September : FBI special agent Adrian Hawkins contacts the Democratic National Committee, saying that one of its computer systems has been compromised by a cyberespionage group linked to the Russian government. He speaks to a help desk technician who does a quick check of the DNC systems for evidence of a cyber intrusion. In the next several weeks, Hawkins calls the DNC back repeatedly, but his calls are not returned, in part because the tech support contractor who took Hawkins’ call does not know whether he is a real agent. The FBI does not dispatch an agent to visit the DNC in person and does not make efforts to contact more senior DNC officials.” —Hannah Levintova (March 24, 2017)
Back in 1998, a quirky romantic comedy called Sliding Doors hit British theaters.
It was based on a premise I’d run my own thought experiments about: how much of life hinges on one fork in the possibility tree? The film begins with a missed train. If a life can be upended because of one missed train, what about a chance meeting in an elevator? What about a call not returned?
A series of un-returned calls is part of the drama of the Democratic Party and the FBI over the last two years. Their story is almost worthy of its own screenplay: an agent fails to adequately identify himself; a party official suspicious of pranks fails to follow up; there’s subterfuge and mayhem and it’s not clear who’s minding the store.
Perhaps what makes these kinds of stories intriguing is that we can never know how much a single incident changed our course, or even whether there’s a single “course” to change.
We might guess that one relationship was a poor fit. We might notice more new opportunities after turning down a job offer. Sometimes these are smart intuitions, and sometimes they’re ego-saving rationalizations.
Whatever the case, we can’t know for sure whether any single turn changed our story: the story has too many variables to be that dependent on one missed call, and we can only walk one path at a time even if we imagine that another would be more pleasant.
The broader story of the US government and all the lobbyists waiting in the wings is, as advertised, “long, twisted, and bizarre.” If you’ve been skipping the news since November, this timeline is a good, quick way to catch up.