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Prime Directive: Trust the System, Blame the Russians

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There are increasing doubts about the trustworthiness of America’s now ubiquitous electronic voting systems. For all the reasons I put forth in my previous post, including the suspicious results in the Democratic primary this year (analyzed in detail in a Stanford study), wider swaths of the public are aware and concerned about whether voters can have confidence that their votes will be counted for whom they are cast.

So the establishment media had to address this issue in some way. I guess that’s why the New York Times put David E. Sanger and Charlie Savage on the case, with their September 14th article, “Prime Danger in Vote Hack: Sowing Doubt.”

As the title indicates, the prime objective of this article is to allay any doubt voters might have about the reliability of the American electoral process, while at the same time acknowledging (kinda, sorta) that there’s some “danger” involved in the opaque, proprietary technologies that now determine the outcome of our elections. It’s a tricky needle to thread, and the convoluted and self-contradictory argument they use to do it is woven around the first two words of the article: “Russian hackers.”

Yup, step one of their argument is that the danger does not come from privatized electronic voting-counting systems that, as scores of analysts have demonstrated, and Victoria Collier recently pointed out, allow “thousands, even millions of electronic votes [to] be siphoned from one candidate to another through malicious internal coding in the voting software.” You can ignore, as they do, all that “conspiracy theory” nonsense. The only danger to the electoral system comes from “Russian hackers.”

Step two of their argument—and the trickiest part—is that the only danger those Russian hackers pose is to “sow doubts about the legitimacy of the results.” You see, those conniving Russkies cannot really hack, only “disrupt,” electronic voting systems. Sure, they can get in and “meddle” a little, but they cannot “change the outcome.” (Because it must be that nobody can, or else…Stop that thought, “Conspiracy Theory”!)

This category of an intrusion into a computerized electronic system that’s not really a hack, but only a “disruption” is a wondrous rhetorical, if not actually digital, device, which allows us to have complete confidence in the electronic voting system and still worry about it, in just the right way. We can credit Sanger and Savage for revealing to us how the exceptional American electoral system can apparently deflect any malicious hack by turning it into an ineffectual “disruption.” Even more amazing, the system seems to have been designed, craftily, to allow just enough inconsequential “meddling” to entice and expose any foolish and malign disrupters. Especially if they’re Russian.

On the one hand, we can thank our lucky stars, and shrewd American software engineers, that this “disruption” only effects the previously-unheard-of confidence circuitry of our election devices, that it only “sows doubts.” On the other hand, isn’t that the worstest thing ever, that the Russians can make Americans “lose confidence in the system.”

Because, really, we can ignore all the issues that have been analyzed by Americans over the past 15 years regarding the proprietary, hackable, electronic voting systems peddled by American companies. We can have complete “confidence in the security of the vote” in “most states,” and we can rest assured that “an accurate count would probably be made,” despite “meddling around the edges,” which might constitute “disruption” but “not really…manipulation.” [My emphasis.]

In fact, the authors warn us, “the disruption has already begun”—by the Russians. The American electoral system is probably in most states perfectly trustworthy, A-OK, and the Prime Danger comes not from the faults of the system itself, but only from the Russians—and, of course, Putin’s American sleeper agents, Bev Harris, Virginia Martin, this writer, et. al.—who might try to make people “lose confidence in the system.”

With this article, the NYT has given us a perfect example of the job the establishment media does: ignore the work, and trivialize the well-founded fears, of concerned Americans, and divert attention to the government’s villain of the day. Singer and Savage have done their bit in trying to fold the growing, serious doubts about the voting system into the current ridiculous narrative about the evil, scheming Russians—in order to reinforce the all-important message: “Trust the system.”

Will anyone really buy this nonsense? I wish I could say no.

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Jim Kavanagh edits The Polemicist.

CounterPunch Magazine

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