An Open Letter to the New York Times (and by implication) the Rest of the US Media Who are Trying to Whitewash the 2004 Presidential Election Scandal
by LILIAN FRIEDBERG
Dear New York Times, etal,
As a long-time subscribed reader of your publicationone I have always staunchly defended one of the best in the world--I am incensed by your dismissive handling of what is one of the most significant breaking news stories since Watergate.(your Nov.12 article,Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried)
Here I am, seated at my computer, submerged in the nefarious bowels
of the internetreading a New York Times article with all the
twitchy cloak-and-dagger thrust of booking an airline ticket,
making a hotel reservation, a bank transfer or reading the Washington
Post, Atlantic, New Yorker, ABC, NBC, and CBS headlinesthings most
of us do on a regular basis in the parallel universe that is the
internet (citing another derogatory and patently absurd quip by NBC
News Chip Reid).
I am neither internet enthusiast nor blogger: the term blogosphere did not even enter my vocabulary until several weeks before the 2004 election when these citizen journalists, some more legitimate than others, began emerging as a powerful political force in the election. I am not unlike most of your readers: educator, writer, editor, translator with a PhD and a two-page publications list under my belt, in German and English. I volunteer for my local park district, where I offer performing arts programs for children and youth. All in all, Im pretty averagenot unlike the now nearly 40,000 people whove signed the electronic petition to Congress requesting an investigation of the 2004 presidential election. (Note: I do not argue for the legitimacy of all these signatureswhats a few thousand plus or minus in the greater scheme of things?). The internet is not a distant planet: I would venture to guess that it is inhabited or at least visited by 99.9% of your readers.
These readers dont appreciate their entirely justifiable concerns about the accuracy of the electoral process being discredited and dismissed as conspiracy theorist-quackery and subsequently buried by the pressas eight of nine responses printed in todays edition evidence.
One glaring omission in your coverage involves the way this story began: you claim that it emerged from the ether in the course of seven days as mysteriously as the creationist version of human evolution. But that is not the case.
So how did thousands of Times readers get swept up in the maelstrom of the online market of dark ideas surrounding the last weeks presidential election? What really happened to spawn the internet hysteria?
The stage was set on November 3, with worldwide shock and disbelief over Bushs overnight sensation victory: observers throughout the country and the world who had been following the election closely tucked themselves into bed Tuesday night confident that help was on the way. This logical assumption was based not only on early exit polls: it was based on the worldwide public perception, particularly salient in the United States, that the only way a Republican victory could be secured was through a dubious fiat similar to the one we witnessed in 2000. As one astute reader responding to your front-page coverage of this highly significant media event succinctly stated: If George W. Bush had won the 2000 election honestly, people would not be so quick to assume that he did not win this one fair and square either. Of course, that was in the letters section, A30. Fortunately for us, a few faithful poll hawk-heroes decided to tough it out till morning, when we all woke up to the American Nightmare.
Years before the electionperhaps it was with the quiet passage of the 2002 Help America Vote Act which mandated the use of Diebold and ES&S machines notorious for their tamperability--concerned citizens from various walks of life--professors, computer scientists, systems analysts, even grandmothers and literary publicists from Seattle--had been attempting to sound the alarm: the Diebold voting machines are not secure; the democratic process itself is in jeopardy, seriously so. Bev Harris, Executive Director of the consumer protection organization Blackboxvoting.org first published her groundbreaking book Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century in 2003. Avi Rubin, professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the Hopkins Security Information Security Institute subsequently published yet another study. Rubin is a qualified expert with years of practical experience in the fields of cryptography, network security, Web security and secure Internet services who was employed by such companies as AT&T and Bellcore prior to accepting his appointment at Johns Hopkins. On Wednesday, October 27, 2004one week before the election, CBSs 60 Minutes broadcast an alarming segment covering electronic voting, featuring not only Rubin, but David Jefferson of the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Jefferson described the system currently in place as the electoral weapon of mass destruction which could easily be manipulated by a rogue programmer. Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University and author of several legitimate books on American government published by Norton & Company, also pointed out the potential for problems with the machine-voting systemsand these are but a few of the minority report-esque voices who attempted to sound the alarm before the most recent election scandal broke loose on the internet. Are we to discredit these experts as internet conspiracy theorists?
