Hunter Biden (Kris Connor/WireImage).

TGIF: Disinformation Edition

Hunter Biden’s laptop. Lia Thomas’s win. Melting Teddy Roosevelt. And more.

We’re back. As always, bringing you the headlines that drive us the craziest in Common Sense Slack. Let’s get right to it.

→Hunter Biden’s laptop was never disinformation: It’s true. And the mainstream media is finally saying so. But let’s back up for a minute.

As the 2020 presidential election heated up, The New York Post broke a wild story: A laptop belonging to Hunter Biden had surfaced at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware. It had a lot on it. Among photos of him using drugs and cavorting with prostitutes, there was potentially incriminating information about shady payments and gifts from foreign interests. Of particular interest was Biden’s involvement on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, for which he was compensated handsomely while his father was vice president.

It was a bombshell—the kind of scoop that could produce months of headlines. And what’s more, Hunter Biden never denied the laptop was his own. 

What did the press do? As you probably remember, it declared the laptop and all of its contents disinformation. Likely Russian. 

Here was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper saying as much:

The New York Post—the one outlet that reported on the story—was punished by Silicon Valley. Twitter shut down the Post’s account for 16 days and blocked people from sharing any information about the laptop or the news about its content. Anyone who attempted to post the story saw their accounts locked. Facebook said it would “limit distribution” of the story, making sharing the information similarly impossible. 

The blockade was brilliantly effective. In polite circles, the laptop and its incriminating contents became verboten—if you entertained the story it meant you were a conspiracy theorist. 

Now, 14 months into his tenure in the White House, buried in the 24th paragraph in a recent New York Times story, is a quiet aside: The laptop was real. And the Times confirmed the veracity of his emails.

From the Times: “Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.”

As Hunter Biden faces a major Justice Department probe, with a grand jury looking for information on his financial dealings around the world, the mainstream press quietly acknowledges that the information they suppressed as fake before the 2020 election was actually true.

There are no apologies, of course. If you want to understand why no one trusts the press, this is why. 

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→Russia continues to slaughter Ukrainian civilians: Putin is purposely targeting the vulnerable and there are too many terrible anecdotes.

To take just one horrible example from this week: Ukrainians in Mariupol, the southern seaport city that has been ravaged, were taking shelter in a theater. It was the sole building in a park, close to nothing. Those hiding inside had written the word “children” outside for planes to see. And still, Russia bombed it, burying alive many of those who had been hiding. Russia denies it, insisting it was actually the work of a Ukrainian militant group doing it to their own countrymen, which seems more than unlikely. 

An advisor to the mayor of Mariupol estimated that the city’s death toll could be as high as 20,000. Residents said that the place has been turned into “hell.”

→Committed to Putin: I don’t fully understand the commitment by some Americans to smear President Zelensky with Putin’s talking points. Like this:

Opposing a no fly zone is one thing, but there’s a curious coalition working to fault Ukraine’s leader for defending his country from an active invasion. Would it be more honorable if he rolled over for Putin? I thought the right admired when countries defended their national interests.

→Never good when you find yourself arguing to jail your adversaries: On The View this week, one host called for criminal investigations of people like Tulsi Gabbard who are advocating against U.S. military engagement in Ukraine.

Anna Navarro said: “I think the DOJ, in the same way that it is setting up a task force to investigate Russian oligarchs, should look into people who are Russian propagandists and shilling for Putin.”

Whoopi Goldberg agreed and upped the ante: “They used to arrest people for doing stuff like this. If they thought you were colluding with a Russian agent or putting out information or taking information and handing it over to Russia, they used to investigate stuff like this. And I guess now, you know, there seems to be no bars. And people are not being told to hate Putin. Putin doesn't need a reason to be hated. It’s pretty much clear.”

Also this week, the former co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Ethnic Council, Alexandra Chalupa, tweeted that Tucker Carlson should be sent to the Hague.

