Ethics Observations On The Lincoln Project “False Flag” Stunt In Charlottesville [Corrected]

Lincoln Project Stunt

In case you missed it (or have a life and aren’t following the nauseating race for Governor in Virginia) five people holding tiki torches and pretending to be fans of the Charlottesville white supremacy group, Unite the Right, that sparked a riot in 2017 showed up to show their support for GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin last week. The stunt was met with furious criticism of Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who was presumed to be behind the incident, and why wouldn’t he be? As the slimy former Clinton fundraiser has slipped in the polls, his “ends justify the means” approach to politics (and life) has become especial pungent. However, the Never-Trump group The Lincoln Project came to McAuliffe’s rescue, claiming responsibility for the deception.


Yesterday one of the group’s co-founders, Stuart Stevens, refused to apologize for attempting to influence an election by deceiving voters. “Listen, every day I hear people pleading with the Lincoln Project to help show Democrats how to win, how to play hardball. You know, this is an example,” he said on CNN. “The question here is not about some guys who showed up at a rally,’ said Stevens. ‘It’s why hasn’t Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump for saying that there are good people on both sides? I mean, that is absolutely outrageous. And it’s because Glenn Youngkin wants it both ways. And I think that’s the message that needs to be driven here. You know, the Lincoln Project was the first in this race to put Charlottesville in an ad. And some people thought maybe it went too far. But we did it. And it worked. And then McAuliffe’s campaign followed us and put Charlottesville in a very good ad they did. So I think the question here is, we can’t ignore what happened in Charlottesville, the question is why hasn’t Glenn Youngkin denounced Donald Trump?”

Meanwhile, the McAuliffe campaign pronounced the hoax “disgusting” and called on the Lincoln Project to apologize.

Ethics Observations:

1. The scam was unethical. Does an ethicist really have to tell you that? Wasn’t it obvious the second you heard about it? There is no ethical system in existence that can justify such conduct; I was tempted not to even write about it, because the blog is primarily about sharpening our ethical skills. Those who can’t figure out on their own that it’s wrong to deliberately deceive voters during a political campaign don’t have any ethical skills, and don’t belong here. Applauding this is signature significance for an individual who has no ethics alarms.

2. It is amazing that the Lincoln Project is still in existence. It was thoroughly exposed as a scam itself at the beginning of this year. Glenn Greenwald provided a thorough vivisection of the corrupt group that bears review. The organization was devised as a profitable scheme by a group of principle-free political consultants. Its target audience was the suckers and hysterics Ethics Alarms refers to as the Trump Deranged; the Lincoln Project had no measurable impact on the 2020 election. It just added its insults and dishonest spin to the Left’s efforts to undermine Donald Trump’s Presidency.

3. Steven’s statement is a self-indictment for ethics rot, though it was hardly necessary for us to make that diagnosis. After endorsing scamming as legitimate political strategy, he repeats the long debunked lie that Donald Trump had implied that white supremacists might be “good people,” because this has been enshrined in the Democratic Party’s Big Lie arsenal. The march was organized to protest the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue. Some marchers were white supremacists, while some objected to the Left’s toppling statues to purge historically important figures from our nation’s memory (an objection I share). The counter-protesters who were responsible for the riot were attempting to prevent a group of citizens from legally and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. (The cunter-protesters had no permits; Unite the Right did.) I’m sure there were good (though misguided) people in that group, too.

4. Youngkin has no obligation to “denounce” Donald Trump. This transparent “gotcha!” tactic was rampant during Trump’s administration, though it is an old one: it’s a variation of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale game. Once McAuliffe realized that he might lose to Youngkin, he decided to devote his energy, fund and rhetoric to running against Trump, who isn’t a candidate, in a state where he was trounced last November. Trump endorsed Youngkin—of course he did: Youngkin is a Republican, supports many of the same policies, and, like Trump, is a businessman turned candidate. Youngkin said thanks, which is what any candidate should say when a former President endorses him or her. McAuliffe’s challenge is to explain what’s wrong with Youngkin’s policies, and he has proved too inept to do that: McAulifffe ended up making the fatal assertion that parents had no role to play in deciding what their children would be taught in public schools.

If I were advising Youngkin, I might suggest that he agree to denounce Donald Trump if McAuliffe would denounce Bill and Hillary Clinton.

