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S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate political gabfest for October 15th, 2020, the empty notepad edition. I’m David Plotz. I am no one’s on.
S3: I’m joined from New Haven, Connecticut, the pawn of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School by Emily Bazelon.
S4: Hello, porn. So when is it ever acceptable to say, yes, I’m someone I’m on? Like, that’s never you never say like. Yeah, exactly. Like I mean, even with one children, one would feel embarrassed to be like, yes, I have my children’s porn.
S3: Well, your children are your pony.
S4: No, I think at this point that’s not true anymore.
S3: And then from New York, definitely the pawn of Anne Dickerson is John Dickerson of CBS’s 60 Minutes. Hello, John. I want. Yes, I am. I would. Yeah, hi.
S5: I was there’s there’s a there’s a porn pun, but I can’t be put upon to figure out what it is.
S3: So I was that’s caused my hiccup up their Ponzi scheme on today’s gabfest. Amy CONI Barrat again. Also, no one’s mind is racing, racing, racing through her hearings on the way to her inevitable life tenure on the Supreme Court. What have we learned about her? What have we learned about our country? What do these Potemkin hearings mean then? The First Amendment, the great amendment, or is it a great amendment? Emily Bazelon right here has a remarkable essay in the New York Times magazine this week about how rampant disinformation is causing a crisis in free speech in America is also incredibly well time since it appeared the very instant that this strange, extremely confusing Hunter Biden story, New York Post, quote unquote, scoop about Hunter Biden appeared and the very instant that Twitter and Facebook took steps to curtail the distribution of that story. So we will talk about all those issues around disinformation and the First Amendment. Then the number and variety of issues around ballots, election administration, vote tampering, the ability of people to vote the lines at voting, polling places. They are mind boggling and they vary from state to state across the country, even from within a state. We will catch up with some of the most important ones. Plus, of course, we will have cocktail chatter. Amy Cuney, Barrett. Is going to finish her testimony before the Judiciary Committee today, the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Thursday, when we’re taping, she will be approved then on a party line vote in that committee that will go on to the full Senate, where she will be approved on a party line vote to be a Supreme Court justice, barring some remarkable turn of events. She brought an empty notebook to her hearings and testified very fluently and clearly, but an empty notebook and in a way, an empty vessel. She has said very, very little. She’s done an excellent job, as we’re going to discuss, ducking anything substantive as Supreme Court justices have learned to do, nominees have learned to do in recent years. She’s emphasized, she’s tried to emphasize, oh, my personal views are not my views as a judge, but as sham hearings go. This is the Shamas. There’s no pretense from Republicans that they’re trying to do anything but get her through and get her through rapidly. Democrats, by contrast, do not believe this is a legitimate process. So, John, what would you say are the main themes of this, these hearings so far, though, not necessarily what’s going on in the hearings, but also the the discussion around the hearings? What are the themes that have struck you?
S5: You you called it a sham hearing. It’s I mean, I think the first. It’s hard to know where to grab a hold of this, I mean. Hearings have become a sham and not a, you know, an inquiry into the judicial views. Well, I don’t know where we want to start that process, but they are. There’s so much more now for the exercise of the senators, both personal vanity and then also just political theater, perfectly encapsulated by the way they begin, which is with rounds and rounds and rounds of opening statements where the where the nominee just has to sit there and be pelted by these opening statements. So, you know, tonight, John, sorry.
S3: Are you saying that just made me think it’s bizarre that a full third of her hearing is these opening statements. Where did that come from? It’s an obscene, stupid, pointless tradition.
S5: Mean, there you go. Yeah. I mean, it is the it is the apotheosis, if apotheosis is the word I want of, you know, of a trend that has gotten further and further and further away from inquiry, you know, an inquiry into their ideas for the purposes of advise and consent, coupled with a tradition that has in which Justice Ginsburg played an important role of the nominee being either smart enough or cagey enough to not give a full open explication of their thinking, the provisional nature of it, the fixed nature of it, or the nature of it in any particular way, because that was seen to have torpedoed Robert Bork, who was torpedoed for other reasons, but he helped torpedo himself by talking too much, among other things. So the theater has so far away from what it’s supposed to be. And we have the case here now where the votes are, the votes. And our most recent history with Supreme Court picks, particularly Supreme Court picks in an election year, are that the substance doesn’t matter, that power does. The substantive issues are the Affordable Care Act, abortion, the extent to which Judge Barrett is going to be a captive of the Bush excuse me, Trump administration. I was thinking about Bush v. Gore and how that reflects on the president’s claim that there need to be nine justices in order to have a full court to adjudicate any election issues. And then the other part of the theater is just the way in which lawmakers tried to use her as the platform to talk about a variety of different legislative issues, political and public issues. So I don’t know, Emily.
S6: I mean, I think you’re totally right about the effect that the Bork hearing had. And ever since then, the nominees have had a real incentive not to say anything controversial. What’s amazing is like we have learned less and less about their actual views progressively over the hearings. So I am left in the situation of thinking about Amy CONI Barrett, of grasping at how extreme her refusal to answer the questions was. Right. So to me, basically the most notable thing was that asked whether the president has the power to unilaterally delay the election, she said she couldn’t answer because that would be legal punditry. This is a law like it’s written in the statute that the election has to proceed. There’s nothing about the president having that power. I mean, you could imagine, like if there was a nuclear bomb that hit the country. But the idea that you couldn’t say something that obvious and the same thing was true about her refusal to answer a question about Trump having an obligation to peacefully transfer power if he loses the election. And so, look, you can say that she’s playing it really safe and like, sure, there’s some hypothetical eventuality or maybe not that hypothetical where that might come before her. But it’s it’s the refusal to say that, like the paint on the bench that I just put there is wet or the sky is blue. That seems really striking here. In addition to the fact that she has actually all these statements about her views on the record that she also doesn’t want to address, even though in a lot of ways we know more about her stance on controversial issues like guns and abortion and previous challenges, the Affordable Care Act, than we’ve known about the last few nominees.
S5: Can I just jump in and say this? This codifies an extremely frustrating cycle, which is that in order to rise through the end, you shoot me down. And if this is wrong, but in order to rise through the ranks, you have to signal at various points your views on a series of very political issues. And then when you get nominated, you have to exercise. What seems to me to be is an excessive political instinct rather than a judicial one, to not say anything at all, to know how to avoid everything. And therefore it creates an incentive for maximally political judicial nominees who on the one hand know how to show it and on the other hand, don’t know how to show it, both of which are not, as our seem to be adjacent and not central to the job of making.
S6: Or not making, but the job of adjudicating and then we also have to listen to these sanctimonious bromides, which not just Amirkhani Barrett, I mean, it was true about Justice Kagan in particular among the liberals, too, of like the I will interpret the law as written.
S4: And, you know, the words on the page like these are not determinative principles in contested Supreme Court cases like, yes, much of the time judges do their jobs in a non ideological way based on the words on the page. And everybody agrees. But the Supreme Court is there for the hard cases in which the lower courts often disagreed and the cases that the American people are the most concerned about having to do with, you know, knotty, uncertain interpretations of what does equal protection mean in the Fourteenth Amendment.
