Column: Liberals can hold corporations accountable

AP file photo/Richard DrewTucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio in New York.

A little-noticed story this week on a report eviscerating the Cyber Ninjas audit, pushed by the Arizona Republican Senate, of the unfounded voter fraud in Maricopa County should have put a spike in the heart of the “Stop the Steal” campaign. But it won’t.

A powerful rebuttal from President Joe Biden on Jan. 6 to the former president’s views on the 2020 election and the invasion of the United States Capitol will likely have little if any impact in Trump world.

Disinformation built on lies, “alternative” facts and the quest for personal power is undermining basic truths. It even leads those currying favor with Donald Trump to humiliate themselves and think nothing of it.

No greater example of public humiliation is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last week groveling before Fox’s Tucker Carlson. Cruz told the truth last week when had called the Jan. 6 insurrection a “violent terrorist attack.” Tucker effectively beat him up on live TV and forced Cruz to recant his comments. So why does this Harvard-educated lawyer and former presidential candidate allow himself to be humiliated so easily? It wasn’t the first time. Cruz called Trump a “sniveling coward” after Trump insulted Cruz’ wife. His outrage was short-lived as he sought Trump’s favor.

Cruz’ behavior shows the power of disinformation directed by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Repeated lies, distortions and deflections, accompanied by bitter personal attacks on anyone who displays disloyalty, are enough to cower Republicans who put their political and financial futures ahead of national interest.

While that’s not likely to change anytime soon, a few true conservatives are pushing back. The most prominent examples are Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL.

In November, two well-known conservative commentators resigned from Fox News where they had been offering opinions since 2009. The breaking point for Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes was Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge that “creates an alternative history of Jan. 6, contradicted not just by common sense, not just by the testimony and on-the-record statements of many participants, but by the reporting of the news division of Fox News itself.”

A year after the end of World War I, Walter Lippmann in The Atlantic wrote that “…the traditional liberties of speech and opinion rest on no solid foundation…., noting that “when men are not afraid, they are not afraid of ideas; when they are much afraid, they are afraid of anything that seems, or can even be made to appear, seditious.”

Sedition is defined as the “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.” In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition Act with penalties, including prison, for “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the U.S. government. It’s not a stretch to think that all-in Trump supporters see the former president as the legitimate head of the government.

Consider the Cyber Ninja case. The Republican-led Arizona Senate ordered an audit of the November 2020 election in Maricopa County based on alleged, but unfounded, fraud that cost Trump the election. The intent was to overturn the election. After six months and $5.6 million review of more than two million votes, the audit concluded that Biden won. Nevertheless, the report cited irregularities that Trump supporters continued to push.

Last week, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — dominated and chaired by, yes, Republicans — issued a scathing rebuttal. After months of review of the audit, the board found that all but one of the firm’s claims were either mistaken, misleading or false. They might have added “malicious.” Republican board chair Bill Gates tweeted on Jan. 6 “Proud ... to tell the truth about our democracy, our elections systems, and January 6th…. Our democracy depends on it.” Cyber Ninjas has now shutdown after a judge fined them $50,000 a day for ignoring an order to provide records.

President Biden’s addressed the lies and misinformation directly in his Jan. 6 remarks. He said “The former president … created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests. ... He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.”

Disinformation, the use of lies, the appeal to fear of social and economic loss — and flagrant intimidation — along with influence and even control over powerful and influential media are common among autocratic leaders. All are part of Trumpism, and it’s dangerous.

Carl Gustin is a North Shore resident and columnist who writes on national, regional and national issues.

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