The New York Times has declared humor to be a form of “Russian-style disinformation,” describing a set of parody websites mocking Democratic Party candidates for president as akin to foreign interference in the 2020 election.
The parody websites, which make fun of former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), were created and are run independently by political consultant Patrick Mauldin, who also works for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign “videos and other digital content,” according to the Times.
The Biden parody site, which is the most successful, is quite obviously a parody. Visitors to JoeBiden.info are greeted with (real) images of the former vice president groping women at public events. Yet the Times likens the jokes to the kind of ads allegedly placed on the Internet during the 2016 campaign by Russian operatives, with dubious results.
The Times calls the parody sites a “disinformation campaign” and compares them to Russian interference:
Yet in anonymously trying to exploit the fissures within the Democratic ranks — fissures that ran through this past week’s debates — Mr. Mauldin’s website hews far closer to the disinformation spread by Russian trolls in 2016 than typical political messaging. With nothing to indicate its creator’s motives or employer, the website offers a preview of what election experts and national security officials say Americans can expect to be bombarded with for the next year and a half: anonymous and hard-to-trace digital messaging spread by sophisticated political operatives whose aim is to sow discord through deceit. Trolling, that is, as a political strategy.
Notably, the Times has showered praise on parody targeting Republicans. In 2008, for example, it loved Tina Fey’s portrayal of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, even though many people were fooled into thinking Fey’s comedic lines (“I can see Russia from my house!”) were actually uttered by the former Alaska governor.
The sites include disclaimers, such as: “This site is political commentary and parody of Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign website. This is not Joe Biden’s actual website. It is intended for entertainment and political commentary only and is therefore protected under fair use. It is not paid for by any candidate, committee, organization, or PAC. It is a project BY AN American citizen FOR American citizens. Self-Funded.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.