Anyone who follows this blog knows much of what I write is not an analysis of events as much as the implications of our reactions to them. Sometimes a teeny, tiny event (or even non-event) can be blown by the media and blogosphere into a huge conspiracy or controversy.
The best example to date I’ve found is the passing of a hand-written note from the Governor Brewer of Arizona to President Obama. The news coverage was fair, giving only the facts, as it should. But frankly, I’m afraid to check my Facebook wall today to see how many people are making this into a federal case.
Well, okay, it IS a federal casee in the literal sense, but the initial refusal to disclose a copy to the public (which apparently is a requirement by law for the sake of transaparency), claiming there were no copies made before handing it off, and then producing a copy the following day, leaves lots of questions. Yes questions. Just questions, not answers. So we don’t know anything. Got that? Good. Then let’s begin.
Because of the circumstances, there is equal reasonable doubt the copy is real (not hiding anything) and that it is fake (hiding something). That is priceless to my purposes here. We basically know nothing and cannot know, and the parties involved complied with federal requirements in the end. That would be the end ordinarily. However, the evaluation of possibilities is thus:
- The copy is real
- Brewer didn’t realize it was required to be made public and simply refused as a preference
- Brewer thought something in the letter might affect public perception of her in some negative way
- She didn’t know there was a copy and found out later as she claims
- She knew there was a copy but claimed not having one as an excuse to not make it public (for potential reasons already listed)
- The copy is fake
- It was fabricated to comply and hide a message she did not want public (caveat: it would have to be something Obama would not want public either, such as a blackmail letter, but we’d need a whole new list for that!)
- There is still a copy of the original hidden
- There was no copy of the original
- There was no copy but another original was written similar to the first to comply and/or avoid becoming an issue of suspicion
So basically, even if the copy is fake, it may not be hiding anything.
(An additional consideration is that a public pass-off of something nefarious could just as easily be done in private without anyone even knowing to ask for a copy. But like the above, it does not logically lead us to believe anything, just have a reasonable doubt of one possibility.)
The thing is that ANY of these permutations are plausible and it would a completely uninformed guess as to which are more likely. The only “reasons” we would think otherwise are entirely on us — our assumptions and expectations of behavior regarding the people involved. It becomes a well-shined mirror by which we can see our own biases based on our (unfounded) conclusions.
And it shows us how reasonable we are. Even if we assume one or the other parties is pathologically given to nefarious behavior (or conversely saintly in all their actions and intentions), that does not speak of this particular instance. Honest people are still capable of being dishonest (or making a mistake that may look as such); Liars tell the truth all the time or they’d never get anyone to believe them. There are just too many factors to claim someone’s intentions when there’s too little information.
So now the stage is set. If anyone finds bloggers or other armchair pundits give their definitive analysis to either conclusion on this, call them on it. Send them or post this link. Because in the end, what they say reveals clearly to us how fair-minded or biased they themselves are.