An Intellectually Dishonest Game

There are many people who claim the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by Joe Biden to the detriment of Donald Trump. Notably, there seems to be no clear evidence to support this claim. Former Attorney General (and Trump partisan) Bill Barr clearly stated that there is no evidence to support claims of a stolen election. All of former President Trumps legal attempts to overturn the election were fruitless. The “evidence” I have seen supplied by the supporters of the stolen election theory consist of articles or movies making accusations without sources. The supporters of the stolen election theory support this “evidence” by claiming that the “mainstream media” is biased in favor of liberals and Democrats and therefore, nothing printed in the mainstream media can be trusted. As I have discussed before, this convenient and specious crutch employed by some conservatives allows them to reject actual facts and to believe whatever they wish to believe.

It is interesting that many of the same people who claim the 2020 Presidential election was stolen also espouse anti-democratic sentiments, even anti-American sentiments. Obviously, pushing a story that the 2020 election had been stolen serves to undermine faith in the democratic institutions and to do this without proper evidence seems (at best) intellectually dishonest. What makes this especially intellectually dishonest is the fact that the same people pushing this story espouse anti-democratic views. If their goal is to undermine democratic institutions in order to replace them with something different then the intellectually honest position would be to make that argument and let the chips fall where they may. By all appearances, however, the intellectually dishonest game they choose to play is to push an unsupported story about a stolen election (either through willful ignorance or outright duplicity) in order to dupe a conspiracy minded base into believing it and to support the political candidates who pay lip service to it. This is intellectually dishonest because seems to profess support for free and fair elections when in fact its true aim is the direct opposite. That is, the real motivation is to weaken and destroy democratic institutions so that they can be replaced with some form of autocracy. I suspect the real motivation at the heart of this movement is a generalized feeling of scorn and disgust for the bulk of humanity.


Filed under Political Philosophy

67 responses to “An Intellectually Dishonest Game

  1. JMSmith

    I didn’t mean to express “scorn and disgust for the bulk of humanity.” My post defends the right of the bulk of humanity to feel scorn and disgust for authorities. Not authority generally, or any particular authorities, just disgusting authorities for whom they are right to feel scorn.

    • Do you not feel scorn and disgust for the bulk of humanity?

      • JMSmith

        Only when they start kissing their image in the mirror. I generally have goodwill towards men, although no very hearty appetite for their company. Men gathered into a mob are hideous, and democratic elections are just two mobs bludgeoning each other with ballots. When I hear tripe about the “sanctity of the electoral process,” I’m reminded of the even greater sanctity of the sewer system.

      • So then, would you agree that the nonsense about a stolen election is really just a ploy to undermine the sanctity of the election process?

      • JMSmith

        It was the Republican follow-up to the nonsense about Russian interference in 2016, somewhat amplified by post-Covid paranoia. We have moved from party politics to factional politics, so all close elections will in future be rejected by the losing side. We have also moved from controlled to open media, so comforting myths about our hallowed institutions are not so widely believed. The electoral process never had much sanctity, but both parties have done their part to tear down the veil.

      • Both parties are not equally to blame. Only one party has directly attacked the process itself (without credible evidence), refused to concede the election after due process, and attacked the mainstream media so as to remove any factual basis to make an argument.

      • JMSmith

        Believe what you like. You can even believe Wikipedia on politics. This sort of “you started it” reasoning is juvenile. The American electoral system is coming apart for the structural reasons I named: factionalism and uncontrolled media. That’s why there is talk about “extremism” and “disinformation.” But the talk is a symptom, not the cause.

      • Yes, yes everything printed in the “mainstream” media is a lie.

        I also like how you you accuse me of “you started it” when you told me the left started it with the Russia involvement in the 2016 election.

      • JMSmith

        If you would like to go back to Obama’s birth certificate, I will not stop you. Politics is always dirty, but factional politics ramps up the dirt. Politics becomes factional when each party believes the other is evil and must be destroyed. We are there. Accusations of voter fraud (or disenfranchisement) are symptoms, not causes.

      • But the point is that your side wants to tear the entire system down but for some reason won’t fully admit it.

