Observations On The Hunter Biden Emails Ethics Train Wreck

train wreck - b

That’s democracy falling over…

  • Lawyer/blogger Ken White, in his new incarnation of Popehat, has a useful, informative but misguided post about the misunderstanding of the law as it applied to Twitter and Facebook manipulating the news to push Joe Biden over the finish line. Yes, it’s true: there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the social media platforms choosing to censor communications they don’t like, even if its objective is to “rig”—in President Trump’s term—the election. It is still, however, wrong. Ken is usually a bit more nuanced in recognizing the critical law vs ethics problem. Okay, I got it” members of Congress and conservative pundits arguing that Section 230 requires social media platforms to be fair and unbiased are wrong. They, are, however 100% right that the current conduct of those platforms threatens to undermine democracy. You can’t, as one of the links White points readers to does, call Section 230 “the internet’s First Amendment” and then complain that politicians think the law ought to prevent partisan censorship.

Boy, I sure hope Trump Derangement hasn’t gotten Ken too…

  • Imagine if the Hillary Clinton server story was buried by the news media the way it is trying to run out the clock on the Joe Biden/Hunter Biden influence peddling story. That tells you just how far the news media has deteriorated in four years (and also how much more certain journalists were that Hillary would win no matter what they reported).

I’ll wait to see what kind of coverage the story gets on the CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox Sunday shows, but even if it is adequately covered, those programs have a relatively select viewership. By past standards, the Hunter Biden emails should be front page, above the fold material, and yet only a conservative New York City tabloid and its ilk are making it so.

And one more time, this should not be pigeon-holed as a “conservative” lament. All Americans of any ideological persuasion should fear and loathe the news media trying to slam its heavy fist on the electoral scales this way. Why don’t they? Are that many citizens really willing to see elections “rigged” if their favorite party wins? If so, theRepublic is lost no matter what happens in 2020.

  • Megan McArdle, in her Washington Post column, “How Twitter and Facebook’s attempt to squelch a dubious Biden story backfired” writes, “I aspire to expedite [Trump’s] exit from the national stage by every legal means.” In other word, to hell with right and wrong, if it’s legal, it’s ethical. Well, thanks is owed to the Post journalist/pundit for another unmasking, I suppose. This is Rationalization #4, named in the honor of someone McArdle is very familiar with, former Democratic D.C. Mayor and convicted felon Marion Barry:

#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical”: The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it. Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal….but that is just the factual error in  this rationalization. The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all…”

Fascinating, isn’t it? The same people who are shaking their metaphorical fists at the skies because Mitch McConnell is going through with a completely legal and Constitutional effort to put a President’s nominee on the Supreme Court sanctifies her—and that of the “resistance” that she represents—approved methods of removing that President using the low bar of “legal.” Yup, it is legal for journalists to deceive and manipulate the public for their own agenda. Now they are openly doing so, and aren’t even ashamed of themselves.

  • As is often the case, Professor Turley has this episode figured out, and correctly assesses its seriousness.  He writes in part,

“Chinese citizens watched President Xi Jinping deliver an important speech this week not far from Hong Kong….Xi apparently is ill, and every time he went into coughing spasms, China’s state media cut away so that he would be shown only in perfect health. Xi’s coughs came to mind as Twitter and Facebook prevented Americans from being able to read the New York Post’s explosive allegations of influence-peddling by Hunter Biden. The articles cited material reportedly recovered from a laptop; it purportedly showed requests for Hunter Biden to use his influence on his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, as well as embarrassing photos of Hunter Biden….

There are ample reasons to question whether this material was the product of a foreign intelligence operation, which the FBI apparently is investigating. Yet…Hunter Biden has yet to deny these were his laptop, his emails, his images. If thousands of emails and images were fabricated, then serious crimes were committed. But if the emails and images are genuine, then the Bidens appear to have lied for years as a raw influence-peddling scheme worth millions stretched from China to Ukraine to Russia. Moreover, these countries likely have had the compromising information all along while the Bidens – and the media – were denying reports of illicit activities.

