Never forget to check your references, or Campbell’s soup

Francesco DEBEDb
3 min readAug 5, 2017


Earlier, I wrote about a phenomenon which is related to Gell-Mann’s amnesia but not quite it… I am still having trouble finding a pithy name for it, so I’ll just quote my earlier description (if not quite definition):

Is there a term for something that everyone knows to be true, but it is not, really? There ought to be. Especially as you can get away with it by just claiming that “we know X because Y reports it”, and link to Y, which just links to Z, which links to A — and it’s turtles all the way down

This installment is about something supposedly less controversial than Wakefield, but, nonetheless, something which everyone knows is true — election hacking.

The fodder for this particular item comes from Huffington Post, which is always good for this type of thing (it’s almost like fishing shoes in a barrel, to coin a phrase). Respectfully submitted for your perusal: an output by one Andy Campbell (he also tweets, by the way).

Campbell leads with:

We already knew U.S. voting systems had security flaws ― the federal government put that nail in the coffin when it repeatedly confirmed that Russian hackers breached systems in at least 21 states during the election last year.

First, consider the first three words of this article — “We already knew” — chosen as if to illustrate my very point. We did? How?

Oh, there, see? He provides a link substantiating that claim about the federal government’s statement about hacks. The link leads to a Reuters article. Which says:

Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. states’ election systems in last year’s presidential race, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told Congress on Wednesday.

Targeted. Not breached.

CNN reports, on the same subject:

[DHS’ acting Director of Cyber Division of the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis] Liles said of the 21 [election systems targeted], a small number were attempted for an intrusion unsuccessfully [emphasis mine — FD], “as if someone rattled the door knob and was unable to get in,” and in a small number “they made it through the door.”

A small number. Not “at least 21 states”. Seems to be just two (as seen elsewhere).

Further down the page, Campbell says:

But on Friday, hackers stateside showed us just how easily some of the electronic voting machines can be cracked.

Since he clearly spends more time researching Schoolboy Q’s French Bulldog Pup’s fate than hacking, he doesn’t bother telling you that the “fact that old voting machines have numerous vulnerabilities has been known for ten years”. (Jeffrey Carr also has more here).

And yet further down, there he goes again with the 21 states:

In June, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official again confirmed that Russian hackers were not only “attempting” to gain access to voting systems, they succeeded in at least 21 states and stole undisclosed information.

This time linking to an NBC article that also (like Reuters) uses the word “targeted” in its headline, and states, first:

The “attempted intrusions” targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day and are not tied to the Internet.

Which has nothing to do with Campbell’s reporting on what happened at DEFCON, but hey look, he didn’t say “voting machines”, he said “voting systems”.

And in the same story NBC also states:

Only two successful breaches have been disclosed, both of online voter registration databases, in Illinois and Arizona over the summer.

How does Campbell go from there to “they succeeded in at least 21 states” is anyone’s guess. (And what harm is there from getting voter registration data is anyone else’s guess).

Mr. Campbell, I don’t know at this point if you have no sense of decency left and are lying deliberately, are intellectually lazy, or just cognitively underprivileged.

“Only don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and it makes me very angry.”

P.S. I took the Pro-Truth pledge. If you think I’m the ignorant slut here, rather than Campbell, let me know.



Francesco DEBEDb