I’m sitting in a cafe in Pittsburgh – not the actual Pittsburgh (I’ve never been there) but Pittsburgh in an alternative reality. It’s pretty dull as far as parallel worlds go – it doesn’t even have many airships. However, it is very like the reality to which you, dear reader, are used to. Technically, it diverged from your world twenty three years ago when a man called Alvin was arrested in Brisbane, Australia for owning a contraband ferret – but that is a whole other story. No really discernible differences occurred until October 2015 when Jeb Bush took a surprise lead in the Republican nomination polls, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio dropped out and Donald Trump had his infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ on national television.
You can get from your world to this world via a portal in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand that takes you straight to alt-reality Pittsburgh. The bad news is that unbeknownst to everyone, the chain of events sparked by that ferret-bust in Queensland has also led to a viral mutation that will wipe out every human in the alt-reality due to what will shortly become known as ‘The Weasel Flu Pandemic’. That isn’t entirely relevant to this story but I thought I should mention it before people started booking flights to Bangkok.
The big news here in alt-Pittsburgh is, of course, the national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. I shan’t mention the DNC because – well, you are better off not knowing who the candidate was and what the consequence of the so-called ‘Cruz eligibility amendment’ was. Let’s just say it is a great shame about the impending obliteration of all humanity here.
The GOP convention? It was OK I guess but it was overshadowed by events just before. Wikileaks released a trove of hacked emails from the Republican Party. Ouch! Really embarrassing stuff. Trump supporters are very angry, naturally. Internal emails show how much the GOP top brass have been collaborating with the media to stop Trump. Maybe, without those shenanigans, Trump might have won the nomination claim his supporters. That idea is laughed at of course. I try to join in so nobody suspects that I’m literally not-from-around-here.
It is all bad news for the GOP of course. The convention should have been Jeb’s triumph after a difficult campaign but it has become somewhat tainted by claims of media collusion, corruption and FEC violations. Jeb was always going to struggle against an image of being a Washington insider and part of a corrupt dynasty. In the wake of the Chilcott report from the UK a few weeks before, the leaks have all served to further muddy his reputation. The unresolved tensions from the Trump insurgency (as they call it here) may yet split the GOP in this alternate-reality.
I’m enjoying the schadenfreude, naturally. Confusion to the enemy! What’s not to like? The coffee is OK here too. I’d stay but, you know, everybody gets wiped out by a virus in a few months. Don’t think Station Eleven, think The Road. Shame really but that is parallel worlds for you – best not to get too attached to any one of them.
Still, while I’m enjoying seeing the GOP rushing around in full damage limitation mode as a consequence of this other world’s WikiLeaks email dump, another part of me is worried. This does not feel right (and I don’t mean the impending viral apocalypse). A political party is not the government and a political campaign necessarily has a degree of secrecy about it. Yes, we’ve all found out a lot about the shenanigans that go on but none of it is stuff that I really didn’t already know. The process is dysfunctional! Meanwhile, the Pope is catholic, dogs bite stuff and bears use the woods as toilets. I don’t want to sound complacent about the corruption that has been exposed but at the same time, it feels more like noise than signal.
Democrats are looking smug but I’m guessing their emails would look equally bad and I sort of don’t care. Compared with the inherent corruption of campaign funding, gerrymandered constituencies, a badly designed electoral process and active voter suppression; shonky emails look a tad tame even if they confirm my inherent prejudices about conservatives in general and the Bushes in particular.
And WikiLeaks? Sorry guys, I love a lot of what you have done and I admire the way you helped Chelsea Manning but this seems more than a bit off. Transparency is one thing but this looks a lot like you are directly helping the Democrats here in the alt-reality commonly known as that-tragic-one-where-everybody-dies-from-weasel-flu. Yes, yes, the Democrats are the good guys and Jeb Bush is some kind of dynastic threat to world peace – good grief we all know how appalling his brother was. Yet, this looks a lot like trying to influence a democratic process by unethical means.
I mean, how is this different from what Nixon attempted with the Watergate theft? Sure, it doesn’t involve a physical break-in but otherwise, it looks like pretty much the same dirty trick. Adding more dirty tricks to a corrupt process doesn’t make the process less corrupt.
Laughably Jeb is now playing the Russian card. I guess the Republicans have never fallen out of love with the Cold War. Still…yes, there is no direct evidence that Putin is behind this hack but it is a legitimate worry if he was. In which case is WikiLeaks complicit in helping a foreign power disrupt an election? Bush may be appalling but Putin is manifestly not a friend of freedom.
So my thoughts turn more to who and why? If the Democrats were behind this hack of emails then that would be a bigger scandal than the emails themselves. If the Russians or some other foreign power are behind it (and I can see why the Chinese might want [name] [redacted] to beat Jeb in November) then that is effectively an attack on US democracy. Worrying stuff. Yes, yes, I get that WikiLeaks never reveals its sources but it seems to me there is a greater issue in the who and why of this hack than there is in the content of the emails.
Anyway, that’s all moot here in alt-Pittsburgh. They never find out. I may pop back in a few years, once the mustelid population has died back enough for it to be safe again.
Anyway, time to head back before the flu-vector reaches North America. It’ll be interesting to see how this whole leak thing has played out back in base reality, although I can’t imagine anybody will care in that crazy version of Earth.