5. Many have suggested that the Lincoln Project coordinated the hoax with McAuliffe’s campaign. It would certainly not be beneath the inclinations of either group. My guess is that the Lincoln Project proposed the tactic, and the Democrats said, “Go for it, but if you get caught, you’re on your own.” There is no evidence of this, but these are all people for whom “the ends justifies the means” is as close to ethics as they will ever get.


Pointer: Other Bill

20 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Lincoln Project “False Flag” Stunt In Charlottesville [Corrected]

  1. Personally, I don’t believe for a second that the Lincoln Project organized this. This was a McAuliffe campaign op that they thought they’d get away with, until some sharp-eyed Twitter sleuths figure out that a couple of the people in that photo were Democrat party operatives. Once busted, the Lincoln Project dove on the grenade, because that group has no credibility left to lose anyway. It also gives the media an opportunity to still claim, as they are now, that “Republicans” were behind the stunt, which in headline form to the ignorant, still reads at though it was Youngkin supporters.

    Disgusting, from start to finish. And yet, not one person involved has been banned or even suspended from any of the social media platforms for spreading misinformation…

  2. Virginians are by and large fair minded people. You don’t get D’s R’s and I’s coming together as they did in Loudoun County if they were not. Terry “McAwful” thought he had it in the bag and began exposing his true colors when he said he did not want parents deciding what is taught in public schools. I will bet this will cost him a couple of more points in the polls. He was down 8 points yesterday.

  3. Desperate people do desperate things. Much like someone tens of thousands of dollars in debt to the Mob, someone probably figured they had nothing to lose from one more gamble. If it pays off, great. If not, it’s not like they’ve lost anything, they were already screwed.

    My thought when first seeing the photos of these “Youngkin supporters” was, they’re wearing ball caps and dark glasses, where are the fake noses and mustaches? They are obviously trying to conceal their identities. Setting aside the fact that one of the five is non-white, which is a strange thing for a white supremacist to be, despite claims to the contrary I’ve been seeing recently. Thirty years ago I think it likely the press would have run the story that McAuliffe wanted. “White Supremacists support a Republican!” Any correction would have come months or years later, if at all. Yet now we have the Internet and the ability to look for people based only on a photo. So, much like the “Bush National Guard Memo” back in 2004 it took almost no time at all for the hoax to be exposed. And like the National Guard Memo story, a fairly significant number of press reports are still trying to hold to the original narrative. I think the ability to correct the narrative is a good thing as it allows for unethical behaviour or straight out gas-lighting to be exposed, but like all ethical problems, people have to look for the debunking and be skeptical. Most won’t.

    I would love to say that stunts like this are new, but they are as old as politics. Equally as old is newspapers, news channels and “political analysts” trying to cover things up for their favoured political party. The difference now is that a few amateur sleuths can debunk the whole story and get the message out via the Internet. How long that will last is the real question. The actions of the participants of this hoax were completely unethical. The actions of the skeptics were not.

    • The one next to the Black man looks like she’s probably a woman. This wouldn’t be that weird, there are plenty of female white supremacists, but she’s obviously trying to look like a man, which is… not something female white supremacists usually do. They usually leave the pronoun confusion to the left.

      • It appears that even when casting for a troupe of “evil white men”, leftists still can’t help but pursue “diversity, inclusion, and equity” quotas.

      • She is and, along with one other person, have apparently been identified by twitter investigators.

        They appear to both Democratic party operatives and, by a funny coincidence, just took their Twitter accounts private. Hmmm.

  4. “If I were advising Youngkin, I might suggest that he agree to denounce Donald Trump if McAuliffe would denounce Bill and Hillary Clinton.” Brilliant.

    The Lincoln Project guy’s non-apology apology brings to mind Harry Reid’s classic defense of his lie: “It worked, didn’t it?”

  5. I’m still confused about Trump being part of Virginia’s Governor campaign. Is this the new Democratic Play book? Say “but look, they are horrible and… Trump!!” When exactly no one is Trump. This has become a mass psychological cult. I’ve never seen anyone campaign against someone like this, who has no part of the actual election, not even a little bit.

