Fake Joe Biden site: oppo research masquerading as parody

US presidential candidate Joe Biden is having his online identity hijacked by an alleged spoof website, JoeBiden.info. While it’s described by CNBC as a “parody” website, the site reads less like an Onion article and a lot more like opposition research.

Lots of embarrassing images of former US vice president Biden, mixed with articles that highlight positions problematic to liberals and minorities and women.

(A little tech information on the site. The site has 2,048 page links to it and 238 domains linked to it, according to Nibbler.)

Of course, a Redditor claims he created it. Of course, the Redditor is anonymous. And of course, he most closely relates to the term “libertarian,” according to CNBC.

Recall that in the run-up to the 2016 election, trolls on Reddit (even non-American ones) rallied to Trump’s cause through the community built there. I’ve been told by one allegedly in Europe that he got active in 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy.

Clearly Redditors are sending this fake Joe Biden site traffic. But how hard would it be to boost the website’s search ranking by other means? Couldn’t pranksters hype the site to clicking on it? Could a more coordinated backlinking campaign do the same?

If so, at this early stage in the 2020 election, one candidate is already being hit by manipulation. The individual images and news items are true. But a website of only negative history on Biden is not parody. It’s a website designed to trash a reputation.

As tempting as it may be for other Democrats to look the other way, they should all be calling this anonymously run account out. The information environment they find themselves in departs of the rules of the past. To be clear: no candidate should have to endure this sort of manipulation because it undermines the integrity of entire process.

There is one other thing: JoeBiden.info sells merchandise, a T-shirt, that doesn’t particularly look like a parody. Amazon should not be profiting from an anonymously run website carrying opposition research.

An American message – made in China: Biden and media freedom


Is it just me or is Biden growing more confrontational in his approach to China?

The word from China was that there would be no budging on the air defense identification zone after five and a half hours of talks between Biden and Xi, which ran overtime. Although early reports also suggest there has been some face-saving de-escalation on both sides, too. Frankly, China can make a case for maintaining its ABIZ, as the US and other nation’s do.

What seems to bother the world about the ABIZ is:

1) China’s decision to include the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands firmly in the map.
2) Moreso, the abruptness of the announcement. And here, China is either disingenuous to claim they had no idea other countries would care. It’s just as likely this is an example of China more or less addicted to surprise as a tactic.

Nonetheless, the zone likely took up considerable amounts of Biden’s time with Xi. And with the roll-out of the ABIZ and the inflexible attitude from Beijing has sent shudders through the region and beyond, arousing memories of past countries who asserted their will on their neighbors and looked for acommodation in response. Possibly the growing recognition from Biden that China, for all its talk of “peaceful rise” is a one-way train on issues like this, has begun to look for other levers to pull.

I can’t imagine the PRC being pleased by Biden’s decision to meet with US journalists who are about to get their work visas cancelled for unfavorable coverage of the government and Communist Party. Never a good look. But don’t expect CCTV and Xinhua to show pictures of Biden meeting with American journalists excluded from China. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful message, made in China, for external consumption.

And it’s another dividing line between China and US. It’s a barrier in an era of open borders.

If the outside would can’t prevail in getting China to abandon its policy of diplomacy by surprise and slow erosion of Japan’s place in the East China Sea, the US has little incentive to keep quiet about media freedom.

Rather, the US has more incentive to talk up the fundamental disagreement on media freedom in China. In fact, media freedom increasingly acts an issue with very little downside to the US, even as political masters in China (and Russia for that matter) cringe at its mention.

Based on the images of Biden, you could be forgiven for concluding the trip was a success, and a fun one at that.

But in this way, Biden is the classic American politician armed with an inscrutable smile – a grin not unlike Obama’s in St Petersburg days after cancelling the US-Russia summit amid the Snowden affair.

In the case of Biden, going mano-a-mano with Xi over the air defense while smiling broadly for all the cameras gives a hint of what kind of happy warrior he would likely be as president. Biden recognizes that China is a trade issue, a security issue, a civil society issue. It won’t be going away anytime soon, certainly not before the 2016 presidential campaign. So for now, he can only grin hard for the cameras and grapple with it.


American and Chinese influence in South America

This article teases out some of the finer points of US-China economic competition in South America, a place that hasn’t seen this kind of geopolitical jockeying since the Old Cold War. In those days, the US and Soviet Union vied for influence across the continents.

Back then ideology and geography were everything. And communist parties with links to the Soviet Union were systematically weakened by the US, either diplomatically or through other means. So it will be interesting how competition in South America between the US and China plays out this time around.

The Bloomberg article notes, of course, that both the US and China aren’t actively competing.

Both the U.S. and China deny they’re competing with one another. The two countries “can play to their respective advantages” and contribute to the region’s development, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said May 21 in Beijing.

While China’s demand for resources will surely keep many South Americans working, it shouldn’t be underestimated how much China needs those resources. The US, while in need of some new infrastructure and manufacturing, of course, has a less industrial economy. The Chinese, and the Japanese and South Koreans for that matter, all engage in resource diplomacy, the pursuit of natural resources partially as a political goal. The reason for this is that China needs many more resources than it is naturally endowed with to keep its economy ticking over. Japan and South Korea have few natural resources. It’s worth thinking about this for a moment, too. As the maritime nature of US-China competition becomes clear, many of the resources the Chinese need will be nearer the US. But that is only if the importance of the physical world reasserted itself, in say, an actual war. For now, across this web of resource deals that the advanced Asian economies are pursuing is another web of trade agreements. The most important one is between the US and Asia is the oft-scorned Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Chinese have proposed their own version, too. But what’s interesting is how instead of the fixed geographical borders and delineations that marked the Cold War, there will increasingly be overlapping bands of affiliation, with some countries consistent partners of the US and some of China, but many more countries somewhere in between, in flux.

The US has deep cultural links to Latin America, which it will have to play up, to bolster its influence. But the Chinese can portray themselves as comrades of the Global South. It will be interesting to see what images and themes the US sends out to try to blunt this advantage.