Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t Even Bothering With Biden’s Debate Performance


Over the past 18 months, Elon Musk’s X has become a hive of disinformation, particularly around breaking news events, such as the Gaza conflict and the Baltimore bridge collapse. But after Thursday’s presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump, the expected torrent of disinformation and conspiracies flooding the platform never materialized.

Instead of sharing conspiracies about the debate, Trump just posted multiple undoctored clips of Biden’s responses to his platform Truth Social.

“WOW—WHAT IS HE SAYING?!” one post read, featuring a clip of Biden making a nonsensical comment about Medicare.

Another montage video of Biden’s worst debate moments shared by Trump on Truth Social has subsequently been shared widely on other platforms including X, Facebook, and Telegram, racking up millions of views.

In what was seen as a critical opportunity to reassure his supporters of his fitness to serve a second term as president, Biden’s debate appearance was widely criticized by lawmakers, political pundits, and viewers from across the political spectrum for lacking energy and coherence. Biden’s campaign team tried to explain away the president’s performance by claiming he had a cold, and even Vice President Kamala Harris said that Biden had a “slow start.” And though Trump pushed conspiracies and disinformation during the debate about issues like immigration, abortion, and January 6—most of which went unchallenged—Biden’s ability became the most discussed detail of the evening.

On X, pro-Trump accounts who are typically happy to share even the wildest conspiracies about Biden were instead gleefully sharing unedited clips of Biden from the debate stage.

Many Trump supporters also slammed media outlets for their coverage of so-called cheap fakes in the lead-up to the debate, referring to video clips shared online that have been deceptively edited to make Biden look old, fragile, and senile.

“Hey @PressSec was the entire debate tonight a ‘cheap fake’ video? Need your analysis. Thanks,” right-wing radio host Clay Travis posted on X after the debate. “Is the Biden team going to claim this entire debate is a cheap fake?” political commentator Krystal Ball added.

In addition to sharing clips from the debate, Trump supporters online were also widely sharing clips from left-leaning media outlets like CNN and MSNBC, where pundits described “panic” among the Democrats they were speaking to following Biden’s performance.

Even on more fringe corners of the internet, including pro-Trump message boards and QAnon channels on Telegram, the majority of the posts being shared were of Biden’s responses, juxtaposed alongside Trump’s grimaces.

“The online community has condensed the entire debate into a few moments where Biden appears to mumble awkwardly, lose his train of thought, or stare blankly at Trump in split-screen shots,” Tauhid Zaman, a professor at Yale School of Management, tells WIRED. “What’s surprising is the absence of any viral clips favoring Biden. Instead, Democratic social media users are criticizing Biden’s debate performance and discussing potential replacements.”



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