S6: Like, there is no answer on the page. It is just not true. It is not true that it is interpreting the law as written. And I just I have sat through so many of these and I’m so tired of that.
S3: So many. Emily, what would you have us do? Because there is this it is clear she hasn’t spent her whole career, as John indicated, signaling to people how she feels.
S4: And she signed a letter saying it’s a barbaric practice, like, OK, that clearly miss you if you use that language.
S3: Yes. So she spent all this time signaling. So there’s no that is why she is the top choice of the Susan B. Anthony list. That is why the Federalist Society, you know, is very keen on her. It’s why President Trump, who has said he would only nominate pro life judges, is so keen on her. So we are pretty clear on it. So what is the what would be the change that you could make to this process or to some process that would allow you to learn something from these hearings? Because the everyone has now learned how to game it like everyone knows how to play it. And it’s simply it’s an exercise since you don’t have to convince anyone. I guess if you ever have a situation where you have a president of one party and a Senate that’s controlled by a majority of another party, then you’ll have a situation where you have to persuade people. But otherwise it’s simply an exercise in power politics. So what can be done with this hearings that would make them valuable, or are they just completely screwed for.
S6: Well, I mean, this idea that you don’t have to convince anyone is actually very recent because we had, you know, even like 70, 60 something votes for candidates like Kagan and even like Alito, I think, and John Roberts, unless I’m mistaken.
S4: So, I mean, this may not be the answer to your political question, but legally speaking, we should have much more room for nominees to answer our questions about past cases. Like it is just ridiculous that you can’t say what you think about the merits of a precedent from 20 or 30 years ago or 10 years ago. It yes, they should not comment on cases that are currently in circulation that should come before them. But there is a lot more room to express views on past cases than any of them want to touch anymore. And you can see the goalpost moving. I mean, it used to be like absolutely. You would say that Brown versus Board was good law, right? Like nobody wants to touch that one. But there were other cases, too, that we could agree on that, you know, were like not really up for grabs anymore. Like Connecticut versus Griswold, which is the predecessor to Roe versus Wade. This is Griswold is the 1960s case from Connecticut about whether it was in this case a married woman has the right to buy birth control, like basically whether the state can be so interfering in the lives of married couples in particular, that they could ban birth control purchases. And everyone agreed, like there was some basic privacy. Right. That was violated there. Now, people usually don’t even want to talk about Griswold. Like there’s just this refusal to kind of express any view about a past body of law. And it’s bad, like it just doesn’t educate the American public. That’s why we get stuck with all this baloney about originalism.
S3: Emily. So Amy CONI Barrett, who is apparently a super spreader, said that Roe v. Wade was not a super precedent or she indicated that Roe v. Wade was not a super precedent. Some president is not a phrase that I have heard before this week, because that’s what that is, is it is a real phrase. And did it was that in any way significant that she didn’t indicate that that it was a super precedent?
S1: I mean, I really this is I it’s like dreadful to me.
S3: I’m not listeners. I would like to record a visual picture for you to listen. Emily, the level of facial frustration that Emily is demonstrating today is very, very high, very high, staring up at the ceiling hand to forehead, which she’s doing right now. Yeah, yeah. It’s just a really, really high. OK, continue.
S4: Emily, I just feel like this is like just like all chaffe. OK, so. There have been references, I think Cavnar maybe has talked about this idea of a super precedent as being like more untouchable than other cases, this is just like a made up idea. I mean, the justices have different levels of distress that they think that they have to feel or show or believe in order to overturn a precedent. So Clarence Thomas has said, you know what, if I disagree with it as an originalist, I think it’s at odds with the Constitution as it was written in the and 80s. That’s enough for me. Judge Barrett has actually said the same thing. Other people like Cavnar have created these higher barriers, these bigger loops for themselves to jump through. In the end, I just don’t think it really matters. Like in the end is whether this particular precedent before the court falls or stands. And we have seen the conservative justices and in some cases liberal justices very willing to abandon all precedents. And you know what? Sometimes that is appropriate. Nobody here thinks that Dred Scott should still be on the books. The terrible decision denying citizenship to black Americans like we needed to get rid of that. Some precedents are bad, but whether you get rid of Roe versus Wade is obviously like a whole different question. And so we have these kinds of proxy fight about what the word super precedent means instead, because nobody will answer the actual question.
S5: Yeah, I have three points I would like to make.
S7: The first is since this is 98 percent, as Matt Glassman says, that you have to think of these as 90, 98 percent of questions about judicial hearings should be filtered through the idea that the witness is a prop and the members are the lead actors in the in a theater performance.
S5: So if that’s the case, is that one of the reasons do we think that the Merrick Garland denial and exercise of power on the part of Mitch McConnell was was allowed to go by? I mean, you could argue there are a lot of reasons. One, people thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and so it didn’t really matter. But another could be that people thought the process was kind of hokey and and meaningless anyway. So to deny to to not allow this process to go forward was not like denying some great sanctified event. That’s one theory to throw out there. The second is more than ever with with Judge Berrett or maybe any modern nominee, because they all have to be of a certain political standing to even be in the running. We have to evaluate whether there is a wall between personal belief and judicial opinion. No longer are they saying, I don’t hold these personal beliefs, but they’re saying I can maintain a wall. And yet there’s no way to test the durability of that wall either through plumbing, how they see that wall or plumbing, how they’ve they would view cases where there might be conflict with what we know. Are there known personal views and any judicial views. So that seems to me of an extreme frustration. And the final point is a political one, which is the Democrats, the Republicans have sent out as a part of their talking points that Amy Barrett was unflappable, which in my view of the of the hearings, she certainly was. I wonder if that is in the long term interests of Republicans running in the Senate and President Trump? I think part of their hope was that they would bait Democrats into overreaching, attacking a woman on the stand or, you know, a woman witness doing all kinds of things that would create a political moment. And this seems to have kind of passed through pretty quickly without Democrats overreaching in that way.
S4: Right. I mean, Dianne Feinstein blew it at Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings for the 7th Circuit when she did criticize Barrett’s Catholicism. And I think she got the memo. That’s not OK. I mean, I think it was Senator Tillis who was reduced to reading random tweets from like who knows who criticizing Barrett’s religious observance.
S6: I mean, really like enough, I guess. Yeah.
S5: Yeah. That’s awfully tiny bit to be throwing out. It’s like minnows.