      • JMSmith

        And your side doesn’t because you’ve rigged the system. Or mastered the system, if you prefer. All you need to do is overturn the Electoral College. Why aren’t objections to the EC called attempts to overturn our electoral system? Every time the Democrats lose a presidential election thy cast aspersions on the venerable EC.

      • The left left might suggest new procedures (that must be agreed to through lawful channels to take effect) but the left has never refused to concede an election they lost or argued an election had been “rigged” or unlawfully “stolen” without credible evidence.

      • JMSmith

        I don’t know about “the Left,” but I have plenty of personal experience of leftists arguing that election were “rigged” by gerrymandering, poll taxes, media bias, the Ku Klux Klan, and the U.S. Constitution. You might also refresh your memory regarding the riots in Washington, D.C. in 2016. Were they smashing windows to celebrate?

      • Did Hillary Clinton concede the election?

      • JMSmith

        More swiftly than Trump, but not, you will recall, so swiftly as she might have. 2020-2021 was part of an emerging bipartisan pattern.

      • The election took place on November 8, 2016 and Hillary Clinton conceded on November 9, 2016. The 2020 election took place on November 3. To date (September 11, 2022) Trump not only has not conceded but continues to push a story that the election had been stolen despite having no evidence that this is so. Seems like a world of difference to me.

      • JMSmith

        You need to step back and see the big picture. American politics is getting uglier, and this is not because one party or politician is not playing by the rules. It is because the rules no longer fit reality. Sooner or later something will give, and it will not be reality. You and I are angered by different politicians, but we should at least agree that democratic politicians are symptoms of their polity, not causes. Our anger is a symptom, not a cause. Our situation would be no different if Trump or Biden or Obama or Clinton had never been born, since these men and woman merely represent more fundamental forces. Those forces are destroying the legitimacy of all institutions, just as the forces of early modernity destroyed the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. We may feel nostalgia for medieval Christendom, but there was no way to save it. We may feel nostalgia for the America of trusted news sources and civic nationalism, but there is no way to save it. You can punish (dare I say shame) people for disbelieving the results of elections, but you cannot make them stop disbelieving. In fact, punishing and shaming them only confirms their disbelief. This is all very scary, but every remedy only worsens the fundamental problem.

      • Is it not intellectually dishonest to be anti-democratic and argue that Biden stole the election?

      • JMSmith

        I don’t know what “intellectually dishonest” means. It’s a new phrase that seems to mean mentally defective. If a 2020 election skeptics were just dishonest, they would know the election was fair and be lying when they said they did not. “Intellectually dishonest” seems to imply that they don’t know they are lying because their intellect is lying to them.

        Dismissing your opponents as mentally defective is a symptom of factionalism. Party politics only work so long as both sides say the other is composed of good men looking out for their own interests. Once they start calling each other “intellectually dishonest,” or “satanic pedophiles,” the game is up.

        I’d add that politics has nothing to do with honesty, intellectual or otherwise. It is about nothing bur winning. If “intellectual dishonesty” wins at the polls, then democratic politics selects for it. Maybe the ballot box likes outrageous lies.

      • According to Wikipedia (which I assume you will dismiss because it is Wikipedia and not necessarily because it is factually incorrect), “intellectual honesty” is a “virtuous disposition to eschew deception when given an incentive for deception.” (quote attributed to Harvard ethicist Louis Guenin.

        In other words, the Trump supporters allow themselves to be deceived by the election lie pushed by Trump because it serves their greater goal of undermining the democratic system, even though they argue they are actually in favor of free and fair elections untainted by fraud.

      • JMSmith

        I think you’ve given a definition of intellectual honesty, unless you are now telling me that intellectual dishonesty is a “virtuous disposition.” What this tells us is that “intellectual dishonesty” is a pretentious way of saying wishful thinking. So, as I said, saying your political opponents are in the grip of “intellectual dishonesty” is just the latest way of saying they are mentally defective and probably should not be casting votes. Democracy only works so long as everyone publicly pretends that all electors are intellectually honest. Democracy depends on mutual respect. Once that is gone it’s all over but the shouting. Shout all you lie.

