Propaganda Watch: Haddock Fishing

Haddock, at Boston Aquarium. Photo by Stephen G. Johnson

Alienmotives and I were having a conversation the other day about a “gotcha” post that had been floating around my Facebook feed that appeared to be backfiring. It was this meme:

That, of course, was not a Trump quote (too many polysyllabic words) but from Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren.

“Political catfishing is what it sounds like,” AM said.

Thinking about it, I have to disagree. “Catfishing”, according to modern slang, is when someone creates a fake persona in order to trick people on the internet. This isn’t a fake person. All involved are real, just misrepresented. Like when people think they’re getting a nice piece of fried cod, only to later find out they’ve been served haddock.

Lying on the internet is par for the course, especially when politics are concerned. Take the recent “deep fake” videos, first of Nancy Pelosi appearing drunk, and later of Mark Zuckerberg created as a “gotcha”:

The creators aimed to highlight hypocrisy, hoping this video would be deleted.

It was not.

Last year during the Kavanaugh hearings, Lindsay Graham tried to highlight hypocrisy with his own “gotcha”:

He points out that was a James Carville quote, famously said in response to Paula Jones’ harassment accusation against Bill Clinton in 1998. He said it with “whataboutism” bravado.

It backfired.


Yahoo has since deleted that tweet. However, they weren’t the only ones to not know who James Carville was, or the context of the quote. It was widely reported at the time that Graham said that about Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. His “gotcha” came back around and got him.

Which brings us to the meme that started this all.

It was obviously designed to trick people into thinking these policies were advocated by Trump. Even Tucker Carlson said the quote “sounds like Trump at his best!” So this meme would trick Warren fans into criticizing her own words…right?

Until the meme gets reposted without an explanation. How likely are people to go fact check the quote? Instead too many will take it at face value, and either deride the wrong person for the idea, or adore the wrong person for the same reason. Either way, people will be forming their opinions based on falsehoods. Instead of a “gotcha” it might become a commercial.

Put the haddock aside for a little while and let people taste cod for what it is.

THIS IS AN OPEN THREAD. Thank you for reading, and have a great Sunday.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.