S3: Well, actually, John, I want I mean, I would throw this question to you, John, before maybe Emily tackles your first two points, which is it does not feel to me that these hearings have been galvanic for anybody. They have not been galvanic for the right. There has not been this huge outpouring of enthusiasm that the that I’m sure there is clearly conservative enthusiasm for Barrett and for what she would do on the court. But in terms of as a political matter, as an electoral matter, we have an election coming up in a few weeks. It doesn’t feel like that this is fundamentally affecting how enthusiastic conservatives are to vote or is going to drive a huge surge in conservative turnout from people anxious about judicial nominees. It it it appears like that, yeah, Republicans are OK, but this isn’t a big galvanizing event. And I actually feel like it’s not even that much of a galvanizing event on the left either. The left was already people who are who care about these things were already so worked up and exercised about it that this doesn’t. Change things, I guess I feel like this this nomination, it’s going to be a win for the president and for for conservatives and it’s going to change the court for decades, but it doesn’t actually have that much of an impact on the election that we’re right.
S7: Can it be a galvanic event when everybody has already galvanized and is in a permanent state of galvanization? And I think you’re right. A new word we have. I think I think you’re I think you’re right, which is not dear listeners who may have missed David’s point while a truck passed by and you were running. He’s not saying it’s not important or the people don’t care. He’s saying that people who care and are most excited by this moment on both the left and the right were already galvanized and excited. I’m focused at the moment, particularly on whether this has any effect on two particular groups, suburban, college educated women or non college educated white male voters in the Midwest, two groups that one group, Donald Trump, has to grow in order to to do well. And one group he has to try to stop bleeding as badly as he has. I don’t think either of those two groups, if they weren’t already sorted from a previous event, are going to be newly sorted as a result of this at all. So I. I agree with you.
S5: And then the question, another one to add to your plate, Emily, is can you talk about the severability of the Affordable Care Act? There seemed to be Lindsey Graham was at pains to make the case for Amy Parrot that something about severability for the Affordable Care Act meant she could rule in a way that might be consistent with all her previous views on the ACA, but wouldn’t necessarily kill it entirely.
S4: Yeah, I mean, this is kind of hilarious. I mean, actually, both sides, though, have been sort of confusing the wrong word. OK, so this Affordable Care Act suit is the third Affordable Care Act challenge to go to the Supreme Court. They have gotten progressively weaker. I didn’t think much of the original Commerce Clause one, I think close to nothing of this one both. It has a standing problem, like the idea that there is a harm here that could be redressed based on the zeroed out individual mandate nonsense, but particularly nonsense is the notion that if you were going to find that this zeroed out mandate meant that it was not a tax and thus could not be upheld, the idea you could not sever this provision from the rest of the law. I mean, think about it. What we have learned is that zeroing out the individual mandate doesn’t actually have much of an effect at all on whether people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. So clearly it should be severable. So the Democrats have kind of ridden right past that in these hearings because they want it to be a huge threat to the Affordable Care Act. And indeed, she may well be that huge threat because she may not care that this is a risible reason to throw out the whole law. The Democrats attack seems to be hitting politically, or at least Lindsey Graham seems to be think it might be damaging to him. Right. Because suddenly he came up with this interesting Hail Mary in which he said, oh, wait a minute, explain severability to me in these hearings to make it clear that it is possible to uphold the Affordable Care Act, which is fine, except that the lawsuit is a Trump administration supported Republican lawsuit to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which depends on the idea that it’s not severable. So suddenly, Graham has switched sides here in some effort to make it more palatable to his voters. And Barrett seemed to kind of go along with it. But she didn’t say what she was going to do. And it doesn’t matter even if she said, I absolutely believe it’s severable, even though I don’t think you should be a legal pundit about anything, it’s not going to bind her.
S5: It was just such a weird Kabuki dance, which gives us some inkling of where he thinks his pressures are within his own race. In other words, he didn’t need to have a big conservative moment. He needed to have a big hey, she’s not as he need to have a more moderate kind of moment. So he is thinking about his own.
S6: Yeah, right. I mean, the other thing I found really frustrating are the questions about recusal. So, you know, would you recuse yourself from a lawsuit about whether Trump wins the election? Because we know he’s putting you there in part because he wants to have five conservative, six conservative justices in place. So it doesn’t matter what Barrett says now about recusal, she gets to decide whether to recuse herself. There is no higher authority. That’s how it works.
S3: Slate plus members get bonus segments on the Gabfest and other Slate podcasts. And they also support Slate’s journalism, which has been really important during this campaign and will continue to be important after the campaign. And Slate needs that support. It’s been critical. And today we are going to have a Slate plus segment about our own voting plans. What is our voting plan and how are we going to try to help others with theirs? Emily Bazelon has a huge, profound essay in The New York Times magazine this week. It’s about America’s free speech crisis and what we can do about it. I’m going to quickly summarize it, then ask Emily to really summarize it and then just to preview, I think it came couldn’t have come at a more timely moment because Emily’s story came out the same day as this controversy about a Hunter Biden scoop that The New York Post had and Twitter and Facebook’s response to that scoop, which was to to squeeze, to constrain, to blink or access to some of that material, but which caused a discussion about some of these free speech issues. So if I can quickly summarize, please, Emily’s story and then have her summarize it, it’s that we have too much speech. Too much of it is disinformation. The fact that so much of it is disinformation is destroying or severely undermining the premise of the First Amendment, which is a Jon Stewart million premise, which is that good ideas drive out bad ideas or good ideas. We need a free marketplace of ideas in order to know what these good ideas are. These and it and the world that we have has simply for a variety of reasons that Emily explored, having to do with conservative media, having to do with technology and the way the Internet spreads speech, having to do with maybe mores around speech that actually we’re in a world where there is a vastly too much information and it is riddled with inaccuracy, often intentional inaccuracy. And that is not causing clarity for our democracy, but massive amount of confusion. And Emily talks about where this came from and what to do about it. So, Emily, is that what your essay says? But why do you say better what your essay says?
S6: No, that was good. I mean, I think I wanted to ask two questions. I wanted to ask whether the American First Amendment is the best way to protect speech in our age of disinformation. And for and I have two doubts about the First Amendment. The first is the way in which the Supreme Court has put corporate speech, particularly donations for elections, on par with the shouting of protesters. So we have this really important principle, which I deeply share, that the government cannot discriminate based on viewpoint among different groups. Right. You don’t want somebody thrown in jail because they printed a pamphlet of an anarchist and then someone who printed a pamphlet, you know, that’s has a different political view is fine, like you want even enforcement that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.
S1: But the Supreme Court, I would argue, has gone far beyond and kind of distorted that by treating corporate speech for elections the same as individual speech in any context. And that, I think, is really at odds with another important democratic values. Right. In the United States, we treat free speech often as like the foundation of all our other freedoms. That’s an idea from this political philosopher named Alexander McLennon, who was building on John Stuart Mill. Mills’s original conception that you set out. David, other democracies like in Europe and Canada and elsewhere, they think free speech is really important and they protect it. But they also think about the integrity of their elections, of their democratic system. And so they talk about this idea of democratic legitimation, like what is the kind of free speech that actually makes people feel like they own the democratic process. And this is an idea from Robert Post, who’s a professor at Yale Law School. A corporation does not feel democratic legitimation Campbell Soup Company. He said to me, like, gets to spend an election that’s not going to make it feel better if its candidate loses, whereas like a person or even an advocacy group actually does have that kind of relationship to the democratic process. So that even if your candidate loses, if you think you have free speech rights and you can participate in shaping public opinion, then you believe you can win the next time. And that’s why we have the First Amendment. But the Supreme Court has really gotten away from that in a way that I think these other democracies like are still very much in touch with. And it informs their a greater willingness to regulate both social media and also to really invest in public media so that they have much more trusted broadcasters, for example, than we do. And and I think that helps inform why Fox News in particular has is playing this role in our disinformation ecosystem that other countries don’t have to deal with. So it’s both like about negative rates, by which I mean like getting in trouble for speech, but also about investment, like spending money on more speech that produces reliable information. Then you have an informed public that is invested and knows what it’s doing better than ours, I think.
