Joe Biden and the History of ‘Hidden Earpiece’ Conspiracy Theories

Commentators on the left speculated a couple of “bulge” in Mr. Bush’s jacket (above), which they imagined hid a hidden receiver into which Karl Rove, the former president’s political adviser, was talking. The Bush marketing campaign tried to bat down the rumors, however they persevered, although no stable proof ever surfaced. A NASA scientist even bought concerned in analyzing pictures of Mr. Bush’s jacket throughout the debate, in search of clues about the mysterious bulge.

In 2008, rumors once more circulated on-line that a candidate was being fed solutions throughout a debate. Ann Althouse, a regulation professor and conservative blogger, wrote that close-up TV stills confirmed that Barack Obama “was wearing an earpiece” throughout a debate with John McCain. (Ms. Althouse later recanted her idea, saying it was most likely simply gentle reflecting off Mr. Obama’s ear.)

In 2016, the rumor appeared once more, this time connected to Hillary Clinton, who was accused by right-wing web sites of carrying a secret earpiece. (One such story, which appeared on the conspiracy idea web site Infowars, was shared by Donald Trump Jr. and different pro-Trump influencers.)

The secret earpiece rumor shouldn’t be solely an American phenomenon. Foreign politicians, together with Emmanuel Macron of France, have additionally been baselessly accused of carrying earpieces throughout debates.

Accusing the opposing social gathering’s candidate of carrying a secret earpiece shouldn’t be a very refined disinformation tactic, nor would it not most likely present a lot assist to a candidate even when it had been true. (In truth, as anybody who has ever watched a reside TV anchor fumble with a producer’s directions might inform you, listening to instructions in an earpiece whereas staying attentive to a moderator’s onstage questions requires a reasonably spectacular act of multitasking.)

But the concept of a hidden helper giving one facet an unfair debate benefit has proved seductive to marketing campaign operatives making an attempt to elucidate away a lopsided debate, or sow doubts about dishonest on the different facet. As a 2016 Salon piece about the earpiece conspiracy idea stated, these rumors primarily appear to enchantment to hyperpartisans whose views on the candidates are already made up.

“When someone presents you with grainy screen captures of George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton and claims that they show telecommunications equipment hidden on their bodies,” the piece stated, “your partisanship enables you to bridge the sizable gap between the poor evidence and the firm conclusion that someone offstage was whispering into the candidate’s ear.”

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