Hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign are unlikely to provide “smoking gun” evidence which might derail her candidacy, but they do paint a very depressing picture of exactly how the American political class view the people they supposedly serve
With each new release of hacked Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks, reporters have tended to swarm over the documents looking for a “smoking gun” of some kind – hard and fast evidence that Hillary Clinton may have engaged in illegal or clearly unethical acts. Such bombshell revelations are unlikely to emerge.
Why? Well, as Jonah Goldberg points out, we are dealing with an extraordinarily astute political operator here. Whether it is the work of the Clinton Foundation or her off-the-books correspondence as Secretary of State, shamefully kept on a bootleg server installed in her home, if Hillary Clinton wanted to commit any serious wrongdoing it would not have been committed to black and white in the first place, however well hidden and guarded.
Besides which, the definition of “smoking gun” has continuously evolved to ensure that Hillary Clinton remains on the safe side of it. Jonah Goldberg made this very point awhile ago:
But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”
But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”
So quests to find smoking gun evidence in the hacked emails already released or those to come are likely to end in disappointment.
But far more interesting than any smoking gun evidence is the insight that these emails provide into the way that America’s ruling class thinks about the people. Typically, on election night, politicians and pundits alike pause hostilities to proclaim the beauty of democracy and laud the deep and abiding wisdom of the American people. You hear a hundred variations on this theme every election day as cable news anchors scramble to fill the unforgiving silence before the exit polls and results start to come in.
But the tone and content of these emails between Clinton staffers, discussing strategy and various ways to limit the damage from tawdry things that their candidate has done, reveals what the political elite really think of the people. And none more so than this email sent to John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, by Bill Ivey, a longtime Clinton supporter and former Bill Clinton political appointee.
Some context: the two men are kicking back and forth ways that Hillary Clinton can cut through Donald Trump’s “entertainment” appeal to better get her message out to people who really don’t want to hear it.
Ivey writes to Podesta:
Well, we all thought the big problem for our US democracy was Citizens United/Koch Brothers big money in politics. Silly us; turns out that money isn’t all that important if you can conflate entertainment with the electoral process. Trump masters TV, TV so-called news picks up and repeats and repeats to death this opinionated blowhard and his hairbrained ideas, free-floating discontent attaches to a seeming strongman and we’re off and running. JFK, Jr would be delighted by all this as his “George” magazine saw celebrity politics coming. The magazine struggled as it was ahead of its time but now looks prescient. George, of course, played the development pretty lightly, basically for charm and gossip, like People, but what we are dealing with now is dead serious. How does this get handled in the general? Secretary Clinton is not an entertainer, and not a celebrity in the Trump, Kardashian mold; what can she do to offset this? I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.
My emphasis in bold.
Now, it might not come as a surprise that senior politicians and their aides are complicit in deliberately trying to keep people ill-informed and docile. But in our more optimistic moments we might like to believe that this is merely an unfortunate side effect of politics rather than one of its central aims. Yet here we are, with two Clinton confidantes casually discussing that political operatives are fully aware and “quite content” to behave in this way.
What’s more, these people actively celebrate a docile and ignorant population, because when gerrymandered districts means that very few House and district races are actually competitive, it makes life easier for everyone if political parties can simply take for granted whole swathes of the population while focusing their efforts on a few narrowly defined demographics and swing states. In other words, it is to everyone’s advantage that Americans are neatly pigeonholed into ideological bubbles and prodded to action once every two years rather than becoming more thoughtful and genuinely engaged citizens. And these two Clinton operatives talk about this as though it is the most normal thing in the world.
Indeed, their only cause for alarm seems to be that while the ignorance remains strong, the people’s willingness to obey instructions is rapidly fading. And of course Clinton’s aides would be worried – their boss needed the underhand intervention of the Democratic National Committee simply to prevail over Bernie Sanders, an ornery old socialist, in her primary race. The Republican Party lost control of their uncompliant base completely, which is why they are now saddled with Donald Trump as their nominee rather than somebody who is, you know, an actual conservative.
But in neither case (for this is a problem of the political class in general, and not confined to one or other party) is there any sense of shame or introspection at having patronised and manipulated their party bases for so long that people rebelled in search of genuine authenticity. They don’t think they did anything wrong. They simply acknowledge that they now have a problem to solve, because the people’s “compliance is obviously fading rapidly”. They want to find a way to return their supporters to their rightful stupor as quickly as possible, so that they can go on governing as they see fit without having to respond to popular pressure to do things differently.
And in a way, that is more damning than any “smoking gun” email showing that Hillary Clinton broke the law or wielded inappropriate evidence ever could be. Because it shows that even when this election is over and one or other candidate fades to become a footnote in history, these parasitic political operatives and bag carriers will still be there, waiting to serve their next master by keeping the population as dumb and compliant as possible.
And if that doesn’t depress you, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.
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Welcome to the ‘Rabbit hole’. It goes further than is imagined, and is riddled with intentional dead ends. The further you go, the less others will believe what you find. Most take the ‘red pill’. They are used to that one.
I suspect that this post of yours has impelled my first comment in a while because it speaks to a matter that has been irking me for some time – namely, the diminishing quality/infantilising of political debate .. in the UK.
This appears to have followed a similar process (perhaps one election cycle or so behind the USA) – and one reason that it has come to pass is the complicity of the television ‘news’, or perhaps that ought best be described as ‘infotainment’, where increasing quantity (24 hour news) has played into the hands of the ‘media consultants’ who by email (or by fax, back in the early 90’s) now feed the news beast, without time for reflection or much in the way of the old-school journalistic fact checking.
We need merely contemplate how simply dreadful was the standard of debate in the Scottish independence referendum (lots of free stuff if you uninquisitive [gullible .. anyone?] vote to leave the UK), and if possible an even worse standard for that of the UK’s EU referendum. Indicative of the problem:- How could the BBC (not being reliant on advertising £) have ceded to the vacuous commentariat / manifestly ill informed polititians its editorial control of the subject matter being broadcast. Surely its power of enquiry (perhaps by employing journalists who actually comprehend their topic through some in-depth investigation/time served) would have revealed just how ill-informed/misleading/absurd were much of the daily press releases/statements from both campaigns.
As you point out in your article, it really ought to exercise the minds of those who proclaim to care about the quality of western political debate.