S3: Emily, can you talk a bit about this idea of disinformation and what that is and how to and how that plays out here? Because I think one of the really. Interesting points you make is that is that a lot of the speech that is floating around is speech that is intended to mislead or confuse and and what we do about that, John, are you going to say something?
S5: Well, I was just going to just know I was nodding my head in that that a lot of the speech, the goal of it is not to persuade, but to undermine the very notion of verifiable facts, which which doesn’t just win you the argument in the moment.
S7: It creates the precondition for victories in the future because you, whoever is the fastest creator of truth in the moment, wins and you happen to have a special skill at that if you’re engaged in doing this. So anyway, I was just nodding at the idea of purposefully undermining the very idea of verifiable information.
S6: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s exactly it. So Jon Stewart Mills and the American First Amendment are kind of have the sunny, optimistic view that good ideas are going to win out and that the danger is government censorship. Like you never want the government to be telling people what they can say because the government might be wrong in its judgments about what it thinks is what Mills calls an infallible assumption. So our First Amendment protects really well against government censorship. What it doesn’t address is drowning in lies and propaganda. I mean, really, disinformation is a modern word for propaganda. And so when I went back and read Hannah Arendt, who, you know, is this native German Jewish political philosopher who escapes from the Nazis, goes to France, comes to the United States, looking back on the rise of fascism in Europe for her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she’s really concerned about what John just outlined, that you have tons of information.
S1: You don’t know who to trust. It’s all about destabilizing your beliefs in the facts. And A is particularly concerned about a party line like a conspiracy theory, the way the Nazis had a conspiracy theory of anti-Semitism that becomes this kind of organizing principle for people and makes people really abandon their previously understood sense of right and wrong and their ideas about truth get misshapen and distorted. And so if you take that seriously as a real danger, then you start to think differently about things like how the Internet should be regulated. And to me, what’s also important here is that the founding ethos of the Internet was information was just going to move around neutrally. Right. Information wanted to be free. And again, like the good ideas would rise to the top. And it was good that there was no hierarchy because we would hear it would be totally democratizing. What actually happened is that we had these huge tech companies become new gatekeepers and their methods for amplifying content are totally profit driven. The kind of content that makes them money by keeping us engaged tends to be hot. It tends to be content that provokes a lot of emotion and often that involves lies. And so the notion that there’s some like, pure world out there in which Twitter and Facebook don’t interfere, it just doesn’t exist. There are algorithms shape every day what we see on our news feeds and their algorithms are driven by them making money, not by any kind of sense of public obligation, because that’s just not part of how we designed the laws and regulations we in the United States for how these Internet platforms operate.
S5: And, you know, I now rely on on developers. Sportsbook here to pick up on your point about the tech companies, even the original conception of public opinion polling and the measurement and weight we give to mass opinion was founded on this fake idea, wrong idea, a misinterpretation of the sort of New England town hall where some people might argue, no, having all of these voices where everybody has a say and can participate in this huge cacophonous conversation is replicating the town hall, which was so was seen as such a fundamental part of the structure of democracy. But as Lapore points out, the town hall was a give and take in a room with people who participated and practiced certain kinds of behaviors, not the least of which was not actively engaging in a group conspiracy to undermine the very idea of information, and that the give and take of a personal moment in a town hall is nothing like what you just described, which is participation in public shouting in a venue where all of the incentives are to elevate the hottest shouting arguments, which was exactly what the town hall was, was trying to break through. So that’s one point. The second is that in this idea of trying to undermine the very foundation of verifiable information, you have the president doing that through the things he says that are not true. But there is also he’s upped his passing along of conspiracy theories this week, which means and what I was struck by is that, you know, normal excuse for people who want to make. Excuses for the president’s language as well, he just has a rough tongue, he tells it like it is, and he’s kind of brutish, but he’s seeking, you know, he’s he’s accessing kind of a more brutal truth with the conspiracy theories. It’s the exact opposite. I mean, he’s not telling it like it is. He’s telling it like it ain’t. And that’s not just to hurt Joe Biden by creating fantastical conspiracy theories, but it’s to to create an atmosphere and have that atmosphere supported by his party and the leaders in it of total unverifiable information.
S6: Right. And that way lies Putin like that is how Putin controls Russia by utterly destabilizing people’s belief in sources of information and having any sense of what to trust.
S3: Can I make one point about the platforms, Emily? And then I want to turn to this Hunter Biden story. One, I think point about the platforms it’s so important to remember here in the U.S. is that these are all American companies, Twitter, Google, Facebook, they’re American companies and they’re they’re created here. And so I think there’s a tendency for lawmakers and for the public to give them latitude because we want them to succeed. If you look at the regulation that’s happening in Europe, it is it’s happening in part because they don’t really give a shit about whether Google is that profitable or not. Whereas in America, Google is a hugely influential company, it has huge lobbying arm. Facebook is a hugely influential company as a huge lobbying arm, huge ties to conservative elites and liberal elites and liberal elites and liberal elites. And so there’s this there’s this way in which we give them latitude. It’s a little bit similar to how Bowien, like why Boeing 737 Max got such an easy pass from Department of Transportation, from the FAA in terms of regulating its regulatory capture. Because it’s an American company, people want it to succeed and and are willing to look away at its Amala actions and its baleful effects on the country, whereas in Europe, no such concerns. And so there I think there’s a greater willingness to put restrictions on on these platforms in Europe.
S6: Yes, absolutely. And honestly, like the main thing I would like to come out of my piece, if anything comes out of it, is just for Americans to be alert to watching what happens in Europe and the next year or two, because I think that they are much more likely to innovate in a smart way because, you know, look like let’s be clear, I’m not calling for, like shutting down speech on the Internet. I don’t want the social media companies to start treating, you know, speech in some partisan manner. There’s lots of important ways in which we want speech to freely circulate online and in the traditional media. But there are other things that we can do like, you know, require disclosure for the source of funding for political ads, the same way we do on TV and radio, maybe have some kind of process. And this relates to Hunter Biden, where the social media companies look for super spreaders of disinformation and then keep an eye out when they see things start to go viral from those known malefactors. Or maybe you just want the government asking the social media companies to be transparent. Like we literally don’t have any way for independent researchers to see how much disinformation and hate speech is even circulating, much less what the companies are doing about it. And that’s crazy.
