There has been a lot of ink spilled over Hunter Biden’s broken laptop and the way it was treated in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, but not nearly enough. Now The New York Times has admitted, almost two years too late, that materials in the laptop were in fact authentic. There is no more perfect encapsulation of the problems in American media and tech than this tragic story.
To recap, on Oct. 14, 2020, just weeks before the presidential election, the New York Post broke a huge story about emails found on a Hunter Biden laptop recovered from a computer repair shop. The corporate media reacted to this story by: 1) calling into question the authenticity of the materials and raising the prospect, without evidence, that it could be Russian disinformation; 2) dismissing the relevance of the information, even if accurate; and 3) based on the first two points, mostly ignoring the report altogether.
Initial skepticism of the laptop story was justified. The laptop data was provided to the New York Post by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, hardly two disinterested parties. If information critical of former President Donald Trump was unearthed by top Biden advisers, conservatives would be rightfully skeptical. Giuliani made this worse by initially refusing to provide the raw data needed to authenticate the materials.
Reporters are supposed to be skeptical, but finding the truth is supposed to be a higher priority. In this case, they made zero effort to do that. The press had all the tools needed to authenticate the laptop data, but they refused to do so. Presumably, doing so could have hurt Joe Biden and helped Donald Trump.
Every news outlet could have easily authenticated the laptop materials before the election. My own company, The Daily Caller News Foundation — with a fraction of the resources, budget and staff of The New York Times and other news outlets — did just that days after the news first broke. It was not difficult. Our staff took one of the more controversial emails from the hard drive to Errata Security, a reputable computer forensics firm. As explained by Robert Graham, the firm’s founder, emails sent from Gmail can be “absolutely verified beyond a shadow of a doubt” by testing their contents against a unique DKIM signature found in the email’s metadata.
Graham used the DKIM signature within the email to verify with a private key on Google’s servers that the sender, recipient, subject, date and body of the message that the Daily Caller obtained from Giuliani were unchanged from when the email was originally sent in April 2015. Graham said the only way the email could have been faked is if someone hacked into Google’s servers, found the private key and used it to reverse engineer the email’s DKIM signature. Any other news outlet could have engaged a similar forensic analysis for every single Gmail-originated message in Biden’s laptop. They just didn’t want to.
The press also could have done something more old-fashioned: interview the parties involved. Neither Joe Biden nor Hunter Biden ever denied the laptop’s authenticity. Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal stood out as one of the few reporters to interview any of those corresponding with Hunter Biden regarding the authenticity of their correspondence.
Hunter Biden associate Tony Bobulinski confirmed with Strassel the authenticity of his emails and text messages with Biden. Every news outlet could have done this sort of basic reporting at the time; they chose not to. Bobulinski was so astonished at the smoke screen put up by most of the media that he even released his own statement authenticating his correspondence with Biden.
The media’s torpedoing of the Biden laptop story was aided by former intelligence officials who joined together to sign a letter indicating, without any actual evidence, that the materials could have been planted by Russian intelligence.
The media’s final grounds for ignoring the Hunter Biden laptop materials was, as stated by NPR, that the “assertions don’t amount to much.” This one is even harder to justify than the question of authenticity. Many of the emails in question revolved around the time when Joe Biden was out of office. They may not have pointed to actual criminal behavior on Joe Biden’s part, but they undoubtedly paint a picture of insider dealing and foreign influence. More importantly, the emails show that Biden was not truthful about his knowledge of or role in his son’s foreign entanglements. A potential president’s son selling influence to foreigners is a major news story, but indications that the future president himself may have been in on the dealings turn it into a blockbuster one. Yet the press was thoroughly uninterested even with emails hinting at a potential cut of earnings for Joe Biden (“10 held by H for the big guy”).
The corporate media whitewash was followed, of course, by censorship from Big Tech. Twitter suppressed the New York Post’s tweet on its laptop story and froze the Post’s account for not removing it. Facebook also suppressed engagement on the reporting. The list goes on.
With the distribution of power in America today, former intelligence officials, the corporate media and Big Tech can get away with the complete unfairness exhibited in the Biden laptop fiasco. Fox News and conservative news sites are the only ones squawking. Those in power in America, for the most part, wanted the fix to be in. They viewed any risk to Biden as a threat. Some even said that out loud. Many more silently operate on that principle.
The problem is that, in the end, the truth matters. Those too powerless to stop the cover-up take notice. They stop trusting institutions. In extreme cases, they take to the streets. There’s a cost to lying about issues this important. Those in power seem to forget that. The only hope is that there are some people left in power who value the truth, see the societal corrosion created by the dishonesty and learn from the mistakes. Sadly, there’s no sign of that yet.
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