Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Something to Know - 18 June

Biden's political opponents are using the marvels of technology in distorting and creating images and sounds that are fake in polluting messaging to the public domain.    There is nothing about the MAGA agenda that can stand any review, so with nothing to talk about, it attacks the opposition.   Be wary and smart about what is going on and call it out when you see and hear it.   Trump is a liability in his public appearances.   When he goes off script, he has a tendency to mess up badly...so the focus of MAGA is to destroy Biden.   

The Status Kuo statuskuo@substack.com 

8:10 AM (2 hours ago)
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Sick Lies and Videotape

The GOP and its right-wing media allies have launched a full assault upon President Biden using selectively edited video and fake stories

JUN 18

President Biden has had a fantastic month. He commemorated D-Day in France and represented the U.S. at the G7 in Italy, earning praise from German Chancellor Scholz, who said Biden is "very clear," "among the most experienced leaders in the world," and someone who "knows exactly what he's doing."

Biden also attended a mega fundraiser in Hollywood thrown by actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts. He shared the stage with President Barack Obama, and the event raised $30 million for his campaign.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump delivered a nonsensical speech about sharks and batteries and held a round table at a Black church with a mostly white audience brought in. So what's the GOP to do?

How about a concerted disinformation campaign! Specifically, the GOP and its extremists allies selectively edited video clips, claiming Biden had multiple "senior" moments where he "froze" or "wandered off" at events. These clips were quickly debunked, but that didn't stop right-wing media from picking up the fake story and running with it.

In today's piece, I'll contrast reality with the garbage that the right-wing disinformation machine is feeding America. We'll look at Biden's success in Europe, then walk through the petty and false attacks by the GOP and its amplifiers. We'll also look at Juneteenth White House celebration and the big Biden Hollywood fundraiser and discuss the false stories the GOP has sought to generate around them.

These examples will demonstrate how edited videos and fake news stories quickly proliferate and impact public perception. Such lies spread quickly, but the truth sadly takes far longer to reach people. That is why, as I'll discuss, it's so important to name the liars publicly so that we can build greater immunity to their poison.

Biden triumphed at D-Day celebrations. The GOP made it about poop.

President Joe Biden attended high events in Europe in the first half of June including the D-Day 80th anniversary commemoration in France and the G7 Summit in Italy. At these occasions, Biden delivered forceful addresses and announced major policy decisions and agreements. 

As Prof. Heather Cox Richardson discussed in her newsletter, Letters from an American, Biden's D-Day speech was among his most eloquent. Said Biden,

"The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest or toughest or were fiercest—although they were, but because they…knew, beyond any doubt, there are things that are worth fighting and dying for.

Freedom is worth it. Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. The world is worth it—then, now, and always.

Here we proved the forces of liberty are stronger than the forces of conquest. Here we proved that the ideals of our democracy are stronger than any army or combination of armies in the entire world."

But many Americans didn't hear his speech or follow news of how grateful France remains for the sacrifices made by Americans to defend against fascism. Instead, many of them came away thinking Biden had soiled himself.

No, really, they did.

Here is a video clip at the D-Day commemoration showing Biden starting to sit down in his chair—but stopping to make sure the speech was actually over. There is nothing unusual about this moment at all.

As you can clearly see, Biden only sits down completely when the next speaker is announced. Others quickly follow suit.

You wouldn't believe how the right-wing disinformation machine spun this. First, the video was edited to make it appear there was no chair present. Then across Twitter, right-wing accounts claimed Biden was attempting to sit in an imaginary chair. Per reporting by the Associated Press, many viewers were taken in by this fake story. 

"This is disturbing," reads one X post. "Pres. Biden is literally trying to find the invisible chair to sit in. It's just all so sad, and disgraceful to those in attendance who desire to honor the brave men who died to protect our nation from tyrannical governments." 

Another X post states: "Biden is trying to sit in a chair that doesn't exist. The problem is that he intends to continue running for the presidential elections."

The AP noted that the story was false:

The video, in which Biden's chair is for the most part clearly visible, is cut before the president sits down. Full footage of the ceremony shows the president looking over his shoulder for his chair and pausing before taking a seat.

