It is Sunday morning, 8:30 here on the west coast, and I am hurrying to finish this in order to post it for tomorrow. Tonight is the second presidential debate; Hillary’s newly leaked emails and Donald’s newly leaked audiotapes will be aired fully. When you read this, you will know the outcome. Here and now, I can only speculate.
First let me say that I am not apologizing for Trump. Nor am I suggesting that the Access Hollywood tape is a fake. I have been giving Trump a hard time since he first began ranting about The Wall, and I haven’t been too kind to Hillary, either. None of that has changed. However . . .
There is a danger facing America which needs to be brought fully into the light. It is going to be a bit hard to talk about, because even suggesting it makes me look like someone who is into conspiracy theories. I’m not, except for the fun of poking holes in them.
Here is the problem. What if the Wikileaked documents on Hillary were doctored? What if the Access Hollywood tapes were faked?
Do I think they were? Absolutely not.
Do I think faked or doctored releases are on our near horizon? Absolutely, unquestionably, as sure as tomorrow’s sunrise.
Conspiracy theories run afoul of the fact that conspirators usually aren’t too bright. It easy to imagine a conspiracy, but hard to believe anyone who would want to pull one off would be able to succeed. It’s easy to imagine the government faking the moon landing on a Hollywood sound stage, but the notion that the millions who built the craft and watched the launch at Canaveral were all either fooled or in on it, makes the theory laughable.
Leaked electronic documents are different. Changing a key word, or cherry picking what part to release, or creating them out of the whole cloth is ridiculously easy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a conspiracy. One person could do it.
Let’s suppose that a new leak is reported by the New York Times in tomorrow’s issue, on the candidate you support or the candidate you hate. Would we know its source? We would not; news organizations guard their sources like the Swiss Guard guards the Pope. Would we know how the source got the information? No. Would we know if he passed it on pristine, unaltered and complete? No. Would we know if he simply faked it? No.
Do I trust the New York Times? More or less.
Do I trust the Democratic Party? More or less.
Do I trust the Republican Party? More or less.
Do I trust everyone who works for those three organizations? Ah, there’s the rub.
If a police officer picks up fingerprints or DNA at a crime scene, there is a trail of evidence which must be presented, showing that no outside influence was made on the results of tests performed on those clues. If that trail fails, the evidence cannot be presented in a court of law. With leaked electronic documents, there is no such chain of evidence. With a reputable agency – say the New York Times – there will certainly be an attempt at verification. But, by the clandestine nature of the events, that verification will be imperfect.
So back to tonight’s debate. Hillary and Donald will have to face the consequences of these leaked electronic documents, and we probably can accept that the documents are real, although certainly cherrypicked.
But a year from now . . .? This is the point at which every hacker, prankster, and political operative in America – and the world beyond – realizes how easy it is to create or modify electronic documents and “leak” them.
Next cycle, when Paul Ryan runs for President, and leaked documents prove that he is actually a Martian, I don’t think I’ll believe them.