S3: So let us turn for the last part of the segment to this Hunter Biden story. So The New York Post published a scoop yesterday. That scoop allegedly came, I guess, via Rudy Giuliani where and and somebody who runs a Delaware computer repair shop where he claimed to have gotten a computer that was dropped off by some mysterious figure for repair, never picked up. And that computer happened to contain emails with Hunter. Biden said that that claimed that Biden was seeking a meeting or was arranging meeting between Joe Biden and some Ukrainian official. Joe Biden denies this meeting ever took place. I mean, it has all the hallmarks of a disinformation campaign of whether or not it’s true. It may be the facts may be true of a bit of some sort of Russian chicanery that the Ukrainian company at issue is known to have been hacked by Russia already. The sourcing of these documents is extremely mysterious. It appears to have been in Giuliani’s possession for at least a year. And so there’s a lot of like just really, really shady stuff happening, which has deep handprints, fingerprints, footprints, elbow prints of some kind of Russian operation or something. You know, some some form of ill play that’s going on. What did Twitter and Facebook do, Emily? And and, you know, how is the story like the Hillary Clinton email story of. Twenty sixteen.
S6: So Twitter blocked the sharing of links to this New York Post story and called it unsafe and invoked a policy it has against sharing stolen information online, which doesn’t seem like it was really written for this situation. And now they’re also saying, like, we know we have to explain better, so we’re going to have to watch that ball continue to bounce. Facebook said we want to wait, in fact, check this and try to verify it. And in the meantime, we’re going to leave it up, but we’re not going to let it just go viral. And I think what you’re seeing here is these companies wrestle with the lessons of the 2016 election. So when Russian operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee emails in the summer of 2016 and then released those emails to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks used the American media to distribute these damaging to Democrats emails that had been hacked and stolen.
S1: And WikiLeaks cleverly dispatched them first during the Democratic convention and then in October, when the Access Hollywood tape was damaging Trump literally in that moment, Roger Stone, you know this from his trial, helped engineer, you know, for maximum distraction benefit, another release of emails from the hack, the damage, the Democrats. And nobody in that moment that I remember was like, hey, huh, we’re being used. The Russians planted disinformation with us and like lo, as we talk about it on television and put it on the front page of our newspapers, we’re playing right into their hands. Now, I think there is a hesitation to repeat playing that role. And one thing that I’m completely fascinated by and wrote about is the difference between 2016 in the U.S. and 2017 in France, where there was a similar Russian hack of emails from the party of Emmanuel Macron. This is when he was running for presidency. And the French media was just basically like not we’re not going there. Now, France has this 48 hour blackout law about news right before an election which like the United States, would never have that law. And that’s another way in which maybe our First Amendment is not so helpful. Maybe it’s a good idea to have such a law. But those McCrann leaked emails were dumped on the Internet before the 48 hour blackout and the French media still restrained itself. So you’re just talking about like a totally different set of norms. And what the French media said at the moment was like, we don’t have time to fact check the stuff. We think we’re getting played by a bad foreign interference operation and we’re just not going to participate in it. So now we have Twitter and Facebook essentially balking at just distributing this information based on their algorithms without having some idea of where it came from, what its real provenance is, whether it holds up. And what’s fascinating about that is that these companies have tried so hard to insist that they are not publishers in any traditional sense of the word, but now they’re more and more acting this way. It’s true about some of Trump’s false posts about mail and voting, like they actually don’t want to just disseminate false information anymore. They’re trying to figure out what kind of labeling to do. That’s kind of like a Kairouan on TV where someone is saying something that’s bullshit and you call them on their bullshit in the moment. And it’s all very much like in progress and not worked out. And maybe they haven’t figured it out in time to really avoid a lot of damage to this election. But it’s really interesting to watch.
S3: Yeah, Emily, I think what’s what’s interesting about this post New York Post story is that it’s the substantive it appears to affect nobody. It doesn’t seem like this the substance of the allegations is going to shake the election or shake even one vote. The public has become very, very skeptical of this, in part because the media, I suppose, is not acting as pure amplifier megaphone the way they did in 2016. But it’s also the case like that. Just people are very skeptical. In a way, though, that skepticism is part of the problem. Like the media, liberals don’t trust what’s being published about Hunter Biden in New York Post because there’s so much chaff and disinformation anywhere and nobody trust anything that doesn’t come from there, you know, from their small protected circle where they which they think is legitimate information. There’s no kind of universally accepted set of, oh, yeah, this is this is trusted information. I need to follow it. And I think people should be very skeptical of these stories because of how we were played in 2016. But it is demoralizing that you can’t change public opinion right now with anything substantive. I think you could like I think big media organizations could say that Trump is a tax criminal or they might even say, you know, in some hypothetical set of circumstances, Trump is a murderer. And in the case of taxes, The New York Times said that Trump was a huge tax cheat that did not fundamentally change the circumstances of the election. I don’t think any allegation made against Trump at this point would fundamentally change the nature of this election. And that’s a worrisome fact.
S7: Well, isn’t there a distinction between changing people’s minds or or introducing a new idea that stays in people’s minds and then whether that new idea affects voting? So. So, for example, I think The New York Times probably increase the number of people who thought the president was a tax cheat, although, again, many people probably thought that already, whether they choose to vote for or against him based on that idea is a separate question. I think The New York Post has a has a record and a tradition and a history that undermines its ability to act as a neutral arbiter of fact here. And so I think even its ability to introduce this as a new idea in people’s minds has a much higher bar to clear than, say, The New York Times. And that’s a separate question from whether this will change anybody’s votes at all, although I think the only way it could change always votes is if it occupies some turf time. And people are talking about this instead of talking about the president’s response to covid.
S6: Yeah, I mean, the other thing I worry about is that because Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, we should include YouTube, which is a major offender, and all of this because they haven’t have a kind of pre worked out, clearly evenhanded framework for dealing with this kind of material, that their decision about this Hunter Biden story is going to feed a conservative, largely misperception that the tech platforms are biased against conservative content. There’s really no evidence of that. If anything, you can see the conservatives working the refs to great effect. But that notion could become a huge theme on Fox and then in that manner feed back into the social media platforms because Fox is hugely able to amplify its own reach through, in particular, Facebook. So there’s this like way in which it’s in. I mean, you’re right, David, about our polarized Americans, polarized views of media and who we trust and who we don’t. And Fox has been so successful at feeding off of conservatives distrust of the mainstream media. And then you have this dynamic in which like something that could be a neutral decision by Facebook and Twitter, like, hey, we don’t know where this came from, looks as if it’s helping one campaign or targeting one side and not the other. And that’s not good. Like we need to have evenhanded rules here. I would also argue what’s really not good is that these decisions are in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Jack Dorsey, a Twitter like we’ve made them, the czars of our hugely important information sphere online. And like that’s another problem with being so unwilling to have any kind of government involvement.
