Good evening, happy debate day: In the approximately 24 hours before President Donald Trump and Joe Biden take the stage, a rather pedestrian conspiracy theory historically lodged at politicians from George W. Bush to Al Gore has been flourishing on the Right, much to the delight of the Republican candidate’s campaign. The idea is basically that Joe Biden will be guided through the debate by an earpiece through which shadowy actors will be giving him answers and cues—a ham-fisted though seductive metaphor if you’re the kind of person, say, who believes the Democratic party is a front for a human trafficking ring and/or the blood-swilling Deep State.
Ben Collins of NBC News tweeted earlier that this permutation of the theory originated in a single anonymous source speaking to a New York Post reporter. By this morning, Fox commentators were reporting that Biden’s team had backpedaled on an allegedly prearranged agreement that would have had both candidate’s ears inspected by a third party for remote broadcasting technology, an agreement Biden’s team has since called “absurd” and which seems likely to have been planted by the Trump campaign itself.
Within hours of the segment the anonymous “Q” of QAnon had posted about Biden’s supposed earpiece, various QAnon influencers were tweeting about hacking the devices, and the Trump campaign itself sent out a “breaking news” push notification that “Joe Biden REFUSES to take a drug test and DECLINES to undergo inspection for electronic ear pieces before debate.”
As Collins notes, the conspiracy theory is “absolutely everywhere” on Facebook, foreshadowing an even more rousing round of disinformation during and after tonight’s event:
Guardian reporter Oliver Laughland spent some time in Florida trying to make sense of the paranoia and zealotry of the Sunshine State. You should read the article in full, but here’s how Laughland describes Conservative Grounds, a strip club-turned-Instagrammable coffee house opened by Cliff Gephart, a local activist who describes himself on Twitter as a persecuted “conservative nationalist”:
Every section inside this place is designed for social media posting – there’s a second amendment wall filled with decommissioned firearms, a gumball machine stocked with spent ammunition (it doesn’t vend), and a coffee machine decorated with slurs against Democrats. At the back is a scaled reproduction of the Oval Office itself, complete with a replica Resolute Desk, cardboard cutouts of the President and first lady, and a Martin Luther King bust, wearing a red Trump 2020 cap.
I ask Gephart, a heavily built, stubbled 50-year-old, whether he thinks people might be offended by the latter. (Martin Luther King’s children are staunch critics of the president, and Trump declined to celebrate the life of civil rights icon John Lewis after his death in July.)
“Everything offends everybody these days,” he says.
Anyway, here’s Elizabeth Warren, steadfast in her resolution to always have an actionable if increasingly ineffective plan:
- The New York Times interviewed women who were given nonconsensual hysterectomies in ICE detention. [New York Times]
- An absolutely predictable word cloud analysis. [The Guardian]
- A hospitalized Brad Parscale is reportedly under investigation for stealing over $40 million from Trump and his allies. [Daily Mail]
- Biden paid 38400% more in federal income tax than Trump. [AP]
- Rudy Giuliani has some thoughts on the differences between men and women, not that anyone asked. [Politico]
- At least the citizenry of the dying empire is pragmatic. [Politico]
- New Yorkers are getting absentee ballots with the wrong return addresses. [Washington Post]
- This time the GOP is really getting into feminism. [Politico]
- Of the 1 million coronavirus-related deaths worldwide, one in five are American. [Washington Post]