Hunter Biden’s Laptop and 2020’s First Big Lie
Thursday, December 15, 2022 5:19 AM
Our national press outlets need a ‘Team B’ approach to the story.
When you say a large retinue of former top intelligence officials lied when they portrayed the laptop as a Russian intelligence operation, they say there’s no evidence that Joe Biden profited from his son’s activities.
When you say Twitter censored a legitimate news story and active-duty FBI officials may have encouraged the company to do so, they insist that Twitter is a private company and that Hunter’s activities were not illegal and had already been widely reported to the public.
In other words, the defenses now filling the media evade every important question. Only one intellectually honest statement has been heard anywhere and that was offered months ago by liberal philosopher and podcaster Sam Harris: Yes, the laptop story was true and newsworthy. Yes, intelligence veterans and the press lied in suppressing it to help Joe Biden. And he supports their doing so.Newsletter Sign-upMorning Editorial ReportAll the day's Opinion headlines.
At least this response owns up in healthy fashion to realities, which is more than you can say for the national media. It’s a good moment to remind ourselves: The allegory of the emperor’s new clothes is not a parable of stupidity. It’s a parable of cowardice.
When 51 ex-intelligence officials said the laptop’s emergence “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” they were lying. In the long history of Kremlin dirty tricks, there’s no precedent for so implausible a caper. The officials couldn’t even say clearly what they meant. A real laptop had been stolen by the Russians and leaked to the press? A fake laptop had been created with thousands of uncannily real-looking documents, photos, videos and emails, most of them diabolically designed to have no news or scandal value?
The New York Post produced not only a complete and sufficient account of how it obtained the laptop data. It produced a dated subpoena showing the FBI was already in possession of the original laptop for months and would know if the data were fake.
The absurdity of the intelligence veterans’ claim was obvious at the time. The people who run America’s major news outlets (at least those who aren’t idiots) knew it.
So obvious was the lie that America’s biggest news organizations have to remain silent now because of their own complicity. What I wrote in week one remains true: “It ought to register with you how cravenly some in the mainstream media are trying to convince you something isn’t true that they know is true.”
So compromised are the national reporting staffs of the Washington Post, the New York Times and other outlets that they can’t be trusted on the biggest story of the day. A Jeff Bezos, say, would have to take a page from the CIA’s own history and recruit a “Team B” off-site from his Washington Post to investigate the laptop ruse, then require his newspaper to report the truth however discomfiting to its newsroom and leadership.
The laptop ruse also ought to have you rethinking the FBI’s and Robert Mueller’s dragging out of the collusion inquiry to damage a president they distrusted. It ought to have you rethinking James Comey’s convenient resolution of the Hillary Clinton email matter based on secret “Russian intelligence” that he made sure would remain hidden from you even today.
Our press would bring these stories to light if it could refute them, but it can’t so it ignores them. And no, Twitter and Substack aren’t a substitute for institutions that can deploy teams of reporters and substantial resources to investigations.
The point has long since stopped being whose ox is gored, Mr. Trump’s or Mr. Biden’s. American voters whatever their sympathies don’t want their government and media lying to them to shape their political choices. (Put aside lying in a way that falsely incriminates a nuclear-armed hostile power as trying to fix a U.S. election on behalf of one of the candidates—an element of this episode that none want to confront.)
The election is over; the truth is kept from you now to protect the guilty, not to save the country from the supposed menace of Trumpism. In a different universe far, far away—that is, America pre-Donald Trump—a conscientious press would be reporting the hell out of all this.
Now House Republicans will have to do the job instead, implicitly holding the press to account in the process. Whether Joe Biden actively promoted his son’s ventures is a secondary question but will yield to further investigation. Whether active-duty officials joined in lying to news outlets about the laptop origins will become clear as the Twitter revelations are followed up.
One question I think we can say is already resolved conclusively: The 51 former officials lied to the public with deliberation and premeditation to influence a presidential election, and the national press abetted them.