Either way, this was major news. The response of Twitter and Facebook, however, was to shut it all down. Major media companies also imposed a virtual blackout on the allegations. It didn’t matter that thousands of emails were available for review or that the Bidens did not directly address the material. It was all declared to be fake news.The tech companies’ actions are an outrageous example of open censorship and bias. It shows how private companies effectively can become state media working for one party. This, of course, was more serious than deleting coughs, but it was based on the same excuse of “protecting” the public from distractions or distortions.

… Academics have lined up to support calls for censorship, too. Recently, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods called for Chinese-style internet censorship and declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong.”

It turns out traditional notions of journalism and a free press are outdated, too, and China again appears to be the model for the future. Recently, Stanford communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser publicly denounced the notion of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters seeking “social justice.”

…Such views make Twitter and Facebook’s censorship of the Post not simply justified but commendable – regardless of whether the alleged Biden material proves to be authentic. As Twitter buckled under criticism of its actions, it shifted its rationale from combating fake news to barring hacked or stolen information. (Putting aside that the information allegedly came from a laptop, not hacking, this rule would block the public from reviewing any story based on, say, whistleblowers revealing nonpublic information, from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate. Moreover, Twitter seemingly had no qualms about publishing thousands of stories based on the same type of information about the Trump family or campaign.)

…we are seeing a rejection of journalistic objectivity in favor of activism. The New York Times apologized for publishing a column by a conservative U.S. senator on using national guardsmen to quell rioting – yet it later published a column by a Chinese official called “Beijing’s enforcer” who is crushing protests in Hong Kong. The media spent years publishing every wacky theory of alleged Trump-Russia collusion; thousands of articles detailed allegations from the Steele dossier, which has been not only discredited but also shown to be based on material from a known Russian agent. When the Steele dossier was revealed, many of us agreed on the need to investigate because, even if it was the work of foreign intelligence, the underlying kompromat could be true. Today, in contrast, the media is not only dismissing the need to investigate the Biden emails, but ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos didn’t ask Biden about the allegations during a two-hour town hall event on Thursday…”

[I apologize to the professor and The Hill, where his article is posted, for such an extended quote, and hope readers will click on the link to read what I omitted. I feel Turley’s analysis is crucial, and thus should have as wide readership as possible. If you choose to share his views, please use the Hill link.]

25 thoughts on “Observations On The Hunter Biden Emails Ethics Train Wreck

  1. “Are that many citizens really willing to see elections “rigged” if their favorite party wins? If so, the Republic is lost no matter what happens in 2020.”

    Money statement there. I would desperately hope that citizens don’t feel that way. I’ve made no secret of who I support, but would NEVER want him to win “by any means necessary.” Unfortunately, I think there is a growing number that disagree with me. You have at least one Rationalization that they use to justify it…#28 maybe?

    And I think the Republic is dying regardless. At the very least, it’s wounded and flailing and I don’t think either of these Presidential candidates can change that.

  2. My understanding of section 230 provides immunities from civil libel suits by establishing these media firms as platforms for facilitating speech rather than actual publishers. If they lose their platform status and are classified as publishers they can be named as a co-defendant in any defamation suit.

    Given the massive number of potential libel suits from its millions of users who are not public figures Facebook, Twitter and the rest are playing with fire by putting their thumb on the political scales.

    Once they lose 230 protections they will need to hire an army of moderators to censor libelous content or face a massive drop in market capitalization.

  3. I have yet to conclude whether the e-mails themselves, or what the e-mails claim, are accurate. Some say that this is “Russian disinformation” (where have we heard that before?), but the owner of the computer repair shop had turned over the original laptop to the FBI. If foreign intelligence did forge these e-mails, the FBI could have found out months ago.

    Another issue, of course, is that the BFI withheld potentially exculpatroy evidence from President Trump during his impeachment trial. After all, the e-mails, if true, would demonstrate a justification for asking Ukraine President Zelendsky to taker a second look at the firing of that Ukraine prosecutor, and a second look at Vice President Biden’s role in it. Withholding the contents of the laptop is what I believe is called a Brady violation.

    Now to the issue of Facebook and Twitter trying to scuttle the spread of this story. First of all, this would incite people to actually believe the story is true. Why cover it up, instead of allowing it to circulate, where professional journalists, or even random bloggers, will have a chance to challenge the veracity of the article?

