Hunter's Laptop, The Russians, and Big Tech Censorship
A Narrative Analysis
|Shaun Cammack||Oct 20, 2020||3|
Last week, the New York Post published a story about a laptop that was subpoenaed by the FBI that belonged to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The article suggests that emails found on the laptop (which was left at a computer repair store) are a smoking gun showing Hunter leveraging his father’s influence—raising concerns about Joe Biden and conflicts of interest.
Since this story broke, a lot has occurred. Here’s a few highlights I’ve cobbled together:
Dozens of former intelligence officials signed letter saying that the story looks like Russian disinformation.
Joe Biden called a lid on his campaign until Thursday—5 days without any statements or appearances from the candidate.
Director of National Intelligence said emails are not part of a Russian disinformation campaign .
Twitter banned the link to the New York Post article, and has locked the NY Post out of their twitter account for six days (and counting).
Here’s a distillation of the competing narratives:
To the right, it’s plain to see: The Bidens are ripe with corruption, and Big Tech is aiding the left by censoring a story that could destroy the Democratic candidate’s Presidential campaign.
To the left, this is such ludicrous disinformation that it’s spread is overtly threatening our already endangered democracy. It has all the signatures of a Russian propaganda campaign, and so we must be judicious in preventing the spread of false information.
Phrases with built-in narratives
Because there’s so many different facets of this story (Big Tech censorship, Russian influence, political corruption, etc.), I can’t offer a fully articulated breakdown of the entire affair. It’s just too sprawling for me to unpack everything.
However, I may be able to offer insight on the specific phrases that the right and left often use to describe (and frame) these kinds of stories. One might even be inclined to call these “loaded phrases” if that was not, in itself, a loaded phrase.
I prefer to think of these as well-known short stories that tell us just about everything we need to know about the event.
“The left-wing mainstream media spreads false information in order to help their preferred political party.”
Fake news was an incredibly potent offspring of President Trump’s 2016 campaign. For many, it perfectly crystalized the suspicion that mainstream media was not only biased towards but actively supporting the DNC.
While a stripped definition of fake news might be synonymous with ‘lie’ or ‘falsehood,’ its actual meaning is far richer. It tells a story about intentional manipulation by left-wing mainstream media for political gain. And Republicans are on the side of the ‘real news’—just as they’re on the side of ‘real Americans.’
The sequel to fake news (which we’re seeing a lot of today) is Big Tech censorship, which is something like: “Left-wing tech companies are censoring conservative content and manipulating their algorithms and platforms to ensure the success of the Democratic Party.”
“Russian operatives spread false information through right-wing channels to destabilize democracy.”
It’s not just that Russians are trying to influence the US government and elections, but that the Russian government is using Republicans against Democrats to destabilize democracy.
This does two things. It fuses the Russians and Republicans together into the bad-guy character, and it positions the Democratic Party as the hero on the side of democracy.
These phrases, as well as being partisan signals, allow new information to be easily integrated into the relevant political narrative.
If I say, “The Biden laptop story is Russian disinformation,” someone on the left knows—without any further context—exactly what happened. The Russians are trying to manipulate our elections and destabilize our democracy by pushing disinformation about the Democratic candidate, and the Republicans are falling for it—just as they did in 2016.
On the other hand, if I say, “Big tech is censoring the Biden laptop story,” someone on the right knows exactly what that means. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are once again using their platforms and algorithms to suppress conservatives and anything that hurts their preferred political candidate.
While there are many other phrases that we could go into (hacked, unverified information, misinformation, misleading information), the point here is that these words are not just slogans or cynical propaganda, but rather wholly express a political narrative.
If one wishes to understand the way people perceive political events, we need to pay attention to these phrases—they’re self-contained novellas, telling us everything we need to know.
That’s all for now.
The Biden Corruption Scandal Isn’t About Hunter, It’s About Joe - The Federalist