Conspiracy Theories In One..Two..Three…

I still remember a meeting I attended many years ago, when I was in City Hall. A number of neighborhood groups–aggrieved about something I no longer recall–met with Mayor Hudnut and a small group of city officials and accused us of engaging in a devious conspiracy to undermine whatever it was they were exercised about. Bob Cross, then Deputy Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, responded that incompetence usually explains far more than conspiracy. (Actually, as he remarked after the meeting, we would have been incapable of pulling off a conspiracy.)

It was a bit of wisdom I’ve not forgotten.

There are all sorts of ongoing problems with the Iowa Caucuses–working folks often can’t participate, Iowa is over 95% white and unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, and the parties and media pay far too much attention to the results. Perhaps the monumental cluster-f**k this year will prompt a re-evaluation. (I personally favor a national primary…or at this point, even a retreat to those despised “smoke filled rooms.” Trump would never have emerged from a smoke-filled room.)

In the wake of Iowa’s inability to issue immediate results, Talking Points Memo blamed complexity and an app that was definitely “not ready for prime time.”

Experts in cybersecurity and election administration told TPM on Tuesday that the app chosen by the Iowa Democratic Party failed to handle the complexity, providing an example of what not to do in administering an election.

But incompetence isn’t an explanation that feeds the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders identified a donor who had given money to both Mayor Pete and to the company that developed the flawed app (as had four of the Democratic contenders) and concluded that Pete was part of a clandestine effort to rig the election. Anti-Bernie folks responded by identifying a guy with a “commie background” who has  donated to Bernie, so Bernie’s a commie.

For the record, Bernie’s campaign has said the caucuses were not rigged.

Business Insider reported that GOP operatives were gleefully piling on.

Amid the chaos surrounding the delayed results of the Iowa caucuses, multiple Republicans have pushed conspiracy theories that imply the process was rigged against Sen. Bernie Sanders.

With so much confusion in Iowa, some in the GOP saw an opportunity to be exploited.

There is no evidence whatsoever the caucuses were rigged, but some Republicans are pushing this conspiratorial narrative in what appears to be a fairly transparent effort to divide Democratic voters. The primary season is already heated, with supporters of the various Democratic candidates often duking it out online.

A column in the Washington Post summed up the various elements of this mess that should genuinely trouble Democrats, and the lessons this exercise in breathtaking incompetence should teach.

Transmitting results digitally opens up a whole cyber-world of hacking risk — yet Iowa insisted on doing it anyway. Organizers did try to guard against disaster by requiring precincts to include snapshots of an on-paper count. But there’s a lot more they didn’t do, such as test their system statewide or tell any security experts the name of the for-profit company that constructed the app in a hurried two months. (That name, by the way, is “Shadow, Inc.” Now don’t you feel better?)…

Iowa party officials started by crying “user error” to explain the struggles many precinct captains had downloading and uploading. Okay, if “user error” means very few people could use the app without encountering an error. Some encountered limited bandwidth because so many individuals were accessing the program at the same time, which the party might have anticipated considering they were running 1,681 caucuses simultaneously. Some in rural areas ran into poor wireless service, which the party also should have anticipated considering, well, it is Iowa. The next day, officials began to blame a “coding issue.”

The Iowa imbroglio, in other words, so far reveals lots of incompetence and little insidiousness. More tech isn’t always better, and, in this case, it was worse because a product wasn’t fully tested and didn’t function as it was supposed to.

The first two sentences of the column pointed to the real issue: Americans’ widespread distrust– distrust that encourages belief in conspiracy theories.

Want to cause countrywide confusion and sow doubt in the integrity of our democracy? Apparently there’s an app for that.



  1. but demon seeds eric and don jr went on to discredit the whole thing…i hope i live long enough to see these bastards, get evicted from our property,and onto some federal institution where they wear ornage and walk in single file…Bernie won before, we just had people who were a discredit to any party,make a discredit,and failed. question? why cant we just wait for the folks who count these damn strips of paper to tally up,and just report the outcome,seems lincoln didnt need broken pencil,er app,to decide if he won….

  2. Yep, incompetence, likely fueled by tech entrepreneur haste. Information security is more than just ensuring confidentiality; it’s also ensuring the integrity and availability of systems and data. Sounds like Shadow fumbled all three to meet a delivery deadline. Just what’s been described in the media suggests they missed some pretty basic stuff. I’ll bet if you look a little deeper, this episode not only provides “an example of what not to do in administering an election”, it also provides an example of what not to do in managing application development. $20 says their policies, procedures, and process documentation are a mess, and they’ve never heard of secure engineering principles.