      • What I mean by intellectual dishonesty is exactly what the definition suggests. That is, a willful ignorance to achieve a desired outcome. What makes it dishonest is the false assertion that this ignorance is actually to make elections fair (i.e. to attack fraud) when it’s true fraudulent aim is to undermine faith in the process so as to destroy the process.

      • JMSmith

        I know that is what you mean. And I know you believe your political opponents are “intellectually dishonest.” Thus they are irrational and can be dealt with only by force. If I am “intellectually dishonest” (i.e. deluded and irrational), democratic politics is impossible because your vote is equal to that of a nut. If just discrediting me with the accusation of “intellectual dishonesty,” democratic politics is impossible because my vote is equal to that of a slanderer. Democracy is predicated on the proposition that all men are equally rational and virtuous, and therefore equally eligible to vote. The proposition is false but pretending it is true is essential to democracy. Once we stop pretending, democracy is done.

      • I don’t think you are irrational. You know exactly what you are doing. That’s why it’s dishonest.

      • JMSmith

        Then it is just dishonest and the qualifier “intellectual” is superfluous. But calling a man a lier is equally terminal to democracy, since an honest man cannot consent to his vote being equal to that of a liar. Once I start lying, or you begin believing I am a liar, the equality of reason and virtue on which democracy is based is destroyed.

      • I don’t believe “intellectual” is superfluous in this instance. You and your Orthosphere brethren hold yourselves out to be intellectual and should therefore know better. The bulk of the people who stormed the capitol building and who believe the “stolen election” story without evidence (for example) by contrast are seemingly not.

      • JMSmith

        Intellectual dishonesty is not dishonesty by by intellectuals. From the definition of intellectual honesty you cite, it is clear that intellectual dishonesty is the result of a dishonest, defective intellect. The phrase intellectual dishonesty is simply the latest in a long string of phrases with which rationalists have pathologized people who don’t believe what the rationalists believe. But we are straying from the point. If tens of millions of voters are given to intellectual dishonesty, they are insane and must be somehow excluded from the democratic process. After nearly two years of attempting to correct these tens of millions of dolts, cretins and liars, their intellectual dishonesty remains uncorrected. The sane, decent, rational portion of the electorate therefore must admit that this “intellectual dishonesty” is invincible. So where does “democracy” go from here? Are you content to share the vote with tens of millions of dolts, cretins and liars? Or are you thinking we might have to restrict the franchise?

      • The definition of intellectual honesty does not make it clear that intellectual dishonesty is the result of a dishonest defective intellect. It makes clear that an intellectually dishonest actor will allow himself to be deceived when that suits his purposes as seems to be the case with the election deniers. Since the rest of your post is based upon this faulty premise of yours I see no need to address it.

      • JMSmith

        An actor cannot allow himself to be deceived, since a man who knows he has been deceived is not deceived. Intellectual dishonesty must be a subconscious intellectual defect–an inability to “face the facts”.” Otherwise it is just plain old dishonesty. But my question stands in either case. How can you simultaneously believe in democracy and believe that close to half the population is dishonest, whether intellectually (subconsciously) or intentionally? Isn’t democracy too important to let a mob of MAGAtards screw it up?

      • Roughly 50% of voters voted for Donald Trump. A lesser percentage believe the stolen election claptrap. That leaves a sizable majority who are still invested in American democracy. I am reasonably sure that this contagion will run its course and the American political system and alliances will reshuffle themselves as they have done many times throughout the history of our nation. In the meantime I and other people of goodwill will push against the falsehoods until we emerge on the other side.

      • JMSmith

        Good luck. But I would stop arguing against the falsehood since, to an election fraud believer, it just looks like the Left has a guilty conscience. Your man took office on schedule and you should be satisfied by that.

      • Show me the evidence and then explain why all the evidence undermining your position is false.