      • Demeter, I’ve seen any number of articles by Democrat spokespeople and even professional consultants who militate constantly for making every campaign a referendum on Trump. Some of them literally say that’s the best “messaging strategy” the Dems have. They’re not subtle about it. They openly admit this is all they have and their best ticket to victory. Bizarre and pathetic but there it is.

  6. I have been told that about forty years ago, an incumbent in a local sheriff’s race feared he was losing, and a couple of days before the election he had hundreds of bumper stickers printed supporting his challenger, but with the adhesive on the side of the sticker bearing the message. He had campaign workers go to every movie theater in town and put the stickers on the windshields of cars parked there, right in the middle of the driver’s field of view. Movie patrons returning to their cars were naturally furious about what they found. It didn’t save the incumbent; he was narrowly defeated and the dirty trick was disclosed by a campaign worker the day after the election. I’m sure there are many, and older, examples of such shenanigans.

    • I once heard of a campaign worker who was going from door to door posting flyers. Naturally, he was pulling out and collecting all the flyers from the other side he found. At one home, he looked down and noticed he had trampled through fresh concrete on the driveway – so he put all the other side’s flyers in that doorway, so the blame would be attributed to them.

  7. @Other Bill. That’s a pretty shaky platform for the Dems. I guess we will see how shaky in 2022! I’m certain it will be cringeworthy and if both parties fall to ruin, it’s deserved. I just can’t imagine anything succeeding for long by having nothing to stand on except “he’s worse”.

  8. Any candidate found to be involved in this level of subterfuge should automatically be disqualified by law from whatever race they are running. Clearly, they do not possess the self-respect and scruples to withdraw on their own, and God knows there would still be voters stupid enough to vote for the scumbag. Contrary to popular belief moral issues DO matter, and the law should step in when people’s common sense and moral compasses do not.

  9. Two things:

    First, and most egregiously:

    “4. Youngkin has no obligation to “denounce” Donald Trump. This transparent “gotcha!” tactic was rampant during Trump’s administration, though it is an old one: it’s a variation of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale game.”

    It takes brass balls the size of wrecking equipment to be in the group that hid John’s Weaver’s pedophile antics and call on anyone else to denounce anything else. I’ll take my moral cues from The Lincoln Project when my shit turns purple and starts to smell like rainbow sherbet.

    5. Many have suggested that the Lincoln Project coordinated the hoax with McAuliffe’s campaign. It would certainly not be beneath the inclinations of either group. My guess is that the Lincoln Project proposed the tactic, and the Democrats said, “Go for it, but if you get caught, you’re on your own.” There is no evidence of this, but these are all people for whom “the ends justifies the means” is as close to ethics as they will ever get.

    Just to provide some context… When I first saw the story breaking, it was when some people had identified three of the five people in those pictures, the three on the left in the picture above, as belonging to a Young VA Dems group, with additional pictures of them posing multiple times with figures including McAuliffe. I originally thought that these pictures had been taken four years ago in Charlottesville, and that I was being told that the Unite The Right rally was at least partially a false flag operation. I was skeptical, the pictures seemed to match the profiles we were being shown, but that would be a heck of a scandal.

    If I’d been shown those pictures and told that they were taken in the last couple of weeks, even before being told it was a false flag operation I absolutely still would have recognized it as something less than legitimate. Nevermind the matching khakis and white button ups, nevermind that everything including the hats hats were crisp, brand new, and ill-fitting, the idea that white-supremacist Youngkin supporters would show up for a photo op in front of his bus wielding tiki torches is unbelievable. It was so stupid that I actually thought that it was supposed to be some kind of protest performance art as opposed to a legitimate false flag… But if that were the case, you don’t usually wait until your narrative starts to spiral out of control to explain it.

    I don’t know if The Lincoln Project actually headed this up or if they’ve decided to jump on the grenade, because really, their credibility was already shot, but I think the story here is how yet again… The media tried to run with the “these are actually Youngkin voters, don’t they disgust you?!” narrative before all the facts were in. Someone I interacted with on Twitter said to me: “The point is that they could have been Youngkin supporters, doesn’t that make you think?” And my answer was: “I think all the time, you should try it, because if you rubbed two neurons together on this for half a second, you’d realize how unlikely this really was.”

    I think that if the stunt wasn’t so obviously bunk, and if the blame wasn’t falling on the McAuliffe campaign, The Lincoln Group would have let the media have their way with this.

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