In the still-unfolding, still-unfinished aftermath of the bitterly-disputed US Presidential Election of 2020, it seems like only yesterday – because it was only yesterday – that the United States of America was reportedly teetering on the brink of turmoil on the streets. Turmoil that would be at least a nuisance and, perhaps, far worse, internecine. The nation had also seemed to be in peril of the state meting out repression upon those who manifested their heterodox belief in a conspiracy theory opposed to the opposing conspiracy theory in which believe those who now have the upper hand politically.
Today, President Biden spoke fine words of peace, unity and reconciliation in his Inauguration Speech. This is welcome, but we’ve already seen how he is capable of that in one breath and saber-rattling in the next. (In fact, he did it today.) Biden’s sincerity will be tested. Actions speak louder than words and sometimes contradict the actor’s words, or tell us which mutually contradictory sayings of the actor to believe and which to put down to empty, schmaltzy virtue-signaling.
It wasn’t a promising sign that Biden characterised his inauguration as a “victory for democracy”, knowing that tens of millions in the USA still consider it to have been a defeat for democracy and many more than that all around the world don’t know what to make of it.
A real victory for democracy would bring peace. But that peace would be at a heavy price for a politician, an unfashionable curiosity as to the truth in a post-truth world. For democracy to win and unanimously to be seen to have won, experts in probability and statistics must first do some data collection and analysis that the new Administration has ordered to be done. Both Biden and Trump alike will have to agree to follow the science, whether it brings good news or bad for their political ambitions.
No science, no peace. Or at best precious little peace, because any peace will be founded on ignorance and fear, not truth and respect.
One of two mutually-contradictory theories is true. Both are plausible. Neither is proven to the satisfaction of skeptics, let alone to believers in the alternative theory.
Firstly, there is the conspiracy theory (as some are calling it) that the outcome of the US Presidential Election 2020 was turned by voting and/or counting that was fraudulent (however little or much of either or both there was). This is not literally a “conspiracy” theory, because co-ordinated fraud on a massive scale, which would require a conspiracy to co-ordinate it, would not have been needed in order to turn an election that conspicuously turned on wafer-thin majorities in a handful of marginal states. Haphazard, freelance, opportunistic vote harvesting not commissioned by the Democrats might have been enough.
Secondly, there is the complacency theory that the election outcome wasn’t turned by fraud, the negation of the so-called conspiracy theory.
There is evidence reported in certain media (but not mainstream media) – evidence which it is reported that no court has heard yet – that the election might have been turned by fraud. That evidence isn’t necessarily sufficient to prove that that fraud did turn the election though. However, the evidence is sufficient for an objective observer to be confident that any firm conviction that the election was not turned by fraud is based upon blind faith rather than evidence or lack of it, bolstered by a weak, emotional, false argument. (I shall explain what that false argument is shortly.)
Can we know the truth?
Yes, in theory, we can. In practice, where there isn’t a will, there would still be a way out of this mess, but that way won’t alas be taken.
It is, or ought to be (or to have been) a relatively simple matter to determine scientifically (as a binary probability distribution, not a two-options multiple-choice question, yes to one alternative, no to the other) which of the two contradictory theories, the conspiracy theory and the complacency theory, one the negation of the other, is better supported by the evidence. The procedure needed is a scientific procedure. Doing the science has value – if truth itself is important – even if there is no precedent in the USA of a legal procedure (a cause of action, litigation) into which the output of that scientific procedure could form the input, the evidence heard at a trial in (say) the Supreme Court of the United States. I explained this procedure over a month ago in my earlier blog post,
The belief that there is nothing the USA can do (or could have done, when I first suggested doing something) in order to find out whether vote fraud turned the election is thoroughly mistaken.
The false argument
The rhetoric is plain wrong, that the complacency theory is some sort of default conclusion, or starting point, or rebuttable presumption that Trump cannot rebut using the evidence he’s got so far. That rhetoric purports to place upon the “prosecuting” conspiracy theorist a higher-hurdle burden of proof than on the “defendant” complacency theorist, as though Joe Biden was a criminal whom the conspiracist was trying get convicted of election theft. Trump’s own inflammatory, forensic rhetoric, that the election was “stolen”, hasn’t helped. It is largely to blame for this false argument gaining the undeserved traction it has in the popular consciousness.
This is an invalid, emotional argument based upon an inappropriate application of the ideals of the criminal standard of proof, innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Referencing instead the civil standard of proof (at least as it is expressed in UK civil law), the balance of probabilities, levels the playing field. It opens up the election to rational scrutiny, by means of statistical analysis of the data that would or ought to be obtainable from the comprehensive audit of random samples of counted votes in swing states. From this, Bayesian inferences can be drawn.
The vain belief that one already knows, objectively, which of the two mutually contradictory theories is true, is self-flattery, as much for Biden as for Trump. It amounts to an assertion that one’s own intuition – one own’s unfounded beliefs about the still-unsolved mystery, one’s own mere guess as to the truth (typically motivated by wishful thinking) – is superior to the other’s. However well- or ill-founded it may be, which remains to be seen, Trump’s absolute conviction that the election was “stolen” is no more irrational than (say) the blind faith of the BBC, who began pumping out the dumbed-down propaganda slogan that Trump was planning litigation “without evidence” as early as November 5th. The complacency theorist BBC could not possibly have known the quality of Trump’s eventual evidence so long before any court would have given him or any other plaintiff permission to file evidence. (At least, not unless someone had confessed to the BBC to having stolen the election in a particular way, and then to having destroyed all possible evidence of that type of theft.)
Not, mind you, that any court so far has given permission yet for Trump to file any of the evidence he has managed to collect.
Trump’s proliferation of little lawsuits don’t seem to have behind them a well-thought-out plan for an endgame, based on what it is he would need eventually to prove in order to overturn the election, and how he proposed to prove that when push came to shove.
How to give peace a chance
If the USA wants peace, then one day the USA will need to seek a scientific answer to the question of who really won the 2020 election. If the USA does obtain a scientific answer to that question, but afterwards there remained either conspiracy theorists or complacency theorists (depending on which side the science had come down on) who still clung to their wrong guesses, even though those guesses now flew in the face of evidence-based science, then, and only then, it would be necessary to blame such continuity conspiracism or continuity complacency (as the case may be) upon the intractable irrationality of the remaining die-hards.
To give peace the best possible chance in the USA, Joe Biden will first have to give science a chance to find out whether he or Trump would have won the election if all fraudulent votes were discounted. This wouldn’t be difficult. But will he do it? As Trump might say, we’ll see.