During the 2016 election, Russian trolls targeted a lot of misinformation at black voters. A common theme was that because Hillary Clinton said "super predators" once, she was just as racist -- if not more! -- than Donald Trump, who'd been Donald Trump his whole life. Russia and the Trump campaign had an eerily aligned goal -- suppress turnout among black voters. Trump and Republicans in general don't need black people to vote for them. They're fine if we don't vote at all, either because our closest polling place is on Mars (thanks, Chief Justice Roberts!) or we think Hillary was a Goldwater Girl klansman with a Confederate flag in her hippie dorm room.

The usual suspects are pulling the same scam with Joe Biden. Uncle Joe has his problems. We've written about them and will continue doing so during his likely presidency. However, whatever racial or gender blindspots he might have doesn't make him Donald Trump, who's what appears in the Oval Office if you say "racist!" three times in a mirror. Early this week, the Twitter account "@mooncult" posted some clips from a Biden speech that were deceptively edited to make him look terrible. Here's the one that made the most rounds on the Twitter-mobile.

This was solid propaganda or an effective sleazy campaign ad because the out-of-context quote is similar to what old white men say all the time on Fox News, either in the form of Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham. White supremacist Steve King once declared on live TV that western civilization and thus white Christians had contributed more to the world than any pyramid-building savages.

But that's only part of what Biden said. Trump is usually racist in convenient sound bites that don't improve with extended bigot remixes, but we should always take a step back and consider if one 20 second clip fully represents what a normal politician intended.

Biden literally said the culture of violence against women, as we see in the United States, has European roots: "It's an English jurisprudential culture, a white man's culture. It's got to change." We can forgive even savvy Twitter users such as Kevin Kruse for jumping the gun on the shortened clip, but the person who posted it originally had to have seen the fuller context of Biden's remarks. Mr. @Mooncult was playing a very deliberate and scuzzy game. It's one Karl Rove popularized. You attack a political opponent's perceived strengths, not their weaknesses. Biden has a strong relationship with black voters, and unlike the pussy grabber in chief, Biden wants to stop violence against women not perpetuate or enable it. We can expect to see those strengths viciously and hypocritically attacked Swift Boat-style this year.

The Twitter age is a challenge for Biden. He can meander when he speaks. He often abandons his original point and explores other ones before returning to it. He's a free jazz political speaker, and that's dangerous in 2020. They used to say a lie can travel "halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on." Now, a half-truth spreads like wildfire and the truth is the water that arrives far too late to repair the damage.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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