I don’t tend to speak in certainties. At 69 years old I’ve learned through long and hard experience that it doesn’t pay to make hard and fast predictions, and I have been wrong enough times in my life to be cautious about making blanket statements.
It’s one of the reasons I’ve been so reluctant to write opinion pieces. Too many columnists and pundits are willing to make assumptions with too little information, and I did not want to be one of them.
I don’t know everything, and I don’t want to pretend to know everything.
But I feel perfectly comfortable stating that Cobb County government, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and our local election officials are not involved in some elaborate communist conspiracy to shred ballots cast for President Donald Trump, in either Jim Miller Park or the county building on Whitlock Avenue.
First of all, Cobb County, until this coming January, is Republican-run, and I can’t think of a rational motive for a GOP-led county to throw the presidential election to the Democratic Party.
One conspiracy theory, promoted by attorney Sidney Powell, claims that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger took part in a conspiracy engineered by deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Dominion Voting Systems.
So let’s examine why I view this as a conspiracy theory, and a wacky one at that.
A problem with conspiracy theories is that they are so much fun. The conspiracy theory takes the believer away from their mundane day-to-day reality into a world of super-villains and secret agents.
They are fun for the same reason movies and comic books are fun. They create a fantasy world that is more appealing than real life.
But we all know movies and comic books are not real life. People who push conspiracy theories are claiming that their fantasy is real.
So the problem with conspiracy theories is that they are often an excuse for not accepting reality.
It’s so much more satisfying for a segment of Donald Trump’s supporters to believe that the election was thrown by a conspiracy set in motion by Hugo Chavez sometime prior to his death in 2013, than to accept the disappointment of losing an election.
And make no mistake about it. That is exactly what Sidney Powell is saying.
Whether or not she’s part of the Trump legal team currently, she was on the podium with Rudy Giuliani when he stated that Trump is the real winner of the election, and she has been favorably retweeted by Lin Wood, the Atlanta attorney who’s arguing that Cobb County is illegally destroying ballots.
Another problem with conspiracy theories is that they create much more noise than verifiable fact.
The conspiracy theory that Cobb County is shredding ballots is a good example.
What evidence do we have thus far? Videos of shredding trucks in front of county buildings.
The shredding of paper is a routine occurrence in both government and private industry, otherwise shredding company trucks would not exist.
There are actual conspiracies in which papers are shredded. The Enron scandal is a good example.
But the evidence of conspiracy in the Enron incident was not that shredding machines were in the building. The evidence was the testimony of the people ordered to do the shredding, which is missing from the claims made in Cobb County. All the conspiracy theorists have presented so far are videos of shredding company trucks.
I cannot conclusively prove that the county is not involved in a conspiracy to shred ballots.
Nor can I prove that Donald Duck isn’t a real-life genetically engineered creature who is the actual brains behind the Disney corporation.
But I consider my Donald Duck theory every bit as likely as Cobb County shredding Donald Trump ballots.
When a wild and unlikely claim is put forward, it is the job of the person making the claim to provide evidence that it is true.
It is not the job of the public to conclusively disprove it, and to try would be a waste of time.
One common trait of conspiracy theories is that they often involve steady streams of repetitive or related assertions that no one has the time to refute one-by-one.
This approach has been called a “Gish gallop” after creationist Duane Gish, who used the technique in his arguments.
The Gish galloper tries to drown out argument by flooding the listener with unrelated facts of varying degrees of strength.
But since I might be diving too deeply into the nuts-and-bolts of critical thinking and conspiracy theories, let’s go back to the shredding of documents in Cobb County.
It is highly unlikely that Republican-led Cobb County was involved in an elaborate nationwide conspiracy to throw the presidential election to the Democratic Party.
The people making that claim would need to have compelling evidence, and videos of shredding company trucks are not evidence.
So file it in the trash can under “Alex Jones.”