      • JMSmith

        I don’t have a position on the 2020 election. My position is that the electoral system is broken and there is no way to fix it. My position is true whether or not the 2020 election was rigged. If it was rigged, the system is broken. If it wasn’t rigged and tens of millions are invincibly persuaded it was rigged, it is broken. And the deep reasons for rigging or belief in rigging (it matters not which is true) will only get worse. That’s my position. You need to answer my question, at least for yourself if not to me. How can you simultaneously believe in democracy and believe that close to half the population is dishonest, whether intellectually (subconsciously) or intentionally?

      • I don’t believe half the population is dishonest. I never said that. I believe the intellectuals who deny the 2020 election results are dishonest.

      • Also, there was credible evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election whereas there was no credible evidence of a stolen 2020 election.


  2. Bonald

    I do apologize if it seems that I’ve been dissembling. I had always meant to be forthrightly and openly anti-democratic and anti-American. I shall strive in the future to be clearer.

  3. JMSmith

    As you know or ought to know, “gaslighting” undermines an interlocutor’s confidence by making them doubt their own mental and moral competence. The line between argument and gaslighting is not bright, but treating an interlocutor’s ideas as childish is one sort of gaslighting. It is really connected to your special hobbyhorse of shaming, since gaslighting shames rather than persuades. You may say that you are one hundred percent correct about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, and I will grant that for the sake of this argument, but your beating this dead horse is gaslighting because the horse is dead. No one is proposing to remove Uncle Joe from office. So all you are doing is shaming election skeptics by suggesting that they are mentally and morally defective.

    • I disagree. There is a population out there pushing this story and their intention is not to remove Joe Biden or reinstall Donald Trump. The true intention is to undermine confidence in democratic institutions in order to replace them with an autocratic regime. Your own posts support this.

      • JMSmith

        My posts have been anti-authoritarian, and I’ve been taking some heat from the Orthosphere regulars for this. One doesn’t have to be partisan, stupid, or evil to think that there is something wrong with a political system that produces results like ours. It is gaslighting to suggest that having such thoughts means you are one step away from trying to overthrow the government.

      • Democracy is central to our political system, no? What exactly are you proposing?

      • JMSmith

        It is debatable whether democracy is central to our political tradition. Among the founding documents it is mentioned in only the Federalist Papers, and there in very negative terms. In any case, what you seem to mean by democracy is the ridiculous circus we call an American election. It is by no means obvious that elections–especially American elections–are a good means to measure the will of the people. Of course the root of our problem is that there is no longer an American people to have a will, so elections are just one side taking revenge on the other.

      • The US Constitution clearly provides for elected officials. It’s kind of silly to argue that democracy is not central to our nation’s political tradition.

        And you have made it clear that you are against this process. You just confirmed it in your last comment. Are you saying you just want to complain about it and not replace it?

  4. JMSmith

    Do you seriously think our elected officials are America’s best? Judge the system by its fruits, not the fruits by the system.

  5. You accused me of “gaslighting” because I pointed out what you have said all along. You are against our democratic system. Explain why you feel this is “gaslighting”?

    • JMSmith

      Actually it was thordaddy who introduced the gaslighting theme, but I took it and ran with it. He accused you of gaslighting because you are trying to shame people who disagree with you by suggesting that they are either mentally or morally defective. The 2020 election is over and done and no one is proposing to overturn it. So why should you care that there are people who think it was fishy? There are people who think the moon landing was staged! If you are indeed gaslighting, it is because you wish to undermine dissenters’ confidence in their own mental and moral competence. It is because you wish to create the false impression that no rational human could believe what they do. Making a person doubt their own sanity may be an acceptable tactic in political debate, but the common name for the tactic is nowadays gaslighting.

      • Trump is pushing a story that the election was stolen. There are many people who are going along with that story despite there being no evidence to support it. This is undermining the general faith in the election system. Interestingly, the people who go along with this story also express anti-democratic sentiments. I am simply pointing this out. If reading my observations produce shame in you it might be something to look at but that is not my intent. Nor do I agree with you that stating facts supported by evidence is gaslighting, but if you feel the desire to run with that (as you say) feel free.