  3. PS,if we havent made the wi fi corps cover this country in the 15 years since its inception, when will it ever get done? on the road, games from small companies that hold areas and will not allow the big corps use the area,hold,the customer hostage,while we pay the bill. i run into this everyday,in any state i have worked in.iowa is no exception, if the app was to be used,the locals already know what kimd of crap service they have,and like the above issue,,,if you have ATT,and some small local service holds the area,you will have to use another means to send it..ATT verizon etc, could care less,and imagine the money collected by almost everyone today who has a phone..extraordinary money every month..

  4. “faulty app” sounds to me like those “hanging chads” in Florida in 2000; excuses rather than reasons for reported outcomes. The reported outcome of the Iowa Caucus is still being questioned. Like the Electoral College the Iowa Caucus is a chosen few in that state to make major decisions for the entire populace. This smells of the rot of political patronage to me. I have seen attempts to blame the entire DNC and Tom Perez rather than going to the source; the Iowa Democratic party. What are the voter registration and gerrymandering situations in that 95+% white state? Did the Caucus reflect the almost 5% “others”?

    Former Mayor Pete left the small city of South Bend with the same high crime rate, many slum areas and crumbling infrastructure he found when he took office. There were reports he had invested in and profited from the Lime Bike project in that city. The bike project has ended but a Lime Scooter project was tested and approved to be put in place this spring; should we question this issue? Joe Biden was correct when he stated that Mayor Peter having been mayor of a small city of approximately 100,000 does not have the experience to step into the presidency. He made no negative comments about the man; only his lack of experience. Joe is also a realist regarding the massive cleanup needed at the federal level before any shining promises can be fulfilled.

    Having worked for Bob Cross years ago; he had a favorite expression, posted in a banner on the wall behind his desk, “There is no free lunch”. This can be applied to political candidates; experience is the dues they should pay before expecting a major position in any level of government.

  5. Molly’s opinion piece in the Washington Post was heavy on opinion and light on facts. Sometimes the incompetence is intentional or is edited for good measure. Molly never mentioned Acronym, the company behind the Shadow app.

    She also ignored the connection between Biden and Buttigieg to Acronym or why Acronym’s owners were deleting all links to Shadow after the implosion Monday night in Iowa.

    Is Molly an incompetent journalist?

    Also, why was the app not vetted nor as Nomika Konst posted on Twitter, “Nobody at the DNC voted for this app.”

    Why was it done in secret at the DNC level, and why didn’t the DNC tell its committee members?

    In cases such as these, I wonder why there is so much difference between what independent journalists report vs. our talking heads on TV or those being paid at our Big Newspapers.

    Deflecting to Russia or right-wing Twitter users isn’t original…the DNC and Hillary Clinton have been blaming Russia for almost four years now… it’s quite pathetic.

    And speaking of incompetence, Shadow is staffed with mainly Hillary’s staffers from her 2016 campaign. Maybe that is why the DNC awarded a contract to Shadow in secret. 😉

    Journalist Lee Fang from the Intercept makes Molly’s opinion piece in WaPo look like a 5th graders report.

    He writes, “Acronym, which includes a hybrid model of a 501(c)4 entity that does not disclose donors and a Super PAC that does, has been a favorite for deep-pocketed Democratic donors. Donald Sussman, the founder of Paloma Partners, and Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, each donated $1 million to Acronym last year. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg gave $500,000. Investor Seth Klarman, once a major donor to Republican causes, gave $1.5 million to Acronym.

    Acronym appears to have deleted portions of its website, showcasing its involvement in Shadow. “ACRONYM is thrilled to announce the launch of Shadow, a new technology company that will exist under the ACRONYM umbrella and build accessible technological infrastructure and tools to enable campaigns to better harness, integrate and manage data across the platforms and technologies they all use,” wrote Niemira in a now-deleted blog post.”

    Incompetence or conspiracy?

    Sometimes, it’s both!!

  6. The bottom line is that trust in the system is again undermined and one’s fears take over. It even passed my mind that that DC to Moscow connections are marking off a list of activities intending to suggest system rigging.

    Based on some comments above…wherever the source (or none) it is working!

    It remains ever fascinating how the conspiracies neatly parallel from the far left and far right. Together, they dance beautifully to undermine and slowly destroy our democracy – strange bedladies.

  7. Caitlin Johnstone writes an article titled, “The Myth of Incompetence: DNC Scandals Are A Feature, Not A Bug.”

    “I keep seeing the word “incompetence” thrown around. “Gosh these Democratic Party leaders are so incompetent!”, they say. “How can anyone be so bad at their job?”

    Well, they are not bad at their job. They are very, very good at their job. It’s just that their job isn’t what most people assume it is.

