Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris made a stunning film back in 1988 called The Thin Blue Line. So powerful and persuasive was this film that it led to the exoneration of an innocent man. Randall Adams was released from prison just days before he was to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Adams was tried and convicted in the shooting death of a police officer during a traffic stop. Morris meticulously gathered information that constituted irrefutable proof that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in Adams’ case. Recently, Morris observed:
“People are endlessly suggestable. People take sides. People respond to one narrative versus another. We are compelled by narratives. Much more by narratives than by evidence. Evidence invariably takes second fiddle to narrative.”
So dominant was the narrative over the facts in this case, that – but for the efforts of Morris – Randall Adams would have been executed long ago. This was a vanishingly rare instance of justice prevailing as the result of wrongful conviction. But now, sadly, the ability of truth to save the day can sometimes seem part of a rapidly receding past.
Errol Morris’s words come to mind as we consider the aftermath of the last four years – and this election. Narratives overwhelmingly moved center stage, while facts and evidence were often relegated to playing “Guard #2” or “Tree” upstage right.
The Making Of a Russian Fairy Tale
The seeds of the Russian collusion narrative were sown before Donald Trump’s astonishing upset over Hillary Clinton in 2016. It now appears abundantly clear that in an effort to distract from her subpoenaed emails – many of which she erased with Bleachbit to avoid scrutiny – Clinton orchestrated the entire farce alongside willing collaborators – a two-year-long charade that hobbled the new administration. Andrew McCarthy of The Hill and author of the book Ball of Collusion writes:
“In late July 2016, Hillary Clinton, in an effort to divert attention from the email scandal that was haunting her presidential bid, directed her campaign to peddle a political narrative that Russia’s suspected hacking and leaking of Democratic Party emails was in furtherance of a conspiracy between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to swing the election to Trump.”
Clinton’s Machiavellian machination was successful beyond imagining. Dutiful foot soldiers in the media took up the narrative like orders from military brass and strafed Trump every day for over two years – until Robert Mueller’s addled and humiliating testimony revealed it had all been much ado about precisely zero.
But America was put through hell in the meantime as the narrative triumphed over the facts in this case – facts that were eventually laid startlingly bare, then summarily ignored. Corrupted FBI officials Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, and oily Cheshire cat James Comey were all fired for their part in the grotesque burlesque – but have so far escaped prosecution. For her part, Clinton has a bag pre-packed for the call she’s sure to get from the presumptive President. Someone demonstrably free of moral and political scruples will surely be an asset to the incoming administration.
The vast number of Americans who practically willed the Russia collusion lie into reality at the urging of a highly partisan media is proof that people are endlessly suggestable, as Errol Morris said. Once exposed for the sham it was, the false collusion story was shrugged off, and the acolytes who gave it wings just shrugged, pivoted, and moved on – looking for fresh blood and a new narrative with which to boot-heel the truth.
Another narrative spun from whole cloth and tirelessly propagated by the media since 2016 is that Trump is “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it.” This was another charge leveled by Queen of Corruption, Hillary Clinton, in an infamous speech during which she called Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.” It was an unguarded moment that showcased the sheer contempt this ravenous political climber holds for half of America and is likely the main reason she lost the election.
The talking points bulletin went out to the media and the activist left (which is now a distinction without a difference) and was amplified to impossible levels. That these charges were immutably true was an article of faith to all Americans intent on knee-capping a man for whom they held a scorched earth hatred.
But a funny thing happened in the election of over a week ago. The same demographic groups against which Clinton accused Trump of a malign bigotry all increased their support of him. Black women doubled their support from 4% to 8%, while the percentage of black men for the President went from 13% to 18%. Latino and Hispanic men and women increased their support from 28% to 32%, and support among Islamic voters more than doubled – from 13% to 30%. What other group so allegedly maligned by Trump supported him in two-fold greater numbers? Why, the LGBTQ community, whose advocacy shot from 14% to 28%. Even white women increased their support of him. Only white men – the one group Trump was alleged to represent to the exclusion of all others – decreased their support.
These numbers are astounding and put the lie to the left’s claims that Trump is any of the things they screamed at us incessantly. But, like the idiot’s ruse that was the Russian collusion hoax – the “racist” drumbeat over the course of years undoubtedly impacted potential support for Trump among those too busy to pay attention. In that way, it was another triumph of the narrative over facts.
Killing the Hunter Biden Story
Another narrative that succeeded in winning the day over facts and evidence was the Hunter Biden computer scandal. Joe Biden’s son’s computer was left at a repair shop and accessed after never being claimed. The store owner saw the explosive information on its hard drive, including not-so-veiled references to Biden senior gaining possible financial benefit from business deals with China. The shopkeeper immediately turned the computer over to the FBI – which curiously did nothing for almost a year.
As soon as the story was reported in The New York Post, the counterattack from the left began in earnest. Twitter prevented the story from being tweeted, effectively censoring the newspaper, a nearly two-hundred-year-old institution. The cries from Democrats and their ilk were coordinated, as they always seem to be – a chorus of voices united around one talking point: there’s nothing to see here, move along. Damage from the bombshell was minimized in the critical days before a national presidential election. The narrative won again.
Culture has survived the millennia in no small measure because of the oral tradition, which preserved the stories of ancient civilizations. In many ways, these narratives were more powerful than the physical evidence or facts of the cultures themselves. Homer’s Odyssey, for example, with its deep roots and powerful meaning for our age and all ages, is arguably far more consequential and resonant to us moderns than the fact of the Acropolis, which still stands as physical proof of the ancient Greeks.
We are “endlessly suggestable,” as Errol Morris said, and facts often take “second fiddle” to narratives. By ignoring the facts and evidence of Trump’s time in office, the fabulists, the distortionists, the powerful, the mendacious, and the spinners of tales appear to have succeeded in privileging narrative over truth.
Now how will they write the story of America?
Read more from Pennel Bird.