“Our country is one country pretending to be another.”Submitted by Michael Nystrom on Fri, 10/26/2012 - 23:58
I just finished watching Hacking Democracy, a 2007 documentary about how voting machines, specifically those made by Diebold, are rigged. Over the five years since it was made, I have seen video clips from the film online, on YouTube, and on other websites, but I’d never watched the whole thing. It is well worth it, even though the information has permeated the internet. It is now common knowledge for anyone online and paying attention that voting machines are - or at least can easily be - rigged. And therefore it follows that the elections are a just show.
In the film we see footage from the 2004 election between Bush and Kerry that brings back memories for me of living through that election - not here in America, but abroad. Eight years ago, I was living in Taiwan, working in an office that was in a parallel, upside universe to the one that I’m accustomed to. All the standard equipment and furnishings were there: Fluorescent lights, cubicles populated by workers typing away on desktop PCs running Windows — only everything was in Chinese.
Did I mention I neither read nor speak Chinese?
Luckily, the internet worked just the same. From my lonely cubicle, which was in back corner of the office and somewhat hidden behind a higher than normal dividing wall, I had some measure of privacy. I had constructed something of a sanctuary for myself in that otherwise hellish place, with an orange batik sarong that I had picked up in Thailand hanging on the wall, a houseplant on the file cabinet next to me, and a small goldfish swimming back and forth in a tiny jar on my desk. It was a gift from a colleague. But most important of all, I had unscrewed the fluorescent light above my desk, and instead used an incandescent lamp to light my workspace - an arrangement I have always made whenever and wherever I have had to spend my days in a cubicle. Fluorescent lights are hell on my eyes, and give me brain-splitting headaches by the end of the day.
I fear I am rambling, but this was the perch from which I watched the election of 2004. At the time, I was running Bull Not Bull!, the website that immediately preceded the Daily Paul. You might think of it as DP 1.0; the proto-DP.
From my hiding place at the back of the office, I was well informed on American news and politics (which is to say I spent much of the day surfing the web). With my website, I was a muckracker. I hated George Bush with a passion. Just one look at him and I knew instinctively that he was an idiot. A liar. A crook. A thief. An arrogant son-of-a-bitch. And a war monger.
People have told me recently that they can’t stand looking at Obama on the TV. They cannot stand to hear his voice; that when he comes on, they have to change the channel. I have remedied that particular problem by canceling my cable, but that is exactly how I felt towards W. So I understand the urge to to vote for ‘the other guy.’
In 2004, I wanted Bush to lose. And from my perch on the other side of the world, in a time zone 12 hours opposite that of Eastern Standard, I cast my absentee ballot for what I perceived to be the lesser of two evils: John Kerry. (Forgive them, for they know not what they do.)
I wanted Kerry to win for no other reason than to dislodge George Bush, to put an end the wars and killing and the misery in Iraq and Afghanistan and just come home.
And while all this was going down, I was reading about the work that Bev Harris, the subject of this film Hacking Democracy, was doing at blackboxvoting.org to expose the fraud of the vote rigging and the voting machines, especially in Ohio.
* * *
So I’m watching old Horse Face Kerry concede the race to GWB in the documentary - just 12 hours after he vowed to fight the battle in the courts, and all these memories come flooding back. I remember being livid when I read the news, back in Taiwan. Kerry had said he was going to fight the decision in the courts! He was going to expose the fraudulent voting system for all to see. He was going to set the country right again, after its derailment in the disaster of 2000.
What a fool I was. To put so much faith not just in a politician, but in a system that was corrupted long before the 2000 election. Maybe I’m still naive, but things seems to have taken a more sinister turn in 2000, and it seems we’re only speeding up on the highway to hell. Watching this only drove that point home further.
Because while it is possible to understand it intellectually, that the elections are just one big show, it is another thing altogether to feel it viscerally - to feel the knife go in, probe the various internal organs, before it finally makes purchase with the heart.
Near the end of the movie, Bev’s team definitively proves with a small, experimental “election” that votes can be flipped by programming only the memory card. A ballot is printed with the question, “Can the votes on this Diebold system be hacked, using only the memory card?”
Much of the movie is an exploration of just how such a thing is possible. The team discovers that on all the Diebold memory cards, there is an executable file - a program - that specifically allows for manipulation. And they’ve learned how to hack it. By their demonstrations, it seems easy enough that even I could do it.
So they hold their mock election. The votes are cast: 2 yes, 6 no.
We watch as they fill out the ballots and feed them through the optical scanning device. And then we watch, as they close the election and print the results. And the results reveal the truth on the printed slip: 7 votes yes, one vote no, a result completely opposite of the ballots cast. Their experiment worked, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt what they have been claiming.
It is a great victory for Truth, but one woman on the team begins sobbing. It hits her all at once: Prior to this display, it was all just theory, just possibility. Now, there are no more outs - nowhere to hide. The truth in all its plain-faced glory is revealed, and what else can one do but cry?
“To quote a friend,” she says, “Our country is one country pretending to be another.”
And that’s what it is. And most of us here know it. And in spite of that, somehow, we have to carry on.