- The Michael Bloomberg campaign has partnered with Meme 2020 to promote his presidential campaign on popular meme accounts like fuckjerry and kalesalad.
- While the campaign and some of the accounts involved think this is an effective form of messaging, some have criticized the accounts and Bloomberg for using this strategy. Meme account thefatjewish said he rejected Bloomberg’s offer to post a meme for the campaign.
- While these accounts are being paid to post about Bloomberg, critics have pointed to people like Ethan Klein and Joe Rogan, who have made endorsements based on their own political beliefs.
- Since buying meme posts is something of a new political strategy, it is unclear if this can move the needle the same way a formal endorsement does.
Bloomberg Promotes Campaign Via Meme Accounts
Michael Bloomberg’s campaign is partnering with high-profile meme accounts to promote his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
According to a New York Times report, Bloomberg is working with Meme 2020, a company that works with over a dozen meme accounts, totaling over 60 million followers. Posts went up on several accounts on Wednesday. The lead strategist of Meme 2020, Mick Purzycki, is the chief executive of Jerry Media, a social media company that has faced controversies for stealing content and promoting the infamous Fyre Festival.
Jerry Media runs a popular Instagram account called fuckjerry, which boasts 14.9 million followers. That account posted a Bloomberg meme structured like a direct message from Bloomberg to fuckjerry.
“Hello Jerry. My granddaughter showed me this account,” the fake message from Bloomberg reads. “Your memes are very humorous. Can you post a meme that lets everyone know I’m the cool candidate.”
“What did you have in mind?” fuckjerry responded.
Bloomberg then sends a picture captioned “when you’re the cool candidate” that shows him wearing an objectively uncool outfit. Fuckjerry agrees to post it for the modest price of one billion dollars, and Bloomberg asks for his Venmo.
Memes have also been posted to other popular accounts, including tank.sinatra, which has 2.3 million followers; grapejuiceboys, which has 2.7 million followers; and kalesalad, which has 3.5 million followers. The memes there also follow the Bloomberg-just-slid-into-my-DMs format. Each post is explicitly captioned to say the post was paid for or sponsored by Bloomberg’s campaign.
All of them contain the same thematic sense of self-awareness and irony: Bloomberg is old, rich, and out of touch and wants to be cool with the kids. In one post, Bloomberg botches the Bernie Sanders “I am Once Again Asking” meme format, but still hopes tank.sinatra can use it to make him look cool. In another, he sends kalesalad a joke about kale salads. The account tells him it’s not very funny but is swayed by Bloomberg’s billion-dollar offer and ultimately agrees to share it.
This is not the first time Bloomberg’s campaign has dabbled in meme or social media culture. In early February, the Team Bloomberg account tweeted a video calling Trump a “liar liar pants on fire” while the gingerbread man from Shrek danced around him.
During a January Democratic debate that Bloomberg did not attend, the account also live-tweeted a series of jokes.
The latest sweep of sponsored meme posts has been met with mixed reactions online. While some comments on the Instagram posts express praise and support, there is also a lot of criticism.
On the fuckjerry post, users have said things like “this sucks” or “unfollow.” Model and actress Emily Ratajkowski commented, “this is not a good look for you.”
Thefatjewish, who has 11 million followers on his meme account, commented on tank.sinatra’s post saying he was also offered an offer to do this but actually turned it down. He said that growing up in New York City himself, he disagreed with Bloomberg’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy and anti-marijuana stance.
“I’d encourage any meme account owner to take schmoney from basically any brand…because brands are trash and deserve to have their money taken,” thefatjewish wrote. “But this dystopian black mirror simulation is too much for me i now need to be shot into the fucking sun k bye.”
Bloomberg’s memes started a large conversation on Twitter, too. Many criticized both Bloomberg for buying space for memes and the meme accounts for taking his money.
Others, however, found it creative and called it a “brilliant instagram ad strategy.”
Support from Accounts and Campaign
According to those involved in this meme campaign, it could be an effective strategy. George Resch, who founded tank.sinatra, told the New York Times that this was a successful ad for him.
“It’s the most successful ad that I’ve ever posted, and I think a lot of it came from people being confused whether or not it was real,” he said.
Sabrina Singh, a spokesperson for Bloomberg explained the campaign’s thinking to the Times.
“While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s boisterous social media presence seems to be a major reason Bloomberg is working the meme angle. An aide for his campaign said they want to change the Democratic Party’s approach to the Internet.
“The way Trump’s campaign is run is extremely social first,” the aide said to the Times. “We’re trying to break the mold in how the Democratic Party works with marketing, communication and advertising, and do it in a way that’s extremely internet and social native.“
The Impact of Endorsements
These sponsored posts have also sparked a larger conversation about social media and political endorsements. As the Times noted, other big Internet names have gotten vocal about the 2020 election. Both YouTuber Ethan Klien and podcaster Joe Rogan endorsed Bernie Sanders, and endorsements from these kinds of individuals can prove to have a large impact.
Vice wrote a piece saying that Rogan’s endorsement is “one of the most influential in America.”
“Rogan’s endorsement matters doesn’t depend on whether Rogan himself is GOOD or BAD, it’s whether his endorsement moves the needle,” the piece reads. “And given how much discussion there is about his endorsement and what we know about Rogan’s overall influence, it almost certainly does.”
There is, however, a key difference between Rogan’s and Klein’s endorsements and paid social media campaigns for Bloomberg. While those two spoke out because they believe in Sanders as a candidate, fuckjerry and others posted on their accounts because they had a financial incentive to do so.
Because meme accounts supporting candidates is somewhat uncharted territory, it is unclear what the impact here could be. What we do know is that when celebrities speak out based on their core beliefs, it actually can make a huge difference.
During the 2018 primaries pop star Taylor Swift endorsed Tennessee Democrats and encouraged her followers to register to vote, leading to a massive spike in voter registration. Vote.org saw 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period. For comparison that’s more than the amount of people who registered throughout the whole month of August that year.
Singer Ariana Grande has also been vocal about politics. She has given an endorsement to Bernie Sanders and encouraged her fans to vote. In December, she broke the record for the number of voters registered during a tour.
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.