links to the New York Post article, citing a policy against allowing the publication of hacked materials and private information. It then locked the account of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany when she promoted the article, and it took down the New York Post’s account. Late the next day, facing an intense backlash, Twitter began relaxing those policies. It lifted the restrictions on posting and sharing the link the following day, though it continued to ban the New York Post’s account for another couple of weeks.

All this set off a bigger debate.

For a lot of conservatives, it was proof of an increasingly popular claim: that the Big Tech companies they had come to distrust were engaged in censorship. The controversy thus came to be less about Hunter Biden and more about the belief that allegations against him were covered up. That’s what the most recent Hunter Biden brouhaha has been about: On Dec. 2 of this year, journalist Matt Taibbi published Twitter’s internal correspondence about the laptop story, which he framed as proof that Twitter haddone the bidding of Democrats and suppressed bad news about Hunter Biden. Decisions at Twitter about the laptop story were made well before Elon Musk took over the company, and it was Musk’s team that gave the internal documents to Taibbi in order to purportedly demonstrate the previous regime’s bias.

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Pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that censoring the country’s old newspaper was anything but evidence of political bias. If the claim is that Twitter should censor potentially false information the company would be in for a tough task. The entire Steele dossier was a pile of crap bought and paid for by the Clinton campaign and it was spread all over Twitter and the front pages of every newspaper in the country. It was transparently false, and every person in Clintonworld knew it because they had prepared the thing.
Twitter never throttled the spread of this and other misinformation. Almost every government and rebel group in the world has Twitter accounts. The Taliban, China, Iran…Twitter allows them all. So banning the New York Post promoting its entirely true story was a clearly transparent political move.

OK, so why does my cousin Peter talk about the Hunter Biden emails as if they’re so damning?

In a 2017 email that was uncovered in the laptop dump, a business associate of Hunter’s used the phrase “10 held by H for the big guy?” in an email about a partnership that Hunter and his uncle Jim Biden were forming with a Chinese energy conglomerate called CEFC China Energy.

One of the partners in the deal, Anthony Bobulinski, has said that “H” was Hunter and the “big guy” was Joe Biden. That wouldn’t be great—a former vice president (and future president) getting in on a business deal with a Chinese energy company! Except there’s no real evidence that he did: The draft agreement that circulated afterward did not mention Joe Biden; nor did the signed company agreement. Other business associates have said Joe Biden was not involved in the discussions.

The second allegedly incriminating email was called the “smoking-gun email” by the New York Post. In an April 2015 message, a Burisma executive thanked Hunter for “giving an opportunity to meet your father,” reportedly at a dinnerthat had taken place the previous day. This exchange occurred before the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor, so it excited Trumpworld because it appeared to prove that Joe Biden had lied when he said during the 2020 presidential campaign that he hadn’t known about Hunter’s work in Ukraine. But we don’t know for sure that the Burisma exec actually did attend the dinner, which took place at Cafe Milano in D.C. and was attended by about a dozen people. (He wasn’t on the guest list.) Nor do we know how long Joe Biden was there. (At least one person has said the vice president only stopped by briefly to visit with a leader in the Greek Orthodox Church.) So it doesn’t necessarily mean that Joe Biden and the Burisma executive had a one-on-one conversation or that Burisma was discussed at all. In any case, whether or not Joe Biden spoke to the executive

Really? Sure, in a court of law the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, but does anybody think this isn’t pretty strong evidence of corruption? At the very least it shows that Joe was helping his son in his influence peddling, and strongly suggests a lot more than that.

What journalist would look at that series of coincidences and not suspect, or even conclude that Joe was getting kickbacks from his son?

“We don’t know for sure” is hardly a debunking. It is wishful thinking.

I could go on, but this is what passes for “debunking” these days.

Yet it obviously works, because many people want to believe that Democrats don’t stink; that aroma is a new perfume from Balenciaga.

Again, I advise avoiding political discussions at the family Christmas dinner. But if confronted by arguments like these my fallback position would be a hearty chuckle and a request to pass the mashed potatoes.

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024
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