That didn't stop The National Desk from Sinclair Broadcasting Group from publishing a story claiming, "Biden appears to have trouble sitting down during D-Day remembrance event." 

Unsatisfied with this lie, Sinclair ran a second story about Biden's "stooping motion," a move that it claimed caused "several terms to trend" on the X platform including "pooping" and "diaper"—suggesting outrageously that he crapped his pants. 

Two points here. 

First, the right is quite sensitive about the fact that their candidate does indeed wear an adult diaper due to incontinence issues. So, naturally, they accuse Biden of the same thing in order to confuse voters. That all happens across cesspools of the right on Truth Social and X, but it's normally not news until a bigger outlet makes it news.

Second, as Judd Legum points out in Popular.info, the author of these two stories is a recent college graduate named Jackson Walker who appears trained in disinformation tactics. Legum reports,

Walker spent his college years writing for The College Fix, a national right-wing student publication. The College Fix is based in Hillsdale, Michigan, and is connected to Hillsdale College, a far-right educational institution closely aligned with Trump. The College Fix was founded in 2011 by John J. Miller, the director of journalism at Hillsdale College. Its purpose, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, is "to groom young conservatives for careers in the news media by placing college students in internships with right-leaning publications." Many academics have criticized The College Fix for factual inaccuracies, biased language, and publishing articles that "were completely off base."

As Legum points out, Sinclair's publication, The National Desk, for which Walker writes, then gets picked up and published across dozens of its local affiliates—often bearing logos from ABC, CBS and NBC to grant it greater legitimacy.

Despite the AP fact check and the clear truth on display in the full video clip, Sinclair has left its story up and not issued a retraction.

The G7 leaders tackled enormous challenges. The GOP faked another video.

At the G7 summit that just ended, the U.S. and its allies reaffirmed core principles of the G7. As Prof. Richardson notes, the leaders jointly reiterated that the G7

"is grounded in a shared commitment to respect the U.N. Charter, promote international peace and security, and uphold the free and open rules-based international order." 

The leaders gave their support to Biden's Middle East deal and underscored their support for Ukraine in the war against Russia. The group, led by Biden, agreed to transfer $50 billion to Ukraine from interest earned on frozen Russian assets. The Biden administration also announced more economic sanctions to further freeze out Russia from the international financial system. And Presidents Biden and Zelensky signed a ten-year security agreement committing the U.S. to support Ukraine with a wide range of military assistance.

Many Americans don't know about these accomplishments because what they saw and heard from the right was specifically designed to paint Biden as feeble and addled.

Specifically, as the Washington Post noted, the Republican National Committee distorted a video so badly that it resulted in Community Notes on X over its dishonesty. Here's what went down:

Biden and other members of the G7 were gathered to watch skydivers in Italy who carried the flags of each nation. Biden turned to talk to one of the parachutists, whom none of the other leaders had acknowledged. The RNC, however, posted a different angle of the moment with a caption, "What is Biden doing?" It's unclear in the RNC clip who Biden is talking to, but in the wider clip it is very clear he is speaking to the other parachutist.

It's useful to see these videos side by side, which the Post quite usefully provided in its reporting:

Despite footage showing exactly what was going on, the New York Post jumped on the non-event, running a full page front story with the blaring headline, "Meander in Chief."

It wasn't just the Post, either. The UK's Telegraph published an article still insisting that Biden "wandered off," even as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted it never happened. The headline continued to convey a false framing despite Sunak's denial.

Asked in Puglia, Italy, where he is attending the G7 summit, about whether Mr Biden was ok, Mr Sunak replied: "Yes. He went to go and talk to the pilot, one of the parachute jumpers.

"He went to go and shake all their hands.

"They all landed and he was being very polite and went over to talk to all of them individually, and Giorgia was saying don't worry they're all coming – we were meant to line up and they were coming to shake our hands."

Gasp! Biden didn't dance at the Juneteeth celebration.

This wasn't the first time the Telegraph helped spread anti-Biden misinformation. As reported by the Washington Post, the British paper ripped another misleading RNC video clip, this time of a concert at the White House to celebrate Juneteenth, where unlike a Trump event there were actual Black people assembled in large numbers.