S5: So, Emily, when when you were reading your piece and hearing you talk about it, I feel like I go we go back to the first moment of the founding, which is that they were trying to balance this thing between too much power in the government and also too much power in the hands of the people. And so it feels like you’re saying we have a theory about and systems set up to manage too much power in terms of the government’s affect on speech. But we need to rethink about speech on the other thing the founders worried about, which was too much democracy.
S6: Yeah, I mean, my favorite founding fact that I learned in this piece, John, was that the founders deliberately set very low postage rates for newspapers and what were called at the time periodicals, i.e. journals and magazines, because they cared so much about the free flow of information and the free press. And Thomas Jefferson actually says at one point, like, if I had to choose between newspapers and elections, I would choose newspapers. I’m not sure I would make that same choice. But it’s pretty fascinating to think that they were so prescient about how important it is to have a set of reliable sources of information where people could share a set of facts. And I think we have lost that and we lost that because of the libertarian deregulation of the media in the 80s by the Reagan administration. And the idea that there is a public obligation, that if you get a spot on the airwaves or a radio channel, you actually owe something back to the public is gone. And that is like really deeply, deeply terrible for the country. And it’s another difference between us and a lot of European nations.
S3: Read Emily’s story. The problem of free speech in an age of disinformation in The New York Times Magazine. There are so many issues swirling around the mechanics of voting a vote counting of mail in voting of ballot access. If waiting in line a voter ID, a voter fraud, is there just a ton of them? We saw early voting began in Georgia this week. And on the one hand, it’s sort of like, oh, so heartening, all these people waiting in line. On the other hand, it’s absurd that anybody should have to spend an entire day waiting in line so they can cast a vote. That’s just ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. Shouldn’t happen in a in a wealthy, rich country with two hundred and fifty years odd, 250 odd years of democratic tradition. But whatever. So when I look around, we have a bunch of issues in Pennsylvania and Texas. There are issues around the drop off locations. There are issues around drive drivethrough voting in Houston, in California. There’s this incredible thing going on where the Republican Party of California is setting up fake Dropbox’s throughout the state there to harvest Republican votes. Emily, I know you’ve been following this or John, whatever whichever one of you wants to jump in at. What are the issues that you’re seeing in the various states feels most urgent to you, most important and most likely to have an impact on the race itself?
S7: I’m going to jump in because I have a small general and then Emily will give actual facts. I just feel like the ChAFTA, the sense of chaos, sewing, which feels the most prominent in the California Republican Party, is what worries me the most, because it’s just that ambient sense of, oh, it’s all a mess that works in the favor of those who want to sow chaos because chaos means you can contest whatever the result is, because, oh, there’s just chaos.
S5: How can we believe anything?
S3: Yeah, it’s like the analogue to Emily’s free speech point, right? Well, exactly. That’s yeah.
S6: Right. And I mean, this brings us back, Richard, to the Purcell Doctrine, which we talked about a week or two, which is the idea this is a principle from the courts that you do not change the rules close to an election because it’s just too much to expect people to keep track like that in itself depresses turnout because. No, or just makes it harder for people to cast votes legally so that they’ll be counted. And I think that unless you’re following the ball dropping in all these places, it would be really easy to be confused right now, especially because a lot of the lesson here is just how fragmented our voting system is. We’re talking about state laws, local election offices, different rules for different places like, yeah, in Houston. They want to do more curbside voting. Well, if you live in Houston, you better know that’s like the rule may be for your county, but it’s not even going to apply in the rest of Texas. Like it’s kind of crazy, just what a patchwork it is. And if you’re trying to figure out like and we’ll talk about this on Slate plus. But how to vote, how to make sure your vote is counted, what the rules are for absentee votes, like does your signature have to match? Again, these are state and sometimes local decisions. It’s very specific. And that just seems like a really bad way to run an. Election, like we should have national standards, even if we want state and local officials to actually administer the balloting and the tabulating.
S3: So which when you guys look around the country, which of these issues? John, I think your point is so right that the the the amount of chaos is the most troubling fact because just casts doubt over the whole venture. But which specifically, Emily, of these cases or these issues do you think has is most important?
S6: Well, I got kind of obsessed with this cool data visualization The New York Times did this week of all of the dates for preprocessing and tabulating absentee ballots and, you know, regular day of voting ballots in the different states. And there’s huge variation. I mean, there states like Kentucky where they start preprocessing ballots in September and then there are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two of the most important swing states in which under current law, the election officials can’t do anything until the day of the election. So if we are imagining a close contest in which the results in those states matter to the outcome in the Electoral College, we’re talking about a big strain on the system because there’s going to be a lot of pressure to count those ballots fast. On the other hand, there’s not going to be any preparatory work and there’s going to be, I think, a threat of really slowing the count down with challenges to ballots and a lot of litigation. This may not happen, right? Because if it’s not a close election, if the other states determine the outcome, then then it becomes much less important. But if we’re in a situation in which Pennsylvania and which, like all eyes are on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, we’re probably not going to have complete results or anything like complete results quickly. And also, I just wonder about all the opportunities for just like gumming up the works that the lawyers may be able to create.
S7: I think in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it’s also required that election officials run around a baseball bat as fast as they can for a minute before counting votes. I think that might be a norm more than a law.
S6: Exactly. And there are some issues in Pennsylvania and maybe this is also true in Wisconsin, but I’ve been following the litigation in Pennsylvania and like there’s stuff that’s not resolved, like important things like is there going to be signature matching in Pennsylvania right now? No, but maybe the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will impose it like we really don’t know the answer yet.
S5: And Emily, did they settle in Texas? One of the things that I would struck me, David, when you were asking this week was that the crazy Texas law, that two of one ballot, one drop off boxes will write one drop off box per county and but that ultimately a judge stepped in and said that that ended up targeting the people who have the most difficulty voting. And so is that done?
S6: Is that is the other way, that other side, then an appeals court overturned that nice process. And when did that happen? Like yesterday or the day? Oh, God, yeah. I really keep track. One drop off box in Texas is the current rule, and it doesn’t really look like that’s going to change.
S3: Although, you know, I having now read a little bit about that, like, I guess I I’m not so moved in the sense that there wasn’t a drop off box before that we had different circuit.
S6: But we have different circumstances. Right? I mean, it depends how you feel about the post office, right. If you’re worried about the post office not delivering all those ballots and you think people should be able to vote by mail, then you might be more concerned. I mean, one box per county, Houston has a lot more people in it than some rural county.
S3: Yeah, some more clearly. Ludicrous is clearly. But you’re right. Governor Abbott designed it to to to to. Yes. Handicap Houston and Dallas.
S6: And you can see where if there isn’t a pre-existing right of some kind access to the ballot. And then the governor says like, well, one per county is better than zero per county, then that’s a good reason for a court to be like, yeah, he’s right.
