Conspiracy theorists don’t care about Biden’s debate performance

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Over the past 18 months, Elon Musk’s X has become a hub for misinformation, 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 flood of misinformation and conspiracy theories that hit the platform never materialized.

Instead of sharing conspiracy theories about the debate, Trump posted several unedited clips of Biden’s answers on his platform Truth Social.

“Wow—what is he saying?!” read one post, which also featured a clip of Biden making nonsensical comments about Medicare.

Another montage video of Biden’s worst debate moments shared by Trump on Truth Social was later widely shared on other platforms, including X, Facebook, and Telegram, garnering millions of views.

Viewed as a crucial opportunity to reassure his supporters of his eligibility to serve a second term as president, Biden’s appearance at the debate was widely criticized by lawmakers, political pundits, and viewers across the political spectrum for lacking energy and coherence. Biden’s campaign team tried to explain away the president’s performance by saying he had a cold, and even Vice President Kamala Harris said Biden had a “slow start.” And although Trump pushed conspiracies and misinformation during the debate on issues such as immigration and abortion on January 6, most of which went unchallenged, Biden’s ability to hold his own became the most talked-about detail of the evening.

On X, pro-Trump accounts that are usually happy to share even the most absurd conspiracies about Biden were instead happily sharing unedited clips of Biden from the debate stage.

Many Trump supporters also criticized media outlets for so-called cheap fake coverage ahead of the debate, referring to video clips shared online that were deceptively edited to make Biden appear old, frail, and senile.

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

Along with sharing clips from the debate, Trump supporters online were also widely sharing clips from left-wing media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC, where pundits described “panic” among Democrats following Biden’s performance.

Even on other corners of the internet, including pro-Trump message boards and QAnon channels on Telegram, the majority of posts being shared were of Biden’s reactions juxtaposed with Trump’s facial expressions.

“The online community has boiled down the entire debate to a few moments where Biden appears to mumble awkwardly, lose his sense of direction or stare at Trump in split-screen shots,” Tauhid Zaman, a professor at the Yale School of Management, told WIRED. “Surprisingly, there are no viral clips that are in favor of Biden. Instead, Democratic social media users are criticizing Biden’s debate performance and discussing potential replacements.”

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