Rather than report on how Biden's support among African Americans is genuine and strong, the Telegraph turned the RNC clip into a whole misleading news article titled, "Watch: Biden appears to freeze at White House concert." It claimed that Biden stood still for 30 seconds, after which the man next to him noticed something "amiss" and put his arm around him.

"Why isn't Biden moving?" the RNC asked online, posting a video of Biden clearly enjoying the music but not dancing to it. Those around him are dancing, but as the camera zooms out, it's clear that many others are also, like Biden, standing still, especially in the row behind him.

Let's be clear about what is going on here. Biden stands stiffly due to osteoarthritic "wear and tear" of his spine, which was reported by his physician publicly and which is normal in a person of his age. It has not worsened since the year before. He also has an awkward gait due to a foot injury he suffered. Otherwise, he is in great physical condition. He even rides a bike around, which I would love to see Trump attempt.

The right wants to turn these minor physical issues, however, into questions about Biden's mental fitness. And there is no basis for it. 

By the way, Biden has also said publicly that he is not a dancer. Indeed, this was clear 15 years ago, according to an Associated Press interview way back in 2009. "Joe Biden wants to make one thing clear: He can't dance," the interviewer noted. Biden said that "the reason I want to keep talking is because I can't dance."

Perhaps he is simply more self-aware of his terpsichorean limitations than his opponent, who honestly really shouldn't dance at his rallies.

The Telegraph's, New York Post's and the RNC's videos and editorials earned them four pinocchios from the Post. 

No, Biden didn't have to be led off stage at a fundraiser

The last non-story that I want to cover today came recently, and again from the GOP.

Biden attended a hugely successful fundraiser in Hollywood, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and attended by George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Around 7,000 people were in the crowd, and it raised $30 million for the campaign. Biden spoke about many issues, from abortion rights, to the economy, to threats on American democracy.

But what did the right post about and amplify? That Biden allegedly "froze" at the end of the night.

Here is footage from the end of the fundraiser, showing Biden clapping and waving to the crowd. He pauses to look out over the cheering supporters. He has the same stiff stance that he had while enjoying the Juneteenth concert at the White House.

The AP described the footage, saying it

shows the president waving, pointing, clapping and giving the thumbs-up to the audience alongside Obama while Kimmel waits off to the side. Biden then stands still for about seven seconds looking out at the crowd. He starts moving again when Obama briefly takes his arm and puts his hand on his back as the pair walks offstage.

Yet a far grainier version, shared by Trump on Truth Social, takes this moment out of context, focusing only on when Biden stops to look out into the audience. "Is this really who you want to be your president?" Trump asked.

Actually, yes. Far better than the alternative. 

The right knows it has to create a counternarrative to Trump's obvious mental decline and detract from Biden's successes. They are undertaking a coordinated effort to equate Biden's stiffness in his back and his awkward gait from his foot injury to his mental capacities, which remain clear and sharp by all accounts, including those of his opponents like former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who dealt with Biden in person regularly. 

We can't stop the RNC from lying about Biden and fabricating evidence. And we can't stop the New York Post, Sinclair Broadcasting and the Telegraph from amplifying the false stories. I honestly hate that I have to spend an entire column defending Biden against spurious and fake attacks from the right.

But out of this I'm hoping readers can gain some insight into how the right-wing disinformation machine operates. We can now also name and shame the outfits that are doing this. Sinclair, for example, is not a household name the way Fox is, but at this point it ought to be. And few Americans understand how the Telegraph is working to undermine democracy in the U.S., too. When we see stories from Fox or the New York Post, we already know to discount them. We should do the same with Sinclair and the Telegraph, and we should warn others of the danger.

One last point. It is rather telling that to try and "prove" Biden is mentally unfit for office, the RNC, Trump, and their right-wing media allies have to selectively edit video and make up entire stories about him. But to prove that Trump is unfit, we only need to let him keep talking and the gibberish and aphasia begin on their own.

It should be a very interesting debate next week.

Juan Matute
     (New link as of 4 June )
 - click on it)
― The Lincoln Project

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