Welcome back for the conclusion of my interview with Election Defense Alliance co-founder, Jonathan Simon. So, Jonathan, what about the press, those watchdogs of democracy? Where are they in all this? Isn't this a hot story? The story of this generation, the defining story of our country, really. If this were happening somewhere else, the press would be all over it. At least, I think they would...
Many of us retain a warm spot for the American press still left over from the days of Watergate, when Woodward and Bernstein, The Washington Post , The Times , and even the networks seemed to be among the big heroes. It wasn't that simple in reality, but the impression of both a heroic and a liberal press has been slow to fade.
Fast forward to 2010, the MSM is almost entirely a subsidiary of mega-corporations, news budgets are slashed to the bone, opinions (often shouted) have displaced reporting and investigation, entertainment is the order of the day, and there are some very tight limits on the stuff that, as the Times still puts it, is "fit to print." That said, it is astounding how impervious the MSM has been to this story. We have it, off the record, from several top journalists that their employers have flat-out prohibited them from writing or speaking on the matter of election theft or reviewing any of the evidence that it is occurring.
The MSM has what seems to be a "rule" on this: it's OK to make noise about the potential vulnerability of the machines in the run-up to elections (Lou Dobbs, e.g., was all over this right up till Election Night in 2006) but following the election, when the evidence is available pointing to actual manipulation, all coverage is verboten. Omerta is the word that comes to mind, a code of silence. In 2004, when this story was "fresh," Keith Olbermann had the temerity right after the election to start covering what happened in Ohio, and actually began to dig into things a bit. He wrote to me that he was "very interested" in the statistical evidence that we had gathered. He devoted several segments to it and then . . . POOF! He was off on a two-week vacation of which there had been no prior mention. And when he came back . . . not another word, ever. The biggest story, by a factor of 10, of his professional career and he walks away mid-sentence?! It should be obvious that there are some powerful forces at work here set on making sure this story never gets legs.
And I might as well add that it's not just the MSM. The progressive media--ranging from The Nation to Mother Jones to The Progressive Populist --have all taken a complete pass. In their pages they continue to discuss--and often bemoan--election dynamics and the "new politics" of the Tea Party era, without the slightest attention paid to even the possibility that these bizarre and troublesome results may have something to do with a thumb on the counting scale, not so much as a hint that there may be something to investigate.
This is perhaps the most mystifying thing of all: watching the progressives of America commit political suicide, as their media buys into a rigged game and calmly discusses the latest shocking routs, while their entire agenda goes DOA. As far as I can tell, apart from the wall of denial itself, the fear in these quarters is marginalization, that even mentioning the possibility of systemic election rigging will forfeit their hard-earned place at the "serious journalism" table.
Ironically, among many in the progressive media, the attitude
seems to be "If there were anything seriously wrong the Democrats would be all over it." This from the same people who
regularly pillory the Democrats for selling out! So everyone sort of sits
around waiting for someone else to stick their neck out. And about the only
press willing to do that are web-based sites such as Bradblog (and OpEdNews).
But in America, if a story doesn't make it to the Times or the networks, it's still a tin-hat conspiracy theory, no matter how well presented and documented. Look at how long it took us to take seriously allegations of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Look at how long, even after the whistle-blower had stepped forward, Bernie Madoff continued to operate his scheme. With elections the stakes are immensely higher and the fear that everything will fall apart if the truth is rigorously pursued is rather paralyzing. Granted it would be hard for an America already somewhat on the defensive to live down. But the alternative--to let this cancer fester and fraudulently determine our future? To live a national lie? That has to be far worse.
We're happy to see that Dan Rather Reports took on at least some of the story in a segment scheduled for October 26. We'll see what comes of that. But journalism is classic groupthink and, until you have more than one brave soul willing to step into the breach, the story generally dies on the vine. We'll see who, if anyone, follows Rather's lead. Jon Stewart has questioned the technology in his inimitable way on The Daily Show, and I hope he will come back to it. Sporadic eyebrow-raising and throat-clearing is better than total silence, but it goes only so far. Journalistic "critical mass" will take real courage and determination from several quarters at least.
