Some years ago – I hesitate to say how many – a colleague and I got into a wrangle about the compiler he was using in his development work. I’d found a fault in the generated code – I did my debugging in machine language, back then – and, upon comparing it to the FORTRAN source code, discovered that the fault originated with the compiler. But when I brought him the evidence that the fault was not his, he reacted strangely.
“That can’t be,” he said. “That compiler is solid. I have faith in it.”
To make a long story somewhat shorter, he wouldn’t budge until I’d taken him through the generated code, instruction by instruction. He relented with poor grace. For a long time I was baffled by that. After all, the problem wasn’t of his doing, right?
But I had undermined his faith in that FORTRAN compiler. When your faith takes a blow, it can rock your whole world.
Fast forward to 1990. That summer I threw a backyard party of great size, and invited just about everyone I knew. It was quite a shindig, much food, drink, and merriment. But as the attendees were mostly members of the Suffolk County Society for Individual Liberty, there was also much political talk. Some of that talk involved a subject that was then very much in the national discourse: nuclear power.
One of the SIL members got into it with a non-member, a hard-core antinuclear type. The anti-nuke kept repeating the same argument: that “it isn’t safe,” a disaster could cost countless lives. He also kept referring to Three Mile Island, claiming that was an example of the worst that could happen, never realizing that he was undercutting his own position.
The SIL member kept citing all sorts of evidence for the safety of modern nuclear generating plants. He was well supplied with the facts, and – to his extreme credit – kept his cool even as the anti-nuke repeatedly waved them aside. I doubt I could have done as well in his place. But it didn’t matter. The anti-nuke had a fixed belief impervious to counter-evidence – a faith – and he would not countenance anything that would make him question it.
Perhaps it was for the best. A rupture in a man’s faith can be messier than arterial bleeding.
Much of contemporary political discourse pits the facts against a faith. Politics has gotten to be like that. Many engaged persons are absolutely wedded to their core beliefs, such that facts are not permitted to intrude upon them. Eric Hoffer wrote penetratingly about this phenomenon in his masterwork The True Believer.
Moreover, persons and institutions with an agenda to promote or defend will attempt to use faith and faith-like assertions for that purpose. Today’s example comes from a battle about which there’s currently a lot of talk: the election audit now taking place in Maricopa County, Arizona:
“Under the direction of The Honorable Ken Bennett, former Arizona Secretary of State, an audit is underway to ensure transparency and integrity in the Maricopa County, AZ 2020 election audit.”
The audit itself must be triggering a concern for the media as they started today accusing any audit supporters of being conspiracy theorists. The AP Headline: “Election conspiracies live on with audit by Arizona GOP”
PHOENIX (AP) — Months after former President Donald Trump’s election defeat, legislative Republicans in Arizona are challenging the outcome as they embark on an unprecedented effort to audit the results in the state’s most populous county.
[…] The process is alarming election professionals who fear the auditors are not up to the complex task and will severely undermine faith in democracy.” ( more )
I’d like you to focus on that phrase faith in democracy. It’s an important one, perhaps the most important of all the terms currently being bandied about in our national discourse. Ask yourself what it means – and what those “election professionals” mean for their readers and listeners to take away from it.
It’s plain that the “election professionals” want the tallies from November 2020 to go unquestioned. That, after all, is the behavioral implication of faith. Their “fear” is wholly synthetic: a non sequitur about “democracy” coming into question. The important thing, from their perspective, is this: If the audit cannot be stopped, it must be deemed untrustworthy. Whatever method proves expedient is just fine with them: question the auditors’ competence, question their honesty, question the validity of the technology involved, or what have you.
Ironically, the willingness of American voters to accept “democracy” – i.e., the selection of public officials by ballot – depends entirely upon their willingness to accept that the vote tallies are both honest and accurate. If “faith in democracy” means anything objective, that would be it. What the Associated Press article is suggesting is that no method available to us at this time can reliably verify or falsify such tallies – that we must rely upon the opinions of “election professionals.” This is a novel assertion of argumentum ad authoritatem. It’s particularly ludicrous when we consider that the validation methods in use have proved reliable in detecting forgeries of all kinds.
But to return to the larger point: Electoral procedures and the laws that govern them are inappropriate subjects for “faith.” There are black-letter laws that can be followed without ambiguity. There are well-tested procedures for detecting and isolating fraudulent ballots. And most of us have learned how to count by the time we’re out of school. Ultimately, “faith in democracy,” which in the kindest possible interpretation would mean the willingness of the general public to trust reported election results, rests upon those laws and procedures, including the laws of arithmetic.
But the Associated Press has a stake in the game: it has uncritically backed the election of the Biden / Harris ticket since the morning of November 4, despite the many irregularities reported and the incomprehensible numerical and statistical discrepancies that accompanied them. Whether the AP is simply protective of its reputation or is wholly enlisted in the Democrat cause, it has plainly committed itself to undermining public confidence in any audit of that election’s reported tallies…under the rationale of defending a “faith in democracy” that has taken more damage from the 2020 election than any other event since the Hayes / Tilden election of 1876.
Ironies abound, don’t they, Gentle Reader?