Conservative media in the United States are totally under the spell of Hunter Gate. The affair is about leaked e-mails from a laptop that would contain sensitive information about Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden. In this article we explain what is right, what is not and what role disinformation plays in the story.
There are all kinds of rumors about the Bidens, which seem to have the purpose of damaging Joe Biden through his son Hunter. One of the features of the campaign is an abundance of information. Disinformation expert Zeynep Tufekci calls it “whistle-drowning”. “In a sea of whistles that blow very hard, it is not possible to recognize one from them,” she says.
The public is flooded with so many accusations that the trees don‘t see the forest anymore.
What’s it about?
Hunter Biden started a board job at a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, while he had no experience in the energy sector. It has been claimed for ages that Hunter has abused his name and family ties for the well-paid job.
President Donald Trump urged the President of Ukraine to investigate abuse of power by Biden, but he saw no reason to do so. Two Senate committees also found no evidence of influence or interference. The matter disappeared into the background.
Until mid-October, when the New York Post claimed to have a bombshell. The tabloid newspaper came up with a story about a laptop and hard drive full of sensitive information that would have been left at a computer store. The laptop and the hard drive would have been Hunter Biden‘s.
What’s going around?
Among other things, the New York Post published an email from 2015 in which a board advisor to the energy company Hunter Biden thanked for being able to meet his father.
That mail is called ‘tuxedo’, because if the meeting took place, it would mean that Joe Biden lied. He himself said he never had an appointment with the man. Biden claims to have had fleeting contact at most.
The laptop, hard drive, and e-mails were plugged into the New York Post by Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is not exactly impartial in this case: he is Trump‘s personal lawyer. Last year, he was involved with a man seen by the United States as a Russian agent. The man offered him shady audio recordings of Joe Biden.
Sources do not want information to be checked
Giuliani and the New York Post do not want other journalists or external experts to check if the e-mails are real. As a result, it is also difficult to tell if they actually come from the laptop.
In addition to the e-mails, there are – older – compromising private photos and videos distributed on social media. Hunter, who had to deal with drug problems in the past, can be seen using crack and having sex. Politically speaking, they are not relevant, but it is corn on the Republicans mill.
Trump’s confidants have already plugged the story about Hunter into The Wall Street Journal, which is also known as a conservative newspaper. But journalists from the newspaper found no evidence that Joe Biden helped his son in business. The British Daily Mail also found no evidence of abuse of power.
Struggle on social media
The social media platforms are struggling tremendously with the case. There was feared a repeat of 2016 when Russia hacked mails from the Democrats were distributed through Wikileaks and controlled the campaign, although there was nothing shocking in it.
Twitter blocked tweets with a link to the story of the New York Post. Last Friday, Twitter scribbled back. Facebook made the story less visible in the news feed; they were warned by the security forces about hacks and leaks.
There‘s still a lot of disinformation going on in this case. For example, a Pro-Trump news channel mistakenly claimed that Joe Biden is a suspect in a Ukrainian criminal case around the issue. Also appears to be a thick report on Hunter’s ties in China written by a non-existent author of a fictional research firm.
Flooding the zone with shit
The flow of information fits into the tactics of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. He tipped off the New York Post about Hunter‘s laptop and bragged about it to Nieuwsuur weeks before it was published. Bannon described his strategy as flooding the zone with shit.
Republicans now reproach the left-wing press for silent Hunter-Gate. Techno-sociologist Tufekci emphasises in a comprehensive document that potential abuse of power needs to be investigated but that media attention should be proportionate to the credibility and seriousness of the allegations of corruption.
“ It is very difficult to focus on the important questions. If there is one story about Hunter Biden moredeserves attention and does not get it, it is precisely the story that this is a gross attempt at blackmail,” writes Tufekci.
Hunter Biden himself matters silence. He stated earlier that he had only talked to his father about his work once. He would have said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”