Whether or not the company's machines were misused, it poses structural risks, and suppressing criticism will make Trump supporters even more dubious
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 09: (L-R) President and CEO of Election Systems & Software Tom Burt, President and CEO of Dominion Voting Systems John Poulos, President and CEO of Hart InterCivic Julie Mathis testify during a hearing before the House Administration Committee January 9, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
It is unlikely that many of the 73 million people who cast ballots for Donald Trump in 2020 will ever accept the legitimacy of his loss. Who could convince them? If the media sources demanding Trump’s concession held any sway with Trump’s voters, they would not have been his voters. They do not know for sure that the election was stolen, but they do know with apodictic certainty that the media would lie to them if it was. So if Donald Trump says the election was stolen, that’s good enough for the Deplorables.
Yet even the President’s most faithful must have flinched at his recent tweet accusing a leading manufacturer of voting machines of committing election fraud on a mass scale.
“REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED. STATES USING DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS SWITCHED 435,000 VOTES FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN.” @ChanelRion@OANN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2020
It is hard to overstate the irresponsibility of broadcasting such a serious accusation without proof. It shocked me, and my startle response has become pretty desensitized over the last four years. Sure, it turned out Trump was right when he accused the Obama administration of spying on his 2016 campaign, but this is different. Dominion Voting Systems is not staffed with Obama appointees, after all. I decided to poke around a bit to see what, if anything, could possibly be behind Trump’s wild accusation.
A Twitter user named Joe Oltmann had tweeted a few screenshots of a Facebook user posting Antifa manifestos and songs about killing police. The Facebook account belonged to Eric Coomer, and Oltmann claimed it was the same Eric Coomer who is the Director of Product Strategy and Security for Dominion Voting Systems. Within hours of Oltmann posting the information, however, the Facebook page of Eric Coomer was taken down, so I was unable to verify that Antifa Coomer and Dominion Coomer were the same person. By the end of the day, Joe Oltmann’s Twitter account was suspended as well. I had followed his feed throughout the day. I can say with certainty that he posted nothing remotely offensive or provocative. I have no doubt whatsoever that Twitter suspended him for posting the screenshots of Coomer’s Facebook page. Interesting.
Searching around some more, I found that Dominion Coomer is an avid climber who used to post frequently on climbing message boards under his own name. He confirmed it himself in a post where he mentioned getting his nuclear physics Ph.D from Berkeley in 1997. Dominion’s Eric Coomer received his nuclear physics Ph.D from Berkeley in 1997. In another post on the same message board, Coomer gave out his email address. It was his old campus address from the Berkeley nuclear physics department. I plugged that email address into the Google machine, and things got weird.
I found Eric Coomer had a long history of posting on websites for skinheads. He was a heavy user of a Google Group for skinheads, and seems to have possibly been a content moderator for papaskin.com. Only these aren’t the neo-Nazis our mothers warned us about. These skinheads call themselves SHARPs, or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Think of them as a sort of punk rock Antifa. In 2012, roughly 18 SHARPs attacked a smaller group of suspected racists in a Chicago restaurant with bats and batons. That same year, three neo-Nazis were charged for the 1998 double murder of two SHARPs in Nevada.
Given that Dominion’s Director of Security and Strategy, Eric Coomer, was an enthusiast of a street fighting anti-racist skinhead culture going back at least into the 1990s, it seems very likely that Joe Oltmann was correct in identifying him as the Facebook user recently endorsing Antifa and posting anti-police rhetoric. I shared this information on a few message boards to let other people run with it. Within hours, Papa Skin, a skinhead website which had been up for over 20 years, was taken offline. (Whoever took it down missed the FAQ page, you can find it here http://www.papaskin.com/faq/faqs.html).
Of course none of this proves any fraud took place, but we deserve some answers. One need only imagine if it was Joe Biden contesting the election results, and the Director for Strategy & Security at a major voting machine provider turned out to be a Proud Boy with decades of involvement in extremist, even violent, right wing political groups. Democrats would rightly point out that this person endorses engaging in illegal behavior to achieve political goals. They would ask how such a person ended up in such an important position of public trust, and what it might say about the procedures in place to ensure Dominion’s responsibilities are handled in good faith.
Another reality of the Dominion fiasco, whether or not there was any fraud using its machines, is the structural risk created by having the same company run machines in more than two dozen states. If there were glitchy machines causing a dispute in one state, like Democrats’ claims about Diebold machines in Ohio in 2004, and even if that dispute led to competing slates of electors, that is something the American political system has seen and withstood before. Having potentially tens of millions of people doubting results in a half-dozen different states thanks to the same company running machines in all of them is an unprecedentedly serious problem, whether or not their doubts are well-founded.
Moreover, platforms like Twitter and WordPress would do well to consider that censorship of people discussing Dominion and its employees is likely to have the opposite effect that they think it will: Twitter bans, site removals, and wiping of bios from websites are only going to make Trump’s hardcore supporters think Dominion has something to hide. You can’t make disagreements go away by banning one side and pretending there is unanimity.
Darryl Cooper is the host of the MartyrMade podcast.
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