Loony Running The Asylum
- Oct 23, 2002
- Frozen in Michigan
- Old Fart
- Basic Beliefs
- Democratic Socialist Atheist
Who does D'Souza thinks he kidding?“2000 Mules” can be broken out into three basic components. There’s the geolocation-based material that’s the heart of D’Souza’s assertions about the election. The second half of the movie is a broader effort to undergird the geolocation claims, an attempt to build a foundation of how and why a rampant ballot collection scheme might have been undertaken. And then there’s the third part, a sort of cable-news-style panel conversation with D’Souza and several other conservative and right-wing pundits. (All of those pundits, incidentally, have shows with Salem Media Group, which served as executive producer of the film.) By the end, the pundits have been convinced that rampant fraud occurred, with former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka outlining all of the evidence that had been presented “empirically” in support of the claim.
There is no such empirical evidence, by a long shot. That geolocation data from Phillips and Engelbrecht’s group, True the Vote, which also has executive-producer credits on the film, is used as a purportedly data-driven latticework on which everything else hangs. But beyond lots of harrumphing about how revealing this data is, we see very little of it.
The theory that Phillips and Engelbrecht present is that nonprofit organizations employed people to collect ballots and then drop them into drop boxes in various cities. They call this “ballot trafficking,” a term meant to connote illegality akin to the transport of narcotics. The people carrying the ballots, then, become “mules” and the nonprofit groups “stash houses.” To test this theory, they obtained a large amount of anonymized cellphone geolocation data and tried to figure out how often individual phones appeared near drop box sites or near those nonprofit groups.
By itself, this is a dubious approach. As the Associated Press pointed out in a fact check of the film, there’s no way by just using cellphone data to know whether someone visited a ballot drop box, particularly since those boxes were installed in high-traffic areas. Last month, I spoke with an expert on geolocation who made clear that the imprecision of phone geolocation would make specifying that a phone was actually near a drop box (and not, say, 10 feet from it) nearly impossible. The film makes repeated comparisons to federal law enforcement’s ability to identify people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, but even if the phone’s location is off by 20 feet, it’s still obvious when you’re inside a large building. (In one shot, the film shows geolocated data inside the Capitol — with positions surrounded by large circles of uncertainty that make this point clearly.)
In essence, we're just asked to trust that True the Vote found what it says it found. That by itself is probably not wise.