Team Biden’s Double Quarter Pounder ‘Misinformation’ Campaign
Rob Flaherty and the White House misinformation team want you to believe the Biden economy is doing quite well.
On Sept. 20, Politico published an article headlined, “Biden campaign set to counterpunch on misinformation.” The story reported that President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign is “overhauling” its strategy to fight “misinformation” on social media. The new effort includes “recruiting hundreds of staffers and volunteers to monitor platforms.” To supervise the work, the campaign hired a former Biden White House staffer named Rob Flaherty, who was described as a “bulldog” and a “controversial figure” whose “combative emails to social media firms have become part of a Republican-led federal court case and a congressional investigation.”
That’s important. The federal court case is Missouri v. Biden, a landmark COVID-era case involving government censorship of social media. Discovery in the case brought revelations that the Biden White House and other Biden administration officials, working with outside activist groups, “held biweekly meetings with tech companies over how to curb the spread of misinformation during the pandemic,” with Flaherty “in constant contact with social media executives,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The White House claimed it was just “flagging problematic posts … that spread disinformation.” But the Journal continued: “Officials weren’t merely flagging false statements. They were bullying companies to censor anything contradicting government guidance.” Flaherty demanded that social media companies ban alleged offenders from big platforms like Facebook. After the companies’ initial hesitance, Flaherty and his administration colleagues got their way. “All 12 people dubbed the ‘Disinformation Dozen’ by the Center for Countering Digital Hate were censored, and pages, groups, and accounts linked to them were removed,” the Journal said.
An important fact to remember is that Flaherty and his colleagues weren’t just targeting misinformation. Many of the postings they sought to ban were “scientifically debatable,” in the Journal’s words. What Flaherty and the Biden team really wanted to do was ban speech that was contrary to or inconvenient for Biden administration policy.
And now Flaherty has a new role at the Biden 2024 campaign. He moves into the job as his former colleagues at the White House have turned to a new topic: alleged misinformation about inflation. They believe it is rampant — the misinformation, that is — and they want to stamp it out.
You might think you are paying crazy high prices at the grocery store, at restaurants and at the gas pump. You might also think you can’t afford to buy a house because of rising prices and high mortgage interest rates. You might think it’s also expensive not to buy a house, with rents going up and up. And you might have spent a lot, if not all, of your savings and have higher credit card balances than you used to.
From your personal experience, you might conclude that the economy is not doing well. What Flaherty at the Biden campaign and the misinformation team at the White House want you to believe is that the economy, the Biden economy, is actually doing quite well. You’ve got it wrong.
One of the first vehicles for this campaign is, of all things, a McDonald’s Smoky BLT Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. This is what happened: In December of last year, a man ordered the sandwich, which was available only for a limited time, along with large fries and a large Sprite, at a McDonald’s in Post Falls, Idaho. The cost was $15.19, which, along with 91 cents tax, made a final bill of $16.10. The man, Topher Olive, was unhappy and made a TikTok video to complain. “So I get there’s a labor shortage,” Olive said on the brief video. “I get there’s wage increases and a number of other things. But $16? $16 for a burger, a large fry and a drink? It’s just crazy.”
The video went viral. It became the source of stories in some conservative media outlets. “These stories soon reached the White House office of Digital Strategy, which tracked the meme as one of many exaggerated examples of the nation’s economic woes,” wrote the controversial and oft-corrected Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz. “In reality, inflation has been steadily subsiding.” (Actually, in reality, it is more accurate to say that inflation “steadily subsiding” means that prices are still rising but at a slower rate than earlier.)
The White House and Biden campaign want to push back against complaints like Olive’s. It’s important to note that the White House did not accuse Olive of misrepresenting the price of his meal. Olive included the receipt in the video, and he really did pay $16.10 for his Smoky BLT Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, plus fries and drink. But the Biden team worried about other Americans learning about the high-priced dinner — as if Americans somehow didn’t already know things are terribly expensive. Now, Lorenz reports, the Biden White House is “working with social media platforms to counter misinformation.”
Does that sound familiar? It’s precisely how the White House described the work of Flaherty and his colleagues that resulted in Missouri v. Biden. During that time, as Politico reported, evidence showed that Flaherty “harangued employees at Facebook and YouTube when he was at the White House, insisting the companies do more to combat rhetoric against the COVID-19 vaccine. His aggressively worded messages have made him the target of conservative allegations that the White House and other Biden officials wrongly pressured private companies to take down internet speech.”
And remember, behavior like that came after the Biden 2020 campaign’s successful effort, again working with social media companies, to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story. Pressuring social media companies is something the group around the president has done very effectively. So now, Team Biden is taking on “misinformation” about inflation. But here’s a problem for the White House: Americans have experienced Biden-era inflation in their own lives. They know what it has done to their finances. They don’t feel positively about an economy that has made it difficult for them just to get by. And no Biden effort to suppress discussion or attack “misinformation” will change what those Americans already know to be true.
This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/team-bidens-great-double-quarter-pounder-misinformation-campaign.