→Daylight Savings Time: The U.S Senate this week passed the Sunshine Protection Act on Tuesday, making daylight saving time permanent starting in 2023. Some critics of the legislation think we should make standard time permanent instead, shifting daylight hours earlier in the day rather than later. Everyone seems to have strong opinions here but me. A lot of this debate is really about the fundamental sadness: There are too few hours in a winter day. Nothing to do about that other than move to LA. 

→Nice of them to clarify: Amnesty International, which previously declared Israel an apartheid state, has helpfully clarified this week that the organization does not believe in the Jewish state’s right to exist at all. 

“It is not Amnesty’s position, in fact we are opposed to the idea—and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate—that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people,” said Amnesty USA head Paul O’Brien in a talk this month with the Woman’s National Democratic Club.

Jewish Insider asked: “So Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state but Israel is a Jewish state.”

And Paul O’Brien again was good and clear: “It shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.” 

There are those who are shocked—shocked!—that Amnesty would say such a thing. We’re not. And we actually think it’s helpful that the mask is now off. 

→The White House claims the 2016 election was hacked: BlueAnon needs to be stopped for all of our sanity. In this week’s case, the BlueAnon is in the White House. Here’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki talking about Russia: “They, you know, of course, hacked our election here.” How in the heck can you convincingly argue against QAnon if you yourself are saying basically the same thing? 

→Requiem for the mask: A new Lancet study has some interesting data in it. First: Covid killed a lot of people, and many governments undercounted their dead. Second, masking and lockdowns did little: “There is no clear relationship between levels of excess mortality and different levels of restrictions across Western Europe or indeed the whole of Europe,” writes an epidemiologist at Cambridge University, parsing the new Lancet data.

Americans are slowly discovering the same thing. The Washington Post braved a journey to suburban Colorado and reported back this week: “These schools did less to contain covid. Their students flourished.” 

→BLM leader arrested for fraud: A leading Black Lives Matter activist and her husband have been arrested this week for misusing some of the more than $1 million they raised in grants and donations. In 2020, Monica Cannon-Grant was named a Bostonian of the year

The corruption was big (paying their rent and such) and small. From the Boston Globe: “In a June 2019 ceremony at the Suffolk district attorney’s office, Monica Cannon-Grant was handed a check for $6,000, a grant awarded to her nonprofit, Violence in Boston Inc., to take a group of at-risk young men to a retreat in Philadelphia. But the trip never happened.” Instead the couple took a vacation.

→It’s recall season, baby: 68% of San Franciscans say they are going to vote to recall progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin, according to a new poll out this week. Urban liberals are fed-up, and they’re hitting the ballot box to say so. A funny side note: the city is now officially boycotting most of America.

→K-3 education on trans issues is not all that popular: From a new Politico/Morning Consult poll: “A slim majority of U.S. voters who were polled—51 percent support ‘banning the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade’ while 35 percent are opposed, according to the poll results.” 

Why the Dems insist on loudly tying themselves to unpopular culture war wedge issues like transgender-awareness-lesson-plans-in-kindergarten is always a wonder. It’s ok to lose that one! K-3 is pretty darn young for sex ed of any kind, and this battle is hoovering up a lot of political capital. 

→T.R. must be melted: It’s not enough that the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York be removed, which it was in the dead of night earlier this year. Now that same group of academics who got it taken down are arguing it can’t be given to the Roosevelt Library, either. It must be melted. “The city should reject the transfer of its undesirable waste elsewhere. In this case, the monument’s bronze content could be melted down or recycled for a better purpose or simply disposed of.” 

But what to do with the molten metal? Send it to space?

→Wave of attacks on Asians continues: An Asian woman was followed into her building and punched 125 times in Yonkers by a man who called her an “Asian b–.” This was just one of many such attacks. Fear in the Asian population is spreading. Hundreds of Asian women waited in line for pepper spray in New York. In San Francisco special security escorts go with groups of Asian seniors to run errands. 

Officials and activists have been determined to frame it as an issue of white supremacist violence. But the trouble is: most of the perpetrators are homeless, mentally ill and not white.