      • thordaddy

        “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” — William Barr

        ws uses this statement as his foundational claim that there is “no evidence” of election fraud and studiously maintains this claim by sheer assertion much as the atheist maintains there is “no evidence” of God by mere assertion. His “gaslighting,” in this case, is more of a passive-aggressive assault as he provides the very ammo which undermines his foundational claim. And it is this mind-boggling attempt — using the above quote as “evidence” of “no evidence” — which aims to create that very chaos in the mind of those refuting his claim which “we” understand as “gaslighting.”

      • The evidence of no evidence is no evidence. Barr, a Trump loyalist and attorney general would be in a position to know whether credible evidence existed. We may also throw in the Trump appointed judges who threw his claims out of court and the Republican audit in Arizona which actually found more votes for Biden.

      • thordaddy

        Using JMSmith’s understanding of “intellectual dishonesty,” ws simply cannot, due intellectual defect, make distinction between winston’s claim and Barr’s attestation.

        Using ws understanding of “intellectual dishonesty,” winston does indeed know that his claim is not equal to Barr’s statement, YET, DECEIVES the opposition by pretending to be deceived by what are two radically different conclusions EXACTLY because it serves scrooge’s ends.

      • JMSmith, do you understand the point TD is trying to make here?

      • JMSmith

        I often find TD’s riddles hard to crack. In this case I think he is saying, as in the words of an old proverb, “over egged the pudding.” Barr’s statement does not say that the 2020 election was as honest as Honest Abe Lincoln (snigger, snigger), he says it was not sufficiently dishonest to change the results.

      • Alright. He’s tried to make this distinction in the past but I’ve never argued there was no fraud, just not enough to change the result. I’m not sure why he thinks that is fatal to my argument.

      • JMSmith

        Because you are saying a system rife with fraud should be trusted because the fraud was not decisive this time. It’s like saying a driver should be trusted because no one was killed the last time crashed his car. Shaming people who question election results will allow the existing fraud to increase.

      • I’m not saying the system is rife with fraud. I’m saying (as the data and evidence indicate) that the existent fraud is insignificant. And to exaggerate the importance of this insignificant amount of fraud as a means of undermining faith in and ultimately to collapse the entire system (whilst maintaining that is not one’s intent) is intellectually dishonest.

      • JMSmith

        How much fraud is “insignificant”? If the vote had been closer, that “insignificant” fraud would have been as significant as it is possible to be. There was, in fact, massive fraud, although it turns out the massive fraud may not have been necessary. But we’ve beaten this dead horse long enough.

      • Obviously, in an election system as broad and decentralized as the US Presidential election, it is not realistic to expect zero fraud. This is especially true when we know there are bad actors who want to undermine faith in the system at various levels of influence. That said, there is no evidence of fraud to the extent that it would have changed the results (or come close to changing the results) of the 2020 US Presidential election. Significant levels of fraud would be enough to change the result or come reasonably close to it. It seems this is logical, obvious and would go without saying.

      • thordaddy

        So, ws, you can make a distinction between your original claim and Barr’s statement now conceding as Barr had implied that there is evidence of election fraud JUST not enough evidence to overturn the result?

        And so, your original claim of “no evidence” for election fraud was a known deception on your part and your insistence on its “truth” a form of intellectually dishonest gaslighting.

      • I’ve been consistent as to this point all along. Your quibbling does not offer anything new to the discussion.

  6. Pingback: On a Hill Far Away, There’s an Old Ballot Box – The Orthosphere

  7. theantignostic

    Whether the fraud is “minimal” is immaterial at this point. With margins of victory within the margins of error any level of fraud is perforce election-changing.

  8. theantignostic

    LOL. NO fraud! ZERO fraud!

    Same in Georgia! Same in Wisconsin! Same in Pennsylvania! Just zero nada nil nacho fraud anywhere!

    Republicans, faced with the existential threat of electoral annihilation, agree with Democrats there is NO fraud!

    US elections are SCRUPULOUS!

    Sorry pal. This regime exists because it has the will to power to exist.

    • Maybe so but you’re not going to get what you want (i.e. the overthrow of the system) without proof of fraud. You might be able to do it be undermining the faith in the system which it seems you are trying to do but that is an intellectually dishonest way of going about it. That’s fine, just own it.

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