S3: Yeah. I mean, for example, another one of these, which we heard a few weeks ago about this great thing that the NBA players had as part of their negotiations to end their wildcat strike during the playoffs was that they essentially got the NBA owners to commit to using NBA arenas as voting facilities. And there were all these arenas around the country that were going to open up for voting and just turned out that the one in Milwaukee, which would be a super important one, cannot open because the law in Milwaukee was you need to have a all voting facilities determined by June 12th or something. And they didn’t this didn’t happen until until September. And so they couldn’t add the Milwaukee Bucks arena as a place that voting could take place. Now, it makes you know, it’s a bummer if you want people in Milwaukee to be able to vote more easily. But I guess it makes sense that you don’t want to kind of change that later than the law says.
S4: You can change it or it’s a stupid law, but it’s too late to do anything about it.
S3: Yeah. What did you guys make? Just last point on this of The Washington Post, Schoop. About the secret conservative conference that took place, I guess, one in August and one in February, which the Post got videotape of where you had people like Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, Charlie Kirk, Ginni Thomas, talking excitedly about the ways in which they wanted to deal with, manipulate, manipulate the election in some sense, like to to harvest ballots and to to reduce voting by people who are likely to vote democratically.
S6: So there have been a few of these conferences over the last year with leaked tape. There was a gathering of Republican lawyers in Wisconsin where there was tape. There was another conference last year in Orange County. And I think the theme here is that deeply conservative activists and the Republican Party think that when lots of people vote, they lose. And so they just want fewer people voting and they, you know, talk about fraud publicly. That’s all the always their reason. But when they get together, they really are just interested in fewer people voting and cutting off access. And like, that’s kind of remarkable.
S5: And we don’t even have to have secret tapes of people in enclaves or even conclaves because the president of the United States has said it out loud a couple of different times. Yeah, I mean, he said if everybody votes, the Democrats want to have vote, you’d never have another Republican elected again. I mean, there is a way in which he is constantly clarifying voice in saying what is the generally held belief, but seems indecorous in some cases. He’ll just say it out loud.
S3: Quiet, part loud. The Trump presidency, let us go to cocktail chatter when one and in this case, the one is John Dickerson is having a cocktail with one’s loved one’s. What is one talking about this week?
S5: Well, I’m going to talk imperfectly about two things. I mean, one is, is something I would just encourage everybody to go read, which is a sermon that C.S. Lewis gave called Learning in wartime time. It was given in nineteen thirty nine. And it’s about the duty to carry on in times of war. And I’m not saying that, that we are in that moment, but one of the things he talks about is the battle against fear and the battle against excitement in crushing sort of your ability to to exist and follow pursuits because you just get overwhelmed anyway. It’s a it’s obviously not for a secular audience, but I think people who aren’t even religious might find it interesting. So that’s one thing. The other is the Financial Times had a piece called What Would a City Designed by Women Look Like? And basically it had some really interesting facts in it, including that according to the World Bank, women occupy only 10 percent of senior jobs at the world’s leading architecture firms. And the piece posits essentially that women know what it’s like to be excluded in cities and by city design. And so therefore, they have a more inclusive approach to urban planning. And therefore, if you if there was a greater representation of women in in urban planning, they would have the urban planning would just be better. And as it continues through this argument, it a couple of other interesting things that it points out. One is that new in New York, male bike commuters out outnumber women, bike commuters three to one. I feel like it’s just zooming delivery people on those motorized bikes. The final point as I round home here is that the idea is that because men were taking trains into cities or men were doing the bulk of the work while the when the cities were being designed, that they have fundamentally written a line the city in a male dominated way, and that when women mayors like the mayor of Paris and in Barcelona, they create these things called super blocks, which are groups of streets where cars are basically directed to perimeter roads and also groups of blocks where you can live with all the things you need shopping, entertainment, education, health care within a 15 minute walk or cycle, as opposed to a life in which you’re taking hour and a half commutes by train or car. Anyway, it’s an interesting idea. And having and living in a real city now, a very attractive one to those of us who live in cities.
S3: I’m sure I chatted about this, but there’s a podcast I heard which was about attempt to sort of deal to reduce gender prejudice and data. And it was in Sweden. And there was an example of of how you plow the streets. And it was a town where traditionally the way streets are plowed as you plow main roads first and then you get to small roads later. And in the we never get to my street ever. And you never get to your street. Ever, never Tamla Street. But that this Swedish town reversed it, which was to plow the peripheral roads, the perimeter roads and the the small roads first and then the main roads, the idea of the plowing, the main roads. So we need to get buses and people, people who are commuting. But actually what they realize is that in fact, most of the problems that people were having in snow had to do with usually women who had to run a bunch of errands, which like dropped children off at schools who had to to had to take babies to places, and that people were more at home and more in the area around which where they lived. And they reduced accidents like a massive amount when they did this. It was a great example of what you’re talking about.
S1: So anyway, and apparently it’s from the podcast, 99 percent invisible, which we can’t go on about because you went on about it last week because of it.
S6: All right, Emily, what’s your chatter? So my chatter comes from a listener. It comes from Kelly Darby. She alerted me to an odd wrinkle in the reelection campaign of the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. His name is Nathan Hecht. He’s a well respected guy. He’s up for re-election right now because they elect justices and judges in Texas. He’s running for a six year term. In the middle of this six year term, Nathan Hecht will turn 75, at which point there is mandatory retirement for justices and judges in Texas. And so he’s running for a term he can only complete half of confident that a Republican governor will pick his successor.
S1: That’s just like a really weird idea that you’re running for something, you know, you can only half complete. And I mean, I’m not a big fan of electing judges, but if. You’re going to have elections, then you should have to serve out your full term, and yet Justice Hecht, Chief Justice Hecht is not going to be able to do that.
S5: Emily, isn’t that also the justification of other elections? Because then won’t the governor’s election be influenced perhaps a great deal by the fact that whether it’s an R or D depends on not just who is in the governor’s office, but who then will pick that post? Yeah, I’m the same way. A good point. Yeah. In the same way we now pick our presidents up or down on whether what you’re going to do with Supreme Court and ignore all the other things that they might have to do in their job.
S3: Yeah, my charter is a data visualization from Dan Goodspeed that I saw on Twitter then apparently someone who does a bunch of good data visualizations and this visualization is covered. Infection since June 1st, picking June 1st is a date which is sort of when mask mandates were pretty much in place and testing was pretty much in place. And it’s by state and then it’s by and then it’s identifying the states by how partisan they are so looking. So Massachusetts would appear dark blue and a and a Wyoming would appear dark red. And what it reveals, amazingly, I guess, which we kind of knew, is that this is a at the start of this, the states that tended to be very covid were blue and lower covered. Rates were red. And then just as you watch the summer and fall arrive at just the state, the states where covid is pervasive, spreadin not under control, are all red. It just goes from being a top blue to a top red visualisations. It’s quite stunning and, you know, reveals just how much this this pandemic has to do with practices and behaviors and how that’s modeled at the top and what governments are doing in those various jurisdictions. And it’s pretty depressing from that perspective. I also name again Dan Goodspeed. I also just quickly just two bits of pop culture that have been brought me enormous pleasure this week. One is a movie called Fighting With My Family, which starts Florence Pugh as a budding professional wrestling star. It’s based on the real life story of a British woman who became a professional wrestler. Just a delightful movie. Florence Pugh is amazing. She was one of the actresses and little women. And it’s truly like if you’re looking for a very lovely movie to watch with your family, that does not going to tax you. And if you happen to like professional wrestling, you’ll like it even more. And then similarly, Ted LASO, which is this show about an American dope who goes and becomes the manager of a British soccer team is as like a heartwarming a thing as I’ve seen in decades. It is utterly, utterly warm. It’s a very stupid show in some ways, and it is absolutely warm. And it has the qualities of Friday Night Lights, like there’s a there’s a kind of sweetness and humanity to it that is just amazing beneath what is just a dumb comic veneer, really.