I said back in 2004 that, when the autopsy of American democracy is performed, media silence will be given as the cause of death. What I've seen in the years since only strengthens that prediction. To me, in fact, the American press and media are the biggest villains of the piece. Those actually doing the rigging, whether it's a Rove-like Machiavellian figure or some cadre of far-right true believers, are in a sense "doing their job," just like a lineman holding in football to protect the quarterback. The media's job is to spot the foul, get at the truth. And they are the ones who are not doing their job. They appear to be either is deep denial, anaesthetized, or content with a sham democracy, which would of course suit their ultimate corporate masters just fine. I'm not sure how much intimidation is being meted out or even what quarter it's coming from, but it is time someone found the courage to lose his or her job, or even his or her life, in service to truth. That courage is surely not unprecedented in our nation's history and it is sorely needed now if we are to survive.
You did some investigation into the critical Coakley-Brown Senate race in Massachusetts. What did you find and how did you find it?
The Coakley-Brown election in January--which we analyzed in the paper Believe It Or Not ( http://electiondefensealliance.org/files/BelieveIt_OrNot_100904.pdf) --was critical not only because Scott Brown's unexpected victory gave the GOP the seat necessary to sustain filibusters and effectively block legislation and appointments, but because it was seen in all quarters as the dramatic harbinger of a GOP sweep in November. It was also the political baptism of the Tea Party movement, a clear indication of virulent anti-incumbent fervor, and it set the stage for a string of shocking far-right primary election wins, such as Christine O'Donnell's in Delaware and Joe Miller's in Alaska.
There was every incentive in the world to rig Coakley-Brown and every opportunity in the world to get away with it. There were no audits, no spot checks, no exit polls, and no recounts. No actual ballots were ever excavated from their bins at the bottom of the optical scanners which were programmed to read (or misread) and tabulate (or mistabulate) them; so much for optical scanners and a supposed "paper trail." In fact all that we had to assure us that the vote counts were accurate and Brown's victory legitimate was pure 100% unadulterated blind faith that the numbers showing up when the memory cards were downloaded at the end of the night were a true recording of the votes cast. Because if, in fact, the vendor corporations, or any insiders with access to the programming and distribution processes, had chosen to serve a private political agenda rather than the public trust, there would be nothing in the official processes of voting, vote counting, and election certification to indicate that such a breach had occurred.
So we had a huge and shocking result with no actual evidence to support it. It could have been legitimate and it could equally well have been a cheap trick conjured in the darkness of cyberspace. So we looked at the only evidence available--the votes of the 71 jurisdictions that counted their ballots in public by hand. We found that Coakley won in these jurisdictions by a margin of 3%, while Brown won by 5% where the opscans did the counting in secret. The chance of this 8% total disparity occurring if the hand counts had been distributed randomly around the state was infinitesimal, one in hundreds of billions. But we knew that the hand counts were not randomly distributed and that hand count and opscan jurisdictions represented discrete constituencies. Perhaps the hand count communities where Coakley won were more Democratic or had a more Democratic voting history, or perhaps they were clustered in a part of the state where Coakley was more popular.
We looked at each of these "benign" explanations in turn and found that none of them was true. The hand count jurisdictions were more Republican; they had voted in exact congruence with the opscan jurisdictions in the previous two (noncompetitive, and therefore not targets for rigging) US Senate races; and they had given Coakley a lower percentage than the opscan communities in her only previous statewide race. Granted Coakley, thinking she was a shoo-in, ran a very lackluster campaign; granted there was a surge of enthusiasm and a big influx of money from the right, making a tight (and riggable) race out of a blowout. But those factors do not explain why some 65,000 hand count voters, seen to be to the right of a random sample and not geographically disposed towards Coakley, came in so differently from the opscan voters. That remains entirely unexplained, unless one is willing to consider electronic vote manipulation, which we know the experts from Princeton to Johns Hopkins to NYU's Brennan Center to the US Government Accountability Office all have concluded is child's play.