Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign

Interfering, corrupting and altering the views of electors is apparently frowned upon. But it all depends on who that manipulating source is. The Russians might be condemned for being meddlers of minds in the US electorate, but an American billionaire who hires battalions of influencing agents to get his word across on social media platforms is not much better. At least the Russian representatives were decent enough to light fires on both sides of the political divide, providing an odd equilibrium of chaos.

Bloomberg’s booklet of electoral wooing is merely a softened, couched version of what has come before. To win over the electorate, you need an army of hidden persuaders, the men and women who claim to know, telling the voter how to vote for a supposedly delightful candidate who is, truth be told, a sham. This is ad-man territory and puts the former New York Mayor on terrain that abuts that of President Donald Trump.

The cash-for-allegiance system is being facilitated through the very social media organs so disliked by Democrats. They, after all, were excoriated for muddying Hillary Clinton’s image in 2016, doing that most terrible thing of disseminating leaked material, good and bad, about her. Now, the Bloomberg campaign, keeping it digitally real, has linked arms with Meme 2020. The mission is simple if implausible: vesting Bloomberg with various attributes he does not have. According to Sabrina Singh, spokesperson for Bloomberg, “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”

This polish-the-turd effort has the stifling smell of acute desperation. Its armchair electioneering of the most profligate kind (a million dollars a day spent on Facebook ads alone), putting faith in online presences and seducers to do what candidates who fail turning up to primaries and caucuses supposedly cannot. As it turns out, Bloomberg’s approach has furnished Senator Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg with the gift of credibility. They, at the very least, bothered. However ceremonially hollow such initial rounds are, placing the candidate before the halls, the tea rooms, the homes, counts as turning up. Bloomberg is already assuming that physical absenteeism can be overcome by digital loudness.

The lead strategist of the campaign group, Mick Purzycki, chief executive of Jerry Media, is tasked with the improbable. Given that Trump’s electability was deemed impossible, the issue is by no means an irreconcilable handicap, but the fence is still a high one. The thing guaranteed in this fairly low brow affair is bad taste and profound disingenuousness. The Instragram posts, for instance, promote Bloomberg as the awkward but “cool candidate”. He dresses accordingly, if unconvincingly. He is, as the @KateSalad meme account run by Samir Mezrahi spouts, “like kale salad: tough and tasteless but ultimately good for you.”

The marketers involved with posting memes for Bloomberg are thrilled with the exposure. In the broader world of advertising, all publicity is good. The same cannot be said for the political world. Shirin Ghaffary makes the point in Vox, questioning the effectiveness of the campaign. The risk here for both Bloomberg and the influencers lies in “promoting a candidate who’s viewed by many of their followers as an out-of-touch billionaire trying to buy his way into an election.”

Not all the cabal of influencers are singing from the same hymn book. They do the same dirty deeds, blot the same copybooks but even on that shallow terrain, Bloomberg will spark disagreement. Josh Ostrovsky, known in his line of work as The Fat Jew, is one. “They asked me to do it, I said no,” he vented on Instagram. “I grew up in New York City so I can tell you firsthand, Bloomberg is a colossal shitbag.” It takes one to know one, and Ostrovsky, a serial joke thief, is a paragon of vice in the field. Paid Instagram influencers such as Tank.Sinatra are also finding their posts choked with withering remarks about their unglamorous subject.

The campaign has raised a bigger question as to what role such “branded content” has. Instragram’s owner is Facebook, an organisation constantly accused of sporting accounts that might be used to disseminate unsavoury political content. Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg has not helped matters with his statements on the subject. “We do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules.” He suggests two exceptions: “where speech endangers people and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric.”

Bloomberg has, on this point, scored a victory of sorts. As a Facebook representative explained to the New York Post, “We’re allowing US-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorized and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools.” This leads to a specious difference. “Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms.”

In all this, a solid argument might well be made that Bloomberg is demonstrating precisely why Trump, toxic leader of the realm, is entitled to remain in the White House. The US electors already have their cashed-up megalomaniacal fraud; why go for another?

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at SelwynCollege, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog