- 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.
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”