The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid


Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei prefer Joe Biden to Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin prefers Donald Trump to Joe Biden. That’s according to William Evanina, Director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“Many foreign actors,” he says, “have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer.”

I don’t have the words to express how un-surprised I am to learn that foreign governments take an interest in, and have opinions on, who gets to run the most powerful regime in the planet’s history.

The idea that that’s ever been FILM AT 11! material is dumb. And the fact that the two “major” political parties think they can use it to make political hay and scare you into voting against whichever candidate their Bogeyman of the Day likes best is evidence that the leaders of those parties think American voters are stupid.

On the evidence, I guess they’ve got a point: We’re obviously not the sharpest knives in the drawer, else Gary Johnson would be putting the finishing touches on his second term in the Oval Office. But I’m hopeful we’re at least intelligent enough to find the “foreign election interference” demagoguery insulting.

Yes, the Chinese, Iranian, and Russian governments (and probably at least some regular Chinese, Iranian, and Russian people) have opinions on American politics.

Just like American politicians (and probably at least some regular American people) have opinions on Chinese, Iranian, and Russian politics.

In point of fact, the US government has directly intervened in Chinese, Iranian, and Russian politics numerous times over the last century.

The US invaded Siberia to oppose the Soviet regime (American Expeditionary Force, Siberia, 1918-20). It supported Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces versus Mao Zedong’s Communist forces in China’s 1945-49 civil war. It overthrew Iran’s elected government in 1953.

Even as we speak, the US government engages in various forms of saber-rattling and sanctions, attempting to influence the internal and international affairs of those countries and many others. Nothing the Russians, Chinese, or Iranians have done or could plausibly do to influence our politics comes close to what the US government does every day, day in and day out, 24/7/365, to influence theirs.

When I say “the US government,” I mean the same people who think you’re dumb enough to panic (and let yourself be herded in a particular direction) if a Russian troll farm runs some Facebook ads about Jesus hating Joe Biden, or  Xi Jinping looks for ways to punish Donald Trump at the polls for his trade wars on the Chinese and American economies.

When it comes to international political interference, turnabout seems like fair play, not like something to panic over.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2020: Biden vs. Trump is an Echo, Not a Choice


“Democracy,” H.L. Mencken wrote, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Mencken’s assessment is philosophically dismissive of democracy as a theory of government.

It’s snobbishly contemptuous of Joe Six-Pack’s qualifications for self-government of the democratic type.

And it’s as accurate a summary as I’ve come across of how the political establishment — especially “major party” presidential candidates and their campaign minders — view the American electorate.

It’s fair to criticize politicians for pandering to the largest blocs and lowest common denominators of voter fear and self-interest. But it’s also worthwhile to consider just who those pandering politicians think they’re pandering to.

Based on the candidates the “major” parties put up and the campaigns they run, it’s easy to figure out what they think about you.

Trump vs. Biden means they think you’re stupid. It means they think you’re short-sighted. It means they think you’re venal. It means they think you’d look up if someone told you the word “gullible” was written on the ceiling.

This November, they expect you to treat Creepy, Handsy, Corrupt, Senile Septuagenarian #1 vs.  Creepy, Handsy, Corrupt, Senile Septuagenarian #2 as if it was some kind of serious, weighty decision, a choice between wildly different ideas.

If you’re not insulted by that, they’re right about you.

Trump vs. Biden isn’t Axis vs. Allies. It’s not Ali vs. Frazier. It’s more like a dwarf-tossing tournament at your neighborhood tavern.  Only the dwarf-tossing tournament probably has much cooler prizes and maybe a wet t-shirt contest at intermission.

The jury is still out on representative democracy in general and the American presidential system in particular. We’ve only been doing this for 232 years. By way of comparison, the Roman Empire proper lasted twice as long, and the Byzantine Empire for another thousand years after that. We’re young’uns, but already well into cultural decline and political disintegration.

Duverger’s Law says that the traditional American election system —  plurality votes to win in single-representative districts — favors a two-party system.

American history says that a two-party system eventually devolves into a de facto one-party state in which the two supposedly competing parties become virtually indistinguishable from each other at the policy level and eventually can’t even be bothered to put up candidates who would be treated as anything but bad jokes in any other kind of job interview.

Changing our voting systems (for example, to Ranked Choice Voting) and/or adopting multi-representative districts with proportional representation might produce better results, but the Democratic-Republican Uni-Party can be counted on to fight tooth and nail against such reforms.

For American democracy to survive — or even credibly claim it DESERVES to survive — much longer depends on such a transition. If voters send the Republicans and Democrats packing this November, electing Libertarian Jo Jorgensen to the White House and putting substantial numbers of Libertarians and Greens in Congress, maybe we’ve got a ball game.

Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about what comes after America. After all, nothing lasts forever.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On

Ban Censorship (RGBStock)

In 2010, US Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced their Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act. Better known as the “Internet Kill Switch” proposal for the emergency powers it would have conferred on the president, the bill died without receiving a vote in either house of Congress.

A decade later, the same fake issues and the same authoritarian “solutions” continue to dominate discussions on the relationship between technology and state. The real issue remains the same as well. As I wrote in a column on the “Kill Switch” bill nearly 10 years ago:

“If the price of keeping Joe Lieberman in power is you staring over a plow at the ass end of a mule all day and lighting your home with candles or kerosene at night before collapsing on a bed of filthy straw, that’s a price Joe Lieberman is more than willing to have you pay.”

A single thread connects the “Internet Kill Switch” to the passage of Internet censorship provisions in the name of fighting sex trafficking (FOSTA/SESTA), the whining of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials  for “back doors” to cripple strong encryption, and President Trump’s threats to ban video-sharing app TikTok, supposedly because the Chinese government’s surveillance programs just might be as lawless and intrusive as those of the US government.

That thread is the burning, pathological compulsion which drives politicians and bureaucrats to control every aspect of our lives, on the flimsiest of excuses and no matter the cost to us.

The compulsion hardly limits itself to technology issues (the war on drugs in a great example of its scope), nor is it limited to the federal level of government (see, for example, the mostly state and local diktats placing millions of Americans under house arrest without charge or trial “because COVID-19”).

That thread and that compulsion are more obvious vis a vis the Internet than “public health”-based authoritarianism because we’ve been propagandized and indoctrinated into the latter ideology for centuries, while the public-facing Internet is younger than most Americans.

Few of us can remember the days before quarantine-empowered “health departments” in every county, let alone a time when a five-year-old could walk into a store and buy morphine without so much as a doctor’s note.

But most of us can remember a relatively censorship-free Internet and the false promises of politicians and bureaucrats to respect the dramatically expanded power it gave to free speech.

That makes “kill switches” and “back doors” and TikTok bans a tougher sell. But the political class is still coming after the Internet. If we want to continue living in the 21st century instead of the 11th, we’re going to have to keep fighting them.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.