Reviews | Why Historians Should Be Thankful Texts of Ginni Thomas as a Teenager

“Watermarked ballots in over 12 states were part of a huge Trump and military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states,” Thomas wrote of the “heist,” reinforcing the QAnon’s fantasy that Trump watermarked mail-in ballots to help track potential voter fraud. “It’s a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote, as if streaming Armageddon play-by-play. “Evil always looks like the victor until the king of kings triumphs.”

Crazy stuff like this could once be safely spoken behind closed doors or whispered on the phone, and no one knew you were a sandwich away from a picnic unless you launched your tirades in public. But since the advent of email and texting in the 1990s, a fossil record of our electronic communications has been set in digital stone – providing an Olduvai’s worth of material for intrepid investigators, prosecutors, journalists and historians to recover. If you say it electronically, chances are you’re saying something potentially harmful.

Something happens when we move our conversations from a group setting – the classroom, the workplace, even a game of poker – to a one-on-one forum. Instead of looking over our shoulder, assessing how the public might receive our speech, we turn off self-censorship and become lax. Head-to-head is not a truth serum, but the intimacy of head-to-head inspires trust. Also, if you say something you later regret in a one-on-one, you can always deny it or claim it was taken out of context.

The same instincts that operate in one-on-one or phone conversations kick in when we email or text people we know. We wouldn’t share an intimate conversation without our correspondent’s permission, we tell ourselves, so we assume our correspondent wouldn’t either. So we end up expressing thoughts — like our affinity for QAnon conspiracies, to get back to the Ginni Thomas topic — without considering a potential blowback. Thomas and Meadows’ unruly chatter is reminiscent of the naivety of a teenager who spills his tea on social media and then discovers to his horror that he and his friend have become Subject A of the high school cafeteria. Has anyone ever explained the extent of subpoena power at Meadows?

Why hasn’t the op-sec rot of one-on-one conversation flowed after all these years? Perhaps you remember one of the first one-on-one disasters of the electronic age. In 1986, Iran-Contra directors Oliver North and John Poindexter squirted squid ink into the water to dodge responsibility when they deleted more than 5,750 of their emails from the computers of the White House. What they didn’t know was that deleted emails were stored elsewhere, which is the case with most emails and text messages. The evidence gathered helped convict them. (Poindexter’s convictions were overturned; North’s were overturned.)

That alone should have stopped the scribes from writing self-incriminating emails. Instead, the keyboards lit up. If there’s one thing we know about very important people, it’s that they think they’re untouchable, even as prosecutors race like clockwork to subpoena giant inboxes and trash cans. messages to mount folders. A few examples: Heartfelt emails from Bill Gates dealt an anti-trust blow to Microsoft in the late 1990s. Has Bill learned his lesson? No. Last year he suffered public humiliation when the “inappropriate” emails he sent to a Microsoft employee surfaced. 2004 by Jacob Bernstein new York magazine article, “You Got…Nailed!”, reviews embarrassing emails discovered in litigation. In 2008, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with perjury over uncovered sexually explicit text messages. The publication of thousands of Hillary Clinton emails embarrassed the candidate during the 2016 election, and the WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails during the same period.

Imagine how quickly Watergate would have crumbled if HR Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Mitchell, John Dean, G. Gordon Liddy and the rest of the fun bunch who approved the break-in or handled the cover-up had conspired via email. While you’re at it, give Trump credit for avoiding emails. Like a mob boss, he understands that if it’s written, it can be used as physical evidence in a prosecution.

While we can blame Thomas and Meadows for their stupidity, we should thank them for their pride and encourage them to continue their careless ways. The unmonitored messages between putschist Thomas and coup cheerleader Meadows added transparency to Trump’s plot to abort a legal and fair election. They both made history and left behind electronic artifacts for historians to create a full picture of Trump’s putsch attempt.

Technology has made reasonable paranoids of us. If you think everything can’t be used against you, you’re the one who’s crazy. Thomas and Meadows may never recover from their poor communication hygiene. You must be wondering what their Twitter and Slack feeds look like.


Send an incriminating email to [email protected]. My email alerts were summoned to appear. My Twitter food copped a plea. My RSS feed says what it means.