Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Hunter Biden has been found guilty on all charges, and now journalists and headline writers are trying to outdo one another in describing the damage they say this verdict has done to GOP theories about a justice system rigged against Republicans. Politico says, "Hunter Biden Verdict Throws ‘Sand in the Gears’ of GOP’s Attacks on Legal System." Jonathan Chait of New York magazine asserts that the "Hunter Biden Conviction Blows Up Republican Conspiracy Theories." According to The New York Times, the "Hunter Biden Conviction Undercuts a Trump Narrative, and a Fund-Raising Pitch." Raw Story cites "critics" who say, "Hunter Biden Verdict Puts a Nail in Coffin of Trump's Weaponized DOJ Claim."

The Hunter Biden conviction does none of these things.

Once a conspiracy theory is accepted by a segment of the population -- something that seems to happen on the right a couple of times a week -- it can't be dislodged by contrary facts. Remember the 1990s, when conspiracy theorists concluded that mercury (thimerosal) in childhood vaccines was responsible for a rise in autism? And then the Food and Drug Administration ordered thimerosal to be removed from vaccines -- and the conspiracy theory persisted anyway, even after scientists ruled out mercury as an autism trigger? And now conspiracy theorists don't talk about mercury all that much, but they still insist that something in vaccines must be bad for kids (and adults as well), and now a vaccine conspiracy theorist might have enough support in the polls to qualify for the upcoming presidential debates?

That's how much good facts do when you're fighting a conspiracy theory.

You'll say, "But this makes it impossible for Trump to tell swing voters he's being legally persecuted by Democrats." Trump is saying that, but the message isn't intended for swing voters. The swing voters who are leaning toward Trump are doing so because they think he'll magically lower grocery prices, and because they think he's more vigorous and sharp-witted than President Biden (a perception that derives as much from their Apprentice memories as from anything he's actually said or done recently). The "Trump is a victim of lawfare" conspiracy theory is meant strictly for the superfans, and it's not going away.

You probably already know the Trumpists' message since the verdict:
Incredibly, they are declaring that this guilty verdict slapped on Biden’s son also proves that the system is rigged against Trump. Which reveals something essential about how dependent the MAGA worldview is on elaborate fantasies about the movement’s alleged persecution.

“Hunter Biden guilty. Yawn,” tweeted MAGA thought leader Charlie Kirk. “The true crimes of the Biden Crime Family remain untouched. This is a fake trial trying to make the Justice system appear ‘balanced.’ Don’t fall for it.”

“The gun charges are a giant misdirection,” added Stephen Miller. He added that the verdict is an easy opportunity for the Justice Department to hoodwink “a pliant media that is all too willing to be duped. Don’t be gaslit. This is all about protecting Joe Biden and only Joe Biden.”
Trump's reaction was this:
This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine. Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit.
The message of every conspiracy theory is that the "official" story is wrong. That's why you can't debunk a conspiracy theory with new information -- that information is also "official," so it also has to be wrong. In fact, efforts to argue that new information definitively disproves the conspiracy theory just prove that the conspirators are trying even harder to lie to you.

This verdict would damage Trump if Democrats could persuade more swing voters that no matter what the price of eggs may have been under Trump, he's a crazy conspiratorialist and so are his fellow Republicans. The Democratic base is fully on board with that idea, but I don't think middle-of-the-road voters are. If Democrats can sell that idea, maybe Trump's "weaponized justice system" complaints will backfire. In the meantime, we have sentencing decisions to look forward to -- Trump's and Hunter Biden's. If Hunter gets a lighter sentence, Trump gets grievance points -- and even "mainstream" Republicans will say he's being subject to "lawfare." So this aspect of the campaign will be with us for some time to come.

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