S6: And I just David, I took you up on the recommendation of watching Schlissel, and it’s so good that show. I love that show.
S3: See my recommendation. So good.
S5: Let’s throw it in. If you’re into British procedurals hinterland, we’ve been enjoying I thought you were just enjoying McDonalds and pork or I know Fox and McDonald’s or Burger King and McDonald’s. McDonald and Dods, which is. But unfortunately, McDonald’s only has two episodes, so I have to wait for the next season. So in the interim, I’m going through the other British procedurals listeners.
S3: You’ve sent us Great Chatter’s and you tweet them to us at at Slate Gabfests. Please keep them coming. So, so many good ones this week. And I was drawn to one that Kevin O’Donnell at Kevin Odai URL sent us, which is a New Republic story, and it’s called The Town That Went Viral is the name of the story. The town went viral. It’s about what happened in the town of Grafton, New Hampshire, when a whole bunch of libertarians decided to move there to create a kind of libertarian paradise. And it’s bananas. Like what happened in this town is bananas. And it culminates with a with like a massive bear invasion of this town. And it’s just crazy and sort of like what happens when libertarian ideas run into run into practice. And it’s a sad it’s actually a sad story. I shouldn’t be laughing. It’s really sad story, but it’s it’s remarkable. So check it out. That’s our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank. Our researcher is Bridget Dunlap, Gabriel Roth, June Thomas, Alicia Montgomery. They are the crack team at the top Slate podcast ventures for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson, I am David Plotz and we’ll talk to you next week.
S2: Please tweet Chatter’s to us at at Slate Gabfest.
S3: Hello, Slate, plus, how are you? Good to talk to you. We’re going to do a kind of quick round robin today about our voting plans and also what we want to do to help others. There’s been a lot of talk this year. You have Oprah doing this. You have Michelle Obama out advising you, make your voting plan, make your voting plan. What’s your voting plan and how are you going to vote? How are you going to help others vote? So, Emily Bazelon, what’s your voting plan? And do you have plans to help others enact their voting plans?
S6: My state of Connecticut has zero early voting. I just want to complain about that for a moment. That is ridiculous. And I just want to note that some Northeastern states full of Democrats have really restrictive access to the ballot and Connecticut is among them. I think New York might be like the very worst of all. But so I really don’t want to have to vote on Election Day because I might need to be out reporting somewhere. And thus I have ordered an absentee ballot. It has not arrived yet. If it arrives soon, then I will feel very good about putting it into a mailbox. If it does not arrive soon, I am going to take it to City Hall in New Haven, where I know I can hand it over to a clerk and feel assured that it will reach its destination. I would prefer to vote in person if I wasn’t worried about my whereabouts on Election Day, because Connecticut is one of the states where you can’t do a whole lot of preprocessing or counting. And I would like to make less strain on the system by voting in a way where they don’t have to then deal with mail in ballots on Election Day. But I also think it’s OK to vote by mail in Connecticut, given the choices I have.
S3: Nice. John, do you have a plan?
S5: Well, I’ll tell you what my plan is. So first it was to to Stephen Colbert has been doing better know a ballot which gives you your plan for your state. So I was watching those, but my actual plan was inspired by The New York Times Interactive, which is so easy. And you basically you put in your state, whether you’re registered and then what you want to do. And since I’m registered in New York, you can vote by mail if you in the age of code, it used to be that you needed a health excuse. But anyway, basically The New York Times Interactive directs you right to the New York State Board of Elections page. And you just get an absentee ballot because I have the same issues you do, Emily, with having to cover the election during the day and the inability to vote. And you go you fill it out. I did it while I might have done it while I was on the phone. It’s so easy. And you follow the directions and e mails, your ballot to you. And that’s how I.
S3: So I live in Washington, D.C. and you don’t have any representation? I have very little things that matter, but I do. They’re city council seats that matter this year. And there’s a ballot initiative to prioritize enforcement of drug laws involving mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, ibogaine, the sort of plant plant drugs. And so I’ll probably vote in favor to prioritize the criminal D prioritize enforcement of that, not to prioritize criminalization, but just tells the police not to enforce it. So I’ll vote on Initiative 81. You know, I want to vote. I always vote and I moved. So I am I was supposed to get everyone else I know has gotten a ballot in the mail. But since I moved, I’ve not received my bell in the mail, even though I didn’t change my precinct or anything. Nothing, nothing. And moved very close to where I had been living. So if I received my ballot in the mail, I will fill it out at home and drop it in the drop box in front of the Cleveland Park Library. If I do not receive my ballot in the mail in the next few weeks, I will go in person to the oyster school on Election Day and vote there, as I have always voted in the past, you know, eight or so elections and my parents already vote. I was like worried, can I get my parents to vote? They already sent me a photo of themselves dropping their ballots in their Dropbox. So that was good. But I have friends who have relatives, mostly parents in Florida, and I really want them to make sure their parents in Florida are voting. I feel like my my job is to sort of help other people who live in places that cast votes that matter to to vote because my vote really is minor. Do you have votes that matter to either you have any vote the matter? I mean, your states will be deciding the presidential election. Do you have contested congressional races or mayoral races or anything like that? No, no, no.
S7: I have to look down the ballot to one subprocess. Once I get my ballot in my hands, you know, look down and see what else, what other races. But at the moment, I don’t think I do. And I’m glad that New York has allowed the excuse to because of the. Endemic here, where we’re now all allowed to vote by mail because the last time I voted in twenty eighteen, it was a long day of waiting and the system took forever. So I’m not I’m glad that I’m going to be able to do it.
S3: Our producer, Josh, just message us that she, as a Minnesotan, has meaningful votes to cast.
S6: Yes, we salute you. I support my family in Philadelphia.
S3: Oh, my God. Your family has so many meaningful votes.
S6: My family has meaningful votes in Pennsylvania normally and still doesn’t exactly have early voting. But you can go to a polling center and get an absentee ballot and drop it off in Kupe at times. And my sisters have taken pictures of themselves doing exactly this. So they are on it.
S3: Good. All right, let’s get out and vote. Good luck. Bye bye.