That’s not stopping the White House. One year later, President Biden is still pointing to the Atlanta spa shooting as the ur-example of anti-Asian violence. “It was a stark reminder that anti-Asian violence and discrimination have deep roots in our nation,” the president said this week. But: The deranged white shooter did not appear to be racially motivated—his rampage was about hating women. Terrible! And part of a different violent trend. Just not part of this violent trend.

In a similar move, look at Yale University’s Dept. of Psychiatry’s response to the rise in anti-Asian violence. They tied it all back to white supremacy and left a veiled threat that “BIPOC solidarity” must be maintained right now or else . . . more white supremacy.

“We write in solidarity with our AAPI community on the anniversary of the Atlanta shooting in 2021,” the letter begins. Then as it lists a lot of attacks that certainly weren’t done by guys with nostalgia for the confederacy, they end with: “We know that the model minority myth and the ignorance of hardships in Asian American communities serve to uphold white supremacy. We also know that the erasure of BIPOC solidarity and Asian-American movements for mutual liberation serve to uphold white supremacy.”

→Amazon moving office from downtown Seattle: Amazon says it is temporarily relocating 1,800 employees out of its downtown Seattle office after a spate of shootings. 

“Given recent incidents near 3rd (Ave) and Pine (St), we’re providing employees currently at that location with alternative office space elsewhere,” an Amazon spokesman told KOMO-NEWS. “We are hopeful that conditions will improve and that we will be able to bring employees back to this location when it is safe to do so.” Meanwhile, the city council keeps working hard to defund the police department (the new moderate mayor is not on board). 

→Justice served: Jussie Smollett spent just six days in jail before being let out on bail as he appeals. As cops had led him away to spend his very, very short stint, he gave the black power fist and screamed that if he had faked his attack, then: “It means I stuck my fist in the fears of black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community.” That is exactly what he did. The whole ridiculous episode is a good reminder that race isn’t the deepest dividing line in American justice. Money is. 

→Lia Thomas, national champion: Yesterday at the NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, the Penn swimmer won the 500-yard freestye—and became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title.

When Common Sense reported on Thomas’s recent wins at the Ivies, no parents were willing to speak on the record. But the parents and spectators in Atlanta seem much more game to talk. 

Here’s one woman talking to Schuyler Bayler, a trans activist who is mentoring Thomas.  

And a dad who isn’t afraid of being associated publicly with his own kid, who will race against Lia in the 100 free: 

→Happy for him: PJ Vogt, who was forced to resign from hosting his popular podcast Reply All during a Brooklyn cancellation turducken, is out with a new podcast about a group of crypto enthusiasts buying a private island near Fiji. Pair an episode of Crypto Island with some Alison Roman pasta. 

Common Sense exists because of you. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a subscriber.

Just for fun:

And here’s more fun from Vice: “What Is ‘Radical Monogamy’? There’s a new type of relationship style in town.” So to all our mom and pop subscribers, prepare to become extremely cool. 

Or for darker humor, read about this protest at Yale Law School against an innocuous-sounding free speech event. The event, featuring a progressive atheist and a conservative Christian, was meant to show that they could “find common ground on free speech issues.” Yale law students—future captains of America—threw such tantrums that the speakers had to be escorted out. 

Great reads:

Zaid Jilani in Persuasion documents how Oregon is going to require teachers to make kindergartners analyze their own and other students' race. 

Matt Yglesias gives us his second go at the Sunrise Movement and trendy climate activism – it’s great (here’s the first).

And Katie Herzog very rudely wrote a phenomenal story for Reason Magazine. She reports on an obsessive group of activists who ruined a promising academic’s life, despite several investigations clearing him of the allegations. The reality didn’t matter. 

This week on Common Sense:

Your TGIF writer is not a podcast person. But I even had to listen to this week’s episode of Honestly. It’s called Things Worth Fighting For and it shouldn’t be missed:

TGIF. See you next week.

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