    Their job is not to win elections and garner public support, their job is to ensure the perpetuation of the status quo which rewards them so handsomely for their malignant behavior. Toward this end they are not incompetent at all. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.”

  8. Perhaps we are wasting our time and electrons re-hashing the fumbling of the Iowa caucus, a fumbling idea in the first place, as many have said. Perhaps we should be focusing our efforts on those 15 states that are actually critical to gaining enough ELECTORAL COLLEGE votes to defeat the psychopath in chief.

    In the end, it won’t matter who the democratic nominee is. What will matter is that this campaign must be a referendum on the psychopath in chief. Forget free college, ridding ourselves of the Electoral College or any more of those pie-in-the-sky bits of nincompoopery. Those issues aren’t going to play in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin…to name just a few states. What’s going to play with those voters is scaring the crap out of them about what psychopaths do when they have achieved absolute power.

    Anyone not getting it by now that Donald Trump is totally insane, surrounded by ass-kissers and sycophants, aka the entire Republican party save for Mitt Romney, is asking for a Hitlerian dictatorship that will destroy our Constitution and the democratic republic along with it. It may sound crazy in its own right, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a law that directs Hispanics to wear an orange armband or some other identifier like the yellow, six-sided stars the Jews had to wear in Europe back in the day.

    Obviously, as an old guy who took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I am trembling in my boots and too damned old to be at the barricades when the shit hits the fan….and, if Trump is reelected, it WILL hit the fan. That’s not a conspiracy theory. Why? Because we’ve seen it happen throughout history when a people are oppressed and spat on by their “leaders”. There is NOTHING this psychopath won’t do to destroy democracy. Why do I say that? Because HE is HIS whole world and nothing else matters. He’ll throw this entire nation under the bus if Putin will let him build his fucking hotel in Moscow.

    I feel better now.

  9. Add to all this efforts by GOP activists to call the phone numbers posted on social media where caucus goers were to call in results (for those not using the app). Social media was alive with trollers urging fellow GOPers to “keep clogging the lines” with their calls. It’s no wonder caucus goers could not get through to Party headquarters for up to two hours at a time.

    A similar effort – albeit one using automated rather than live callers – paid for by New Hampshire GOP higher ups in 2002 resulted in people going to prison.

    If you have to throw sand in the gears of voting and election reporting to win elections and other political favor, that’s an admission of failures in electioneering and character.

  10. One aspect of the marketing that we live absolutely immersed in 24/7 is that it’s based on illusion. “Virtual” means illusionary. Entertainment is nothing but illusion. “Brand” marketing is about creating the illusion among customers that the use of some product goes beyond the utilitarian and confers on them some illusionary benefit. Conspiracy theory means the illusion of a conspiracy not an explanation of anything real.

    There’s no better example than Donald Trump. He took his inheritance (which really was an army of lawyers, accountants and marketeers and connections to lenders) and built the illusion of a business man, an entertainer, a celebrity, an aristocrat, in other words a brand that mattered. There was nothing of substance behind any of it except the ability to imagine it.

    Now we have the illusion of government that grew in the Trump garden of imaginary substance. The tension that we see all around us now is a collision between the imaginary and the real. Their coexistence in any particular brain is the definition of cognitive dissonance. Brains now have to sort out the input and decide which to believe in just like they do when confronted with faith versus science, belief vs evidence. Faith is comfort food for the brain; the illusion among customers that belief of some assumption goes beyond the utilitarian and confers on them some illusionary benefit compared to what the measured evidence of reality reveals.

    The question is, is there an escape route. Is it possible for us to extricate ourselves from the comfortable fog and find our way back to the world of real, of verifiable, of knowledge rather than opinion. Some have found the way but is it enough to be sustainable?

  11. Thanks Todd for The Intercept link. You said, “Incompetence or conspiracy? Sometimes, it’s both!!”

    Lets add in one other important gear: Money. Some one paid for this “App”, Crony Capitalism and Patronage are a key feature of the Corporate Democratic Structure. I guess it was too much to ask, for the DNC, etc., to go to Microsoft and ask a reputable company to design and test an App, better to find some start-up, that has connections and buy it from them.

    The DNC has already placed it’s Corporate Finger on the election. Biden is starting to fade fast. The Corporate Press of CNN and MSDNC keeps telling us Biden has big support among Blacks. I cannot think of a single thing that Biden ever did for Blacks, maybe because Obama selected Corporate Joe as a VP.

    Mayor Pete “Wine Cellar” has no hope of beating the Trumpet, but he does add that level of wanted confusion to the primaries. Still, Mayor Wine Cellar must go hat in hand to the big money types. Mayor Wine Cellar like Biden is just a middleman.

