Wait. Rudy Giuliani was right?
It seems that Hunter Biden’s laptop, the one that was supposedly left in a repair shop in Delaware and ended up in Giuliani’s sweaty hands during the 2020 presidential campaign, wasn’t a fabrication. Given the messenger, and the timing, it was easy for most of us to dismiss the laptop as unsubstantiated Trumpian kompromat.
Now it’s a little harder: even The New York Times, which had, according to some, gone out of its way to dismiss the story, recently reversed course and published an article about the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. The newspaper noted—below the 23rd paragraph—that a series of potentially incriminating e-mails suggesting, among other things, how Hunter could leverage his father’s position to help his Ukrainian client came from the re-discovered laptop.
Hunter Biden is no Alger Hiss, but the contents of that laptop are beginning to look like the Pumpkin Papers.
Last Sunday, Louis C.K., who was canceled in 2017 after acknowledging that he masturbated in front of female comedians, just won a Grammy for a comedy album which included jokes about sexual misconduct and wearing blackface.
Then, the next day, news broke that some leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement had siphoned off donations to buy houses, including a $6 million one in Southern California that was purchased with cash.
And yet. It was left-leaning New York magazine—not the New York Post—that broke the story about the $6 million house last week. (The New York Post had a scoop in 2021 alleging that B.L.M. organizers had bought other private homes, including one near Malibu.) The reporter, Sean Campbell, intercepted internal memos that showed the panic of strategists at the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation: “Can we kill the story?” read one. Another said: “Our angle — needs to be to deflate ownership of the property.”
After the story came out, one of the co-founders of the organization, Patrisse Cullors, who stepped down in May, posted a scathing denunciation, arguing that New York magazine had it all wrong. The $6 million house, she insisted, “was purchased to be a safe space for Black people in the community.”
Call it a backlash. It was only a matter of time before the Zeitgeist rebelled against the excesses of left-wing sanctimony and censoriousness. Even people who consider themselves liberal have grown tired of the strictures of cancel culture, #MeToo absolutism, and orthodoxies on gender, race, sexual identity, and pronouns.
In February, in that bastion of liberalism, San Francisco, parents voted to recall three members of the school board. The parents were incensed that, during the pandemic, those so-called educators had been focused not on reopening schools but on renaming them to sound more progressive. (Some had even argued for getting rid of “Abraham Lincoln.”)
New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., have Black mayors who are adamant that they want to increase police-department budgets, not “defund” them.
And something is afoot even in Hollywood. Brett Ratner, the film director who was canceled in 2017 after several actresses, including Olivia Munn, accused him of sexual assault, is sashaying around town with anti-Kremlin bragging rights: tabloids have reported that Ratner declined to lend money to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, whose bank accounts are frozen and who can’t pay his employees’ salaries, which, according to the New York Post, amounted to $750,000 a week. (In fairness, Abramovich had many poop decks to swab.)
Even people who consider themselves liberal have grown tired of the strictures of cancel culture.
There could be a problem with all this reckoning. It’s entirely likely that the Trump-loving right will seize on every hint of self-recrimination or course correction to weaken Democrats and march triumphantly in lockstep toward the 2022 midterm elections, tiki-torching children’s books and banning abortion clinics on their way. Even Emmanuel Macron’s enemies on the French right are campaigning against “le wokisme.”
And let’s face it, one of the benefits of being a Trump Republican is never having to admit wrongdoing, no matter how grotesque or damaging. Just this week, Trump told The Washington Post that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was the fault of Nancy Pelosi. Then there was the time Trump held back on giving weapons to Ukraine to try to force Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to help him dig up dirt about Hunter Biden. (Oops, yes, well, as it turns out, there might have been some, but still—bad form.)
At the same time as Kremlin-controlled news shows in Russia commend Fox News host Tucker Carlson for his pro-Putin remarks—Carlson, in an epic bit of pretzel-like logic, has agreed with the Russian president that the U.S. is responsible for the war in Ukraine—Republicans are chiding Biden for not doing enough to defend Ukraine. Shame, shmame.
But what if the backlash confounding the left is a virus so catching that it could spread even into the far reaches of the right? While most Republican politicians support Trump’s inane claim that the 2020 election was stolen and give him a pass on the January 6 insurrection he helped instigate, lately there have been tiny cracks in the unflagging solidarity of the no-lie-too-big Republican right.
Take House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who managed an astounding about-face regarding the attack on the Capitol, during which he phoned Trump repeatedly to urge him to call it off. All it took was one post-election pilgrimage to Trump’s little Paraguay-by-the-sea, Mar-a-Lago, for McCarthy to forget what he saw on January 6 and get back on the Trump bandwagon.
Now McCarthy has joined a number of Republican legislators in condemning Madison Cawthorn, 26, a North Carolina congressman who claimed that his elders in the Republican Party had invited him to join their cocaine-fueled orgies in Washington, D.C. Trump, needless to say, invited Cawthorn to speak at his next rally in North Carolina.
Cawthorn also called Zelensky a “thug” and said the Ukrainian government was “evil” and pushing “woke ideologies,” but somehow it was the accusation of group sex and cocaine that finally made Republican leaders part with Trump. (Your joke about toeing the party line here.)
So maybe, just maybe, that small fissure could inspire others and force both the right and the left to reconsider their more uncompromising positions.
Sometimes, a backlash can sink all boats.
Alessandra Stanley is a Co-Editor of Air Mail