In the hours since you posted your disparaging report, the bloggers have lashed back faster than you could flog them: As Joseph Cannons Friday blog points out, even as you discount the early reports that began appearing just two days after the election, you neglect to take into consideration Dr. Stephen F. Freemans (University of Pennsylvania; degree: MIT) study published on November 10, whichtwo days prior to your biased and poorly researched reportlent credence to the bloggers conspiracy theories. Instead, you invoke the imprimatur of Harvard, Cornell and Stanford, citing an email by three unnamed political scientists posted to the website ustogether.org (a study that has since been revised and is now being referred to in the scientific community as the Dopp and Liddle report). According to your account, there was not sufficient concrete support to merit the GAO investigations sought by three Congressmen John Conyers. Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler. The Dixiecrat theory has, in fact, since been challenged by solid research findings, not by anonymous emails shot off from prestigious schools. At present, the three primary studies circulating on the net are the Dopp and Liddle report, the Caltech report and the Freeman reportall of which are based on statistical analyses of concrete data. Dr. Freemans report concludes that while Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion <. . .> the election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling agencies, and the public to investigate," and, furthermore, that, "as much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error." Freeman concludes that the odds of those exit poll statistical anomalies occurring by chance are 250,000,000 to one.
These studies do not involve the kind of fuzzy math implied by the Times report of blog-to-e-mail-to-blogthey involve a diligent, however frenzied, study of the actual data produced by exit polls versus actual results. These so-called internet conspiracy theorists are credentialed professionals engaged in hard research--most of which is beyond my grasp as a classically literary-minded PhD, but which clearly reflects solid research conducted by people who, by virtue of their professional training in precisely the fields required to analyze this data, are hard at work doing the job of the entire nation right now. They are doing your job, and they deserve your support and gratitude, not disdain, derision and dismissal. The fact of the matter is, the situation we face as a nation is far too complicated to be figured out without the aid of sophisticated independent scientists who can analyze the data. The jury is still out, but what we have to go on are three well-researched statistical analyses that will need to be studied, compared and analyzed by highly discerning and well-trained minds. That is likely to take some timeconsidering what is at stake, wed best just hold our breath waiting for the research to be complete. In the meantime, these three studies alone provide enough evidence of anomalies to merit a thorough, time and cost intensive investigation.
Lets not even begin to discuss or otherwise dismiss the most recent findings of investigative journalist Greg Palast, one of those internet-conspiracy-theorist-bloggers charged with snowballing rumors in cyberspace: in his BBC report (also available online) he states that documents from the Bush campaign's Florida HQ suggest a plan to disrupt voting in African-American districts. Is it the BBC that is spreading rumors, or Germanys highly regarded Spiegel (also available online), which rightly identifies Palast as an investigative reporter, documentary film producer and best-selling author and the remaining internet conspiracy theorists as watchdog groups (in most democracies, this is a positive moniker, not a pejorative).
I must confess, Mssrs. Zeller, Fessenden and Schwartz, in my professional capacity as a translator of German historical and literary texts, I often have the unpleasant task of researching internet conspiracy theories and subjecting myself to the horrific rantings of stark-raving lunatics on the net. One classic example can be found at this site: http://www.regmeister.net/verbrecher/verbrecher.htm . This, sirs, is an internet conspiracy theorythe remaining sources I have cited here are highly legitimate studies and reports conducted by credentialed scientists and respectable journalists.
Had you done your research, youd have recognized the difference. Perhaps you got your internets confused: I see from todays headlines that the Pentagon Envisioning a Costly Internet for WarTim Weiner reports that the Pentagon is building its own Internet, the militarys world wide web for the wars of the future. The goal is to give all American commanders and troops a moving picture of all foreign enemies and threatsa Gods-eye view of battle. Maybe that was the internets you had in mindIm quite content with the Gods eye-view Im getting right here and now on this ol fashioned democratic internet.
The story is bigger than Watergate. Your dismissal of it is on a par with the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and the collective conspiracy on the part of the press to suppress it is tantamount to nothing less than high treason.
MSNBCs Keith Olbermann and David Schuster are the only mainstream media men with a shred of integrity left in their bones.
Dr. Lilian Friedberg
Reporting from the Democratic Mandate of the United States of America
Lilian Friedberg email@example.com is a writer, translator, editor and performing artist from Chicago, IL. She recently completed her PhD in Germanic Studies at the University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in such venues as American Indian Quarterly, African Studies Quarterly, German Quarterly, New German Critique, Denver Quarterly, Chicago Review, Transition and various other venues. She recently co-edited, with Sander Gilman, a volume of selected essays by German Jewish journalist Henryk Broder, (A Jew in the New Germany, Univ. of Illinois Press). Friedberg is artistic director of the Chicago Djembe Project, an arts organization dedicated to respect and cooperation across cultures and genders through the African djembe drum tradition. WWW.Chidjembe.com
also by Lilian Friedberg Election Results Challenge Our Faith in America and Its People
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