If you needed any more evidence of the corroding devastation social media is having on politics in the US – and elsewhere – look no further than the Sunday New York Times.
This reported a post from Donald Trump Junior, one of the president’s most vociferous supporters, who posted a social media message implying former Vice President Joseph Biden, now the Democrats’ presidential candidate, was a paedophile.
The Times calls this
“ … an incendiary and baseless charge that illustrates, the tactics the president is turning to as he attempts to erase Mr Biden’s early advantage in key state polls”.
Trump Junior had used Instagram to post a picture of Biden saying,
“See you later, alligator.”
Alongside this was an image of an alligator saying:
“In a while, paedophile.”
When a reporter shared the Instagram post online, the younger Trump, echoing one of his father’s tactics, wrote on Twitter that he was only “joking around” and noted that he had included emojis of a laughing face.
Yet in the same Twitter post, he reprised his original insinuation. He accused the former vice president of “unwanted touching” alongside a collage of photographs of Biden showing affection for children.
The Times says the misleading images were mostly taken from public swearing-in ceremonies at the Capitol, where the former vice president warmly greeted lawmakers and their families.
Biden has been accused of inappropriate behaviour, sure enough, but he has never faced any suggestion of misconduct with a child.
President Trump himself faces roughly two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct, and in the “Access Hollywood” tape from 2005 bragged about sexually assaulting women and grabbing them inappropriately.
Trump Junior’s claim, which he shared with his 2.8 million Instagram followers, comes as his father and the re-election campaign are trying to weaken Biden and attack other perceived enemies with an “onslaught of allegations and insinuations rarely seen in modern elections,” says the Times.
The 73-year-old president has purchased a series of Facebook ads, for example, openly accusing his 77-year-old Democratic rival of being “old and out of it,” as one of the adverts puts it. And the president himself has said much the same, stating on Thursday that Biden “doesn’t know he’s alive.”