One of the first things to keep in mind when considering the credibility of the Dinesh D’Souza film, 2000 Mules, which made its way to Ely this past weekend, is that it makes no attempt to get …
One of the first things to keep in mind when considering the credibility of the Dinesh D’Souza film, 2000 Mules, which made its way to Ely this past weekend, is that it makes no attempt to get at the truth of the claim that the 2020 election was stolen. It is not a documentary, nor does it qualify as journalism, even though D’Souza undoubtedly expects most of his viewers won’t notice the difference.
I can speak from experience, since I attended the 8 a.m. showing of the film, along with about 60 others. Another 70 or so showed up for the second showing, at 10 a.m. I’ve also been a journalist for my entire adult life.
Viewers could, perhaps, be excused for thinking they were watching something credible. The movie is slickly produced, as would be expected from a guy who has made millions over the years spewing conspiracy theories. It purports to be presenting evidence mined by the group, True the Vote, from a massive trove of geo-location data from cell phones in key swing states, like Georgia and Arizona, as well as millions of minutes of government security video shot in the vicinity of ballot drop boxes in major cities, mostly in Georgia.
They say the data proves an organized effort to stuff ballot drop boxes around the country, enough, they claim, to have tipped the election to Joe Biden.
The premise of the film was that thousands (at one point, they claim at least 54,000 people) were employed by unnamed nonprofit groups in key swing states to repeatedly ferry ballots to drop boxes, a process known as ballot harvesting. They claimed that each of these individuals, who D’Souza dubbed “mules,” may have visited ten or more drop boxes in a day and were paid $10 for each delivery.
It was an interesting story. The evidence, however, was sorely lacking. Take all those millions of minutes of video they claimed to review. During the course of the 90-minute film, they showed about a half dozen security video clips of supposed mules, dropping off an average of four or five ballots each. In each case, they claimed the individual was committing a crime. Turns out, that’s not at all clear. In fact, as Reuters has reported, law enforcement officials in Georgia were able to identify at least one of the supposed mules included in the movie because a license plate was visible on his car. When contacted, the individual said he was delivering ballots for his family members, which is perfectly legal in Georgia. When law enforcement contacted election officials, they were able to confirm that the ballots for that individual’s family all showed up in the drop box in question on that date.
Far more troubling is the fact that, in all of that video footage, D’Souza’s film can’t show any individual at any drop box more than once. Remember, the claim is that these people were running back and forth ferrying ballots from unnamed nonprofit groups to drop boxes, multiple times a day. And, at least in Georgia, the drop boxes were all subject to video surveillance. So, why is there no footage of any one of their supposed mules at more than one drop box? Not one instance? It’s a massive hole in their concocted theory, but D’Souza clearly hopes his viewers won’t notice.
I could fill this entire page with similar examples, but let’s also consider the distinction between D’Souza’s film and actual journalism. It’s worth noting that D’Souza includes no interviews with any election officials, who might have been able to provide context to the so-called “evidence” he provides in his film. Nor does he include interviews with anyone representing the unnamed nonprofits that supposedly engaged in the scheme.
Actual documentaries, even ones with a political bent, always make a point of presenting other perspectives. I think of Michael Moore, who actually relishes the chance to interview those he doesn’t agree with. In fact, it’s part of his schtick.
Yet, D’Souza isn’t a documentarian, like Moore. He’s a propagandist and he knows that when you’re leading people down yet another conspiracy theory rabbit hole, you can’t provide them a lifeline back to reality. It’s how people got sucked in by QAnon or Pizzagate. It’s a kind of tunnel vision, and it’s how D’Souza is able to work his sleight of hand on his viewers, so they don’t even question any of the gaping evidentiary holes or unstated assumptions at work in his film.
One of the biggest of those assumptions is that even if the ballot harvesting occurred, as D’Souza claims, all of those votes were for Joe Biden. He simply relies on the biases of his viewers to make that preposterous leap.
Nor does D’Souza show that any of the ballots in question were manipulated— only that they might have been picked up and delivered by others. That could be a violation of ballot harvesting laws, depending on the state, but does it really constitute voter fraud if the voters in question were registered to vote, were qualified to vote, and filled out their ballots themselves? Should their vote be disqualified simply because someone else, a friend perhaps, delivered it? There are sound arguments that such votes should count in either case and don’t represent fraud.
Keep in mind, the checks in place surrounding absentee ballots are quite robust and each ballot has a unique bar code that must match up with the application the voter submits to receive a ballot. D’Souza claims that mail-in ballots were sent out to millions of voters unsolicited. That’s true, but only in states, or localities, where voting is routinely done by mail. Many residents of small or unorganized townships in St. Louis County, for example, are automatically sent their ballots by mail. That’s not the case, however, in the swing states examined in “2000 Mules,” so the opportunity to steal ballots would have been greatly reduced. In either case, signature verification is another check that makes it difficult to get stolen ballots to pass muster, even in those few instances where it might occur.
Ironically, D’Souza does provide actual evidence that ballot harvesting and ballot manipulation did occur— but not in the 2020 election. He highlights the case of Mark Harris, a North Carolina congressional candidate from a few years ago whose campaign was shown to have obtained several hundred unmarked ballots from unsuspecting voters during a Republican primary and then filled them out in Harris’s favor. He won by a few hundred votes but as the scheme unraveled, a court threw out the election.
Harris’s scheme involved only a handful of participants, yet people eventually spilled the beans. According to D’Souza, at least 54,000 people were involved in the 2020 election heist, but not one person has come forward or been prosecuted? Like that’s going to happen.
Yet, people want to believe, which is why the film is packing in viewers all across the country.
It’s become a means for GOP candidates to rally support from like-minded individuals and offer their own takes on the 2020 election. Attorney General candidate and My Pillow general counsel Doug Wardlow, who attended the movie’s showing in Ely, is certainly hoping to use the election conspiracy theory to win votes in his primary challenge to the GOP’s endorsed candidate. St. Louis County Sheriff’s candidate Chad Walsh was also there to play to the crowd. One might have hoped that as a law enforcement officer, he would see through the obvious evidentiary holes in “2000 Mules,” but he kept any such doubts to himself in his comments to the crowd of true believers on Saturday.
The film has one other significant purpose, of course. And that’s raising millions for D’Souza and bringing attention, and no doubt money, to Texas-based True the Vote, which provided the so-called evidence for “2000 Mules.”
Yet, if True the Vote actually has the goods to overturn the election, why haven’t they filed lawsuits to present it or provided it to law enforcement? The Texas Tribune recently reported that one donor ponied up $2.5 million to fund seven such lawsuits using the group’s data. The group’s law firm filed four suits, then voluntarily withdrew them a week later, and it’s been crickets since. And they charged the donor legal fees that the unlucky rube in question described as “impossible.”
The Texas Tribune suggested the group’s evidence and claims were just another election-related grift intended to raise millions of dollars from desperate Trump supporters willing to throw money at anyone promising to have the secret sauce. Trump himself has raised more than $200 million off the election heist hokum and he continues to spew his misinformation even today. As Rep. Zoe Lofgren stated during one of the recent Jan. 6 hearings, the Big Lie was also a big rip-off.
With “2000 Mules,” Dinesh D’Souza is simply looking for his own piece of the action.