Hunter's laptop finally gets some light

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News (TNS)
President Joe Biden hugs son Hunter Biden and daughter Ashley Biden after being sworn in as U.S. president during his inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C.  (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

The saying "People have the right to their own opinion but not to their own facts" is a quick and smug way to shut down debate. The problem is that everyone also has their own opinion on what's fact and what's not.

Take the Hunter Biden laptop story as the perfect example.

The New York Post broke the news of the emails found on a laptop the presidential son had abandoned at a Delaware repair shop. Contents of the emails detail the younger Biden's business dealings and strongly suggest he was profiting or attempting to profit off his father's name, and perhaps with his dad's knowledge.

It was a blockbuster revelation, coming just days before the 2020 election. But as a news story, it flopped.

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The same organizations and individuals that had trumpeted accusations of serial sexual abuse against Donald Trump in the last days of the 2016 election were uninterested in any hint of scandal involving the Biden family.

Or worse, their fact-checkers discredited the Post's reporting without bothering to actually check the facts. Some outright labeled it a hoax. A panel of 51 national intelligence experts, including former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, submitted a letter declaring the story to be Russian disinformation.

And Twitter took the extraordinary step of suspending the Post's account, claiming it had violated the platform's policy of distributing hacked information — a policy, by the way, it didn't apply to Trump's purloined tax returns.

The Post was an easy target. It's a conservative newspaper given to sensationalism.

But there was no evidence the Post had hacked the emails. Nor is there evidence those who deemed the story to be a lie had done any reporting for themselves.

They declared it false because they wanted it to be false.

It wasn't until The New York Times duplicated the Post's reporting on the emails last week and repeated many of the same findings that the smaller newspaper was vindicated.

Even so, the eyebrow-raising content of the laptop and its potential to engulf the Biden administration in a broader scandal is getting only a limited airing and very little analysis.

And there's been no sign of self-reflection from those who got it wrong.

This would be a good opportunity for Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to abandon their attempts at fact-checking, a process that leads to selective censorship, and instead open wide the doors to their sites.

Users have proven effective in correcting false information and countering unpopular views. They don't need a bunch of Silicon Valley progressives determining the truth for them.

The platforms should block only the most obscene posts or very clear threats of violence. Users shouldn't be cut off from contrary ideas or dissent.

And the platforms shouldn't use their enormous power to influence elections.

As for Hunter Biden, he gives every sign of being a huckster, influence peddler and morally bereft individual. Some of his dealings are the subject of an ongoing federal criminal tax fraud investigation and are before a grand jury in Delaware.

I have a hunch this will soon become a story that's much harder to ignore.