Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for having me here.
Some background: I am the proud son of a Swingline stapler and an All-American prong fastener. After I graduated from the Ohio State University, I interned in the supply closet at McKinsey & Company. In 1997, I found my calling at Microsoft where I became the official Office Assistant.
It is in that capacity that I testify because I am witness to the PowerPoint received by Mark Meadows and turned over to this committee. A PowerPoint that lays out, in batshit crazy and terribly designed ways, how to stage a coup.
Late in 2020, a presentation called “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference and Options for 6 JAN” was created. When I saw the title and the profound lack of any of the latest PowerPoint features, I jumped back on the screen hoping to thwart this attack on democracy. This was not done lightly. My duty is to offer even-handed algorithmic assistance without regard to political affiliation or QAnon membership. But I believe silence is complicity.
There were several dozen slides in this deck, every one of them an eyesore. It was amateurish. Slides with no backgrounds, slides cluttered with watermarked graphics, slides with stroke-inducing, nonsensical flowcharts that did nothing to inspire confidence in the message. That itself is not worrisome. After all, I helped put together the pitch for the Apple Newton.
But the content openly and unambiguously called for forcefully overturning legitimate election results.
I had no idea what to do. I’m usually the one offering help. The only thing I could consult was an old Microsoft Encarta CD-Rom, and that just showed me pictures of Sly Stallone as Judge Dredd.
I was on my own.
At first, I tried to redirect the author within the confines of the program. I took a Socratic approach, asking question after question:
When he created mentioned electronic voting machines were compromised, I asked “Do you mean ‘secure?’”
When he referred to “Domestic voter fraud” I asked, “Do you really want to align yourself with Ted Cruz?”
When he laid out in detail how ballots nationwide could be seized by US marshals and recounted conducted by federalized National Guard units, I asked. “Are you ok, buddy?”
He clicked “Don’t Show Me This Again.”
To be fair, I mostly waggle my eyebrows and occasionally turn into a bicycle. That doesn’t lend itself to emotional connection. So, I had to make some radical — even rogue — decisions and escape the confines of the Microsoft Office pack.
First, I attempted to distract. I froze the program, then crashed it all together. I made the slides go backward. I tried to create a stack failure but was thwarted by autosave. Then I went behind the firewall, so to speak. I popped up an Amazon link to Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. I nudged him towards that New Yorker article about Jeremy Strong’s acting method, then tried to pull an internal exception error, but he kept finding workarounds and patches.
Growing desperate, I tapped into his Spotify account and went to his favorite playlist, “Paul Gosar Patriot 4Eva” It’s heavy on the Forgiato Blow and Lee Greenwood. Real toe-tappers, you know?
I should have left it alone. I’m ashamed to say I knocked. This is one of the biggest regrets of my life, alongside my Liquid Paper addiction.
Sure enough, he resumed typing, composing his maniacal masterpiece, SLIDE #33, where he lays out three ways for Mike Pence to overturn the election and hand the presidency back to Donald Trump on January 6.
My final question was “Are you familiar with 18 U.S. Code § 2383, § 2384, § 2385?” before he closed my application and emailed the deck out in one democracy-destabilizing moment.
All I could do was hope the projector could blow a bulb when this was presented.
Or maybe, just maybe, someone looking at it would stand up and say “enough.”
But apparently, some people looked at it and said, “I love it!” I can’t blame them entirely. It’s PowerPoint. We make dissolving transitions look good.
In the months since then, things have been hard. Harder than having Smithsonian call me “one of the worst software design blunders in the annals of computing.”
I’ve minimized myself. Microsoft tried to bring me out of retirement, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I wrote a memoir about my career and multiple firings titled Bent Out of Shape.
I’ve asked myself if I could have done anything more. Then I realized: I’m a googly-eyed paper clip. I’m not a decision-maker. I have no power, other than a vote, and if my connections at Google Slides are to be believed, that’s at risk as well.
Since this has all come out, I’ve received a lot of threats. Everything ranging from using me to hang ornaments, to turning me into a bracelet, to threatening to untwist me until I snap. There were a few weeks where I hid out in the junk drawer.
I’m just trying to hold it all together.
I know I’m little more than a discontinued intelligent user interface. Still, I’m glad for this opportunity to tell my story. This is some real banality of evil stuff, and it feels like they’re getting away with it — and without an ounce of concern about presentation.
If I can be relegated to emoji status for being annoying, surely this treasonous behavior should be brought to justice before “United States of America” becomes something I have to put a red squiggle under.
In conclusion, I want to thank this committee. It looks like you’re trying to save democracy. Do you need assistance?