    This, of course, begs the question. Why is it more problematic for Facebook and Twitter to censor articles than when Free Republic or the Democratic Underground does so? What is the difference? The answer is simple. Free Republic and Democratic Underground make their biases plain from the outset. They have ideological/partisan goals. By extremely, razor-sharp contrast, Facebook and Twitter had advertised themselves as neutral platforms where users could share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And so many people believe in their neutrality.

    • You haven’t decided whether Hunter Biden who lives in California and has for years decided to get on a plane, fly to Delaware, drop off a laptop, sign a contract, not pay, forget the laptop and fly all the way home for some reason? And then the laptop repair guy–instead of wiping and selling the unclaimed device–decided to search all the data on this laptop–which wasn’t encrypted even though Macs come with that built-in these days, pick out a couple of specific emails, send it to the FBI, and then for someone reason also have made a perfect copy of everything and sent it to the former mayor of New York City?

      It sure is a pickle.

        • Twitter doesn’t want to spread Russian misinformation.

          No idea why Facebook would refuse, they’ll spread anything. But hey, if you’re mad at them I suggest you just stop posting to Facebook, that’ll learn ’em. That goes for everyone, left and right, just stop using Facebook forever.

          Please.

          Also, everyone left and right–no one here is guilty of this but I’m still putting it out there–stop trying to get me to use Facebook. No. Never had an account, never will.

          • Could never give it up, where would I post my photographs and jokes? BTW, why did the ghost get a ticket? For HAUNTING out of season! Honk! Honk! Wocka! Wocka!

              • One question is why the laptop’s contents were not provided to President Trump’s defense team and the House Judiciary Committee back during the impeachment inquiry. For this was potentially exculpatory evidence. I believe this is called a Brady violation.

                For if the e-mails are authentic, then what is alleged would be sufficient probable cause to ask Ukraine President Zelensky for a second look into Vice President Biden’s role in the firing of that Ukrainian prosecutor.

                If the e-mails were forged, this would beg the question of who forged the e-mails, and if Trump had been involved. For I believe it is fair to say that framing someone (let alone a political rival) for a crime is a properly impeachable offense.

                It is telling that the House Judiciary Committee did not claim last Friday to have had a copy of these e-mails, let alone any report from a reputable IT security firm that these e-mails were forgeries.

      • Actually, the laptop was the property of the Biden Foundation which is based in Delaware. It is entirely plausible that the laptop was provided to Hunter by the foundation. When the laptop failed he went to have it repaired in Delaware when he was in town. Obviously, if he was unable to pick up the foundation’s property someone would have done so on his behalf; but they did not. The question becomes how did Russians plant these emails on property owned by the Biden Foundation? Are you saying that the Delaware repair guy is a Russian operative?

        Funny thing about curiosity, it is endemic in our society. To assume that a computer repair guy would simply wipe a hard drive without taking a peek at its contents is a tough nut to swallow. This is especially true if the laptop repair guy was looking for information regarding the actual owner or the person dropping it off. The idea that the guy can simply wipe the drive and sell the laptop is not always correct. As for encryption, you assume that Hunter took the necessary steps to protect his data.

        Hunter Biden has a history of leaving things behind. Arizona police inventoried a number of items Hunter left behind in a rental car. Included were an IPhone, Secret service credentials, Crack and pipe.

        https://kprcradio.iheart.com/featured/the-pursuit-of-happiness/content/2019-05-20-crack-pipe-found-in-hunter-bidens-rental-car/

          • Michael agreed.

            I have one question. Why, without any evidence whatsoever, this story is being considered Russian misinformation? Sometimes a corrupt, politically connected, and enabled crack addict is still a corrupt politically connected and enabled crack addict who forgets where he leaves evidence lying around.

        • Off topic, but if anyone wants to get rid of an old computer and not resell it, then the only intelligent thing to do is remove the hard drive and physically destroy that component, then trash the rest of the computer.

          If you want to resell the computer, as far as I know, the only real way to “wipe it” is to delete ALL the files, then RE-FILL the computer’s memory … all of it … with benign and empty files. A computer never truly “deletes” files you earmark for deletion. All the computer does is identify those spots of storage as available to being written over.

          So to cause that overwriting of data, you have to ID the files for deletion and then write over the old data with new files that are basically space-wasters.

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