Though deep fakes haven’t quite entered our dystopian mediascape just yet, selective edits are proving to be a problem, as shown by a deceptively cut video of Joe Biden suggesting an idea consistent with white nationalism, which made the rounds on social media on Wednesday night. “Our culture is not imported from some African nation, or some Asian nation,” Biden says in the clip. “It’s our English jurisprudential culture. Our European culture.”
Out of context, the statement fits comfortably within the confines of white nationalist rhetoric, an idea more likely to be expressed by a candidate promoted by Steve Bannon, to pick an example at random. But the quote is from a March 2019 speech in which Biden expressed his regrets for the role he played in the Clarence Thomas hearings — without actually apologizing to Anita Hill. Biden said he wanted to “change the culture” that tolerates the sexual abuse of women, not promote the idea that European culture is superior to that of other continents.
Videos stripped of their context were a frequent concern last year, including an RNC cut of a comment by Kirsten Gillibrand suggesting the New York senator wanted to expand Social Security to undocumented immigrants. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar was a frequent target of such misinformation from the right, including an instance in which Senator Marco Rubio tweeted out a video of Omar saying Americans should be “more fearful of white men,” without any mention of her discussion of attacks by right-wing extremists killing four times as many Americans as Islamist extremists between 2009 and 2018. (Trump, with his habit of long paraphrases of other characters in his speeches, has been targeted as well.) That such a video emerged on the first day of 2020 suggests just how prevalent the practice is likely to be in the coming election year.