    So cut out the middleman and go for the real thing, the real rich guy – Bloomberg.

    Rep. Rashida Tlaib accused two members of the Democratic National Committee’s rules committees of having a conflict of interest following reports that they are paid staffers of the presidential campaign billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City.

    The Michigan Democrat tweeted a link late Wednesday to a report by Sludge regarding the recent appointments of Alexandra Rooker, vice chair of the California Democratic Party, to the DNC’s Rules Committee, and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee.

    “In law school, they called this a conflict of interest,” wrote Tlaib, a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic race.

    The Sludge report came a week after the DNC announced it was amending debate rules to eliminate a requirement for a minimum number of individual donors—a change that could allow Bloomberg to participate in the debate coming up on February 19.

    The elimination of the fundraising requirement was also announced after Bloomberg donated $320,000 to the DNC in November, as well as $800,000 to a joint PAC that raises funds for the DNC and state Democratic parties.

    Oh, what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

  12. Todd, and ML, excellent finds! Can’t really add much more than that, so maybe I will just riff a little. I have a moment, it’s a really sick house here today!

    Here is an interesting tidbit, in studies (personal studies) of history, and of Scripture, during the time of the Roman Empire, and related Middle Eastern territories especially, the Marketplace was special, it was a place of buying and selling, also a place of passing along news and world events as it was known then. It was basically a hub of information, not unlike social media at present, except people don’t have to leave wherever they happen to be, to engage others.

    Interestingly, the ancient Marketplaces, relationships were formed and the trustworthy were given credence while the others were ostracized. If you are caught lying and spreading disinformation, it could mean your life! But also, this was done by the magnanimous edicts of authoritarian rulers. You basically had to have permission or “a mark” to have the freedom of interaction at the marketplaces. Strangers were always looked upon suspiciously until they proved trustworthy. When you look into someone’s eyes during communications, you can make those personal judgments on an individual. 2000 years ago or at present, it shouldn’t matter.

    But even then you had to have that Mark!

    Revelation 13:16, 17 reads; ” It puts under compulsion all people the small and the great, the rich and the poor, the free and the slaves that these should be marked on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and that nobody can buy or sell except a person having the MARK, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.”

    Jesus said: “As they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:37-39) Jesus also compared our days with the days of Lot. Lot’s neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah were ‘eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building.’ “But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all,” Jesus said, adding: “The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.”​ (Luke 17:28-30).

    So really, it’s not a literal stamp on one’s hand or fourhead, but you have to be identified with that ruling authority to have the ability to buy and sell, to meet/congregate, to discuss your civil liberties, to be educated, to air grievances, to discuss personal and human rights, and to litigate! All these things were done in the Marketplace, and all of these things will be controlled by the and authoritarian ruling class at a time prophesied about. And as you can see, this burgeoning 4th Reich will not be limited by borders but will have a hegemonic control. It will make it Difficult/Impossible for all those not agreeable to those authoritarian rulers to live by values Diametrically opposed to theirs, and there will be no place to go for an escape from them, the world is way too small now, way too connected!

    At least that’s my take on it, hope this is okay Sheila! Y’all have a good weekend, time for a medication run.

  13. I too miss the days of smoke filled rooms…and the national conventions that played like the super bowl on your nerves. I can recall having sweaty palms for three days during the Democratic Conventions, when no one knew who was going to make the big backroom deal or deliver the speech that made them the nominee. Of course, along with that, there were those lions of deal making on both sides of the aisle in Congress, who are sorely missed these days.

  14. A horribly implemented conspiracy leaves mounds of evidence. A perfect conspiracy leaves no evidence.

    Therefore the less evidence that there is a conspiracy is proof that there is a conspiracy.

    So you can never win an argument with a conspiracy theorist because if there’s tons of evidence you won’t disagree with them and if there is no evidence, well…

  15. Bob, there you go.

    Every country in the world today has a socialist economy and a capitalist economy together called a mixed economy.

    Bernie in particular and liberals in general want to maintain what the country has always used.

    Authoritarians apparently want to change to some new world order that either is a big secret or hasn’t been figured out yet.

  16. Remember the slogan: I Like Ike.

    Now in our digital age of manufacturing a following, We have, I Like Mike (Bloomberg).

    From the Guardian: Mike Bloomberg will pay you $150 to say nice things about him on Instagram. Well not You literally, there is the fine print.

    People worried about Russians and Putin, as I have said here before our own Oligarchs and 1% through Pacs, and Super Pacs cause more damage than Putin could ever do. Putin must be smiling about what a money grubbing political system we have. Just hang a For Sale sign on the Statue of Liberty.

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