In the old BT (before Trump) world, facts mattered. A politician who lied lost his or her credibility. Then we went to the polls and voted and the results counted. That doesn’t mean that people weren’t constantly gaming the system. For decades, it was almost impossible for a Black person to vote in the South (and also in lots of other places). There were literacy tests that PhDs couldn’t answer, poll taxes to keep out the poor and often just outright threats or violence. Today, we’ve come a long way in voting. Now they have different tactics. They close down the number of polling places in the opposition’s counties. They draw partisan maps with sophisticated computer programs to lock in their minority as a permanent majority. They find reasons for striking large numbers of the other guy’s voters from the registration rolls. There’s nothing new about any of this. It used to be said that you never knew who won in Illinois until you counted all the dead guys who voted Democratic in Chicago against all the dead guys who voted Republican in Southern Illinois. But there was something different this time. In my lifetime of watching presidential races, which began with FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, Trump, and now Biden, did I ever hear a president charge that the election was stolen, full of fraud and ineligible voters voting, and packed ballot boxes? Trump demanded and got hand recounts in Georgia, spent $3 million for recount in Wisconsin, and the results barely changed. The evidence is absolutely conclusive that this was about as straight up a fair election as we’ve ever had. Election officials, both Republican and Democratic, carried out their sworn duties with honesty and integrity and we had a fair count. The courts with Democratic-appointed judges and Republican-appointed judges have listened to the charges, looked at it and found “there is no there there.” Even Attorney General Bill Barr said today there was no evidence of election fraud. So, that should end it, right? Wrong! Over the next four years, you will hear charges all over the place that the election was stolen. I suspect Trump will try to run on it in 2024. The question is: Why? Why are people inclined to want to believe these conspiracy theories they read on social media and to turn a blind eye to conventional media and to believe that conventional media is corrupt and bought off and is just fake news?
I recently sat down with a friend of mine who was and is a Trump supporter, who follows Fox News and QAnon religiously and truly believes that the truth—his “truth,” that it was all rigged—will come out soon enough, and won’t I be sorry that I didn’t listen? I told him I regularly read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Politico, 538 and a group of blogs. The overwhelming consensus is that it was a fair election, so why would you not believe them and choose to believe some anonymous writer, maybe sitting in his garage in Kansas knocking out this crap about rigged voting machines that changes Trump votes to Biden votes? He told me the Fox News agreed that it was true. I said Fox News, the journalistic side, was more cautious; it was the commentators Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson who were pushing the theft scenarios and commentators are in show biz, not journalism. They live and die on ratings and they are always looking for raw meat to feed their audiences. Truth takes a back seat to ratings. It quickly became apparent that there was no middle ground between us. He was a true believer and I am a sceptic and never the twain shall meet.
This social media issue is not just a national issue; it’s also very much a local issue here in Malibu. Recently, we elected three new people to the city council—Bruce Silverstein, Steve Uhring and Paul Grisanti. Silverstein appears to be a one-man publishing phenom because every day someone is sending me something he’s posted on Nextdoor or put into social media. I haven’t written much about him yet, even though he seems to have already put and me and The Malibu Times on his enemies list, but I’ll wait to see once he gets sworn in where he’s headed and the methods he’s using to get there. People who arrive on the council with a belief that they have a mandate are often sorely disappointed. No matter what any member of the council may want or believe, it takes at least three votes to create or change policy. City employees don’t work for the individual members of the council. City employees work for the City of Malibu and their boss is the city manager. Imagine the chaos if all five council members were giving individual instructions to individual city employees. Still, this is a new council, probably with new council majorities—although, if it follows history, that majority will move around depending on the issue. It may be a good time to look at where we’ve been and where we want to be going. Still, that takes some time and the new council members should cut themselves a little slack while they learn the job. It’s always surprising how different things may look when you’re inside as opposed to how they looked when you were looking in from the outside.
Lastly, I personally want to say thank you to our exiting city attorney Christi Hogin, who was involved early on in the creation of our city in 1991. As with any new city, there were loads of problems and Christi has been our city attorney for as long as I can remember and I always found her to be very smart, which she certainly is; helpful; a very astute lawyer and litigator; but also with a real street savvy and a personal touch. There are lots of good lawyers around, but street savvy is much rarer and you know it when you see it—and Christi has it. So, goodbye and good luck, Christi.