A long-standing and vehement criticism of Joe Biden is that legislation he championed as a Senator in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly his crime bill of 1994, contributed to the mass incarceration of Americans generally and African-Americans specifically.
Among the many on the left and libertarian right who have voiced this criticism (along with President Trump) is then-Senator Kamala Harris, who said during the 2020 Democratic primary race that Biden’s “crime bill -- that 1994 crime bill -- it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country.” When Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2015, Bill Clinton, who as president signed Biden’s bill into law, told the NAACP: “I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Biden during a 2019 presidential debate: “There are people right now in prison for life for drug offenses because you stood up and used that tough-on-crime phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine.” Booker then said in an interview with The Huffington Post that that Biden’s “crime bill was shameful, what it did to black and brown communities like mine [and] low-income communities from Appalachia to rural Iowa,” also denouncing it for “overwhelmingly putting people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses that members of Congress and the Senate admit to breaking now.”
In 2016, author and scholar Michele Alexander argued that Hillary did not deserve the votes of black people due to her and her husband’s support for numerous bills, including Biden’s 1994 crime bill, that led to the mass incarceration of African-Americans. Harvard’s Cornel West said in 2019: “When [Biden] says [the 1994 crime bill] didn't contribute to mass incarceration, I tell him he has to get off his symbolic crack pipe."
While that debate over the damage done by Biden’s crime bill has long raged in Democratic Party politics and the criminal justice reform movement, it is now barred from being aired on the Facebook-owned social media giant Instagram, or at least is formally denounced as disinformation. With Joe Biden about to enter the White House — one that will exercise significant influence in determining Silicon Valley’s interests, will be filled with tech executives, and was made possible in large part by Silicon Valley’s largesse poured into the Biden/Harris campaign — Instagram has arrogated unto itself the power to declare these well-established criticisms of Biden and his crime bill to be “False” and having “no basis in fact.”
As first noted on Monday by former Sanders campaign organizer Ben Mora, Instagram publicly denounced as “False” a post on Sunday by the left-wing artist and frequent Biden critic Brad Troemel, who has more than 107,000 followers on that platform. Troemel’s post said nothing more than what Biden’s chosen running mate, Kamala Harris, has herself said, as well as numerous mainstream media outlets and countless criminal justice reform advocates have long maintained.
Troemel posted a 1994 photo of a smiling, mullet-sporting Biden standing next to then-President Bill Clinton. The photo contained this caption: “Find someone that looks at you the way Biden looked at Clinton after Clinton signed Biden’s crime bill into law. Bringing mass incarceration to black Americans.” This was the same photo and caption which an anonymous Trump supporter under the name “realtina40” first posted back in June.
Shortly after Troemel posted this on Sunday, Instagram appended a note in red letters, with a warning sign that read: “Learn why fact-checkers have indicated that this is false.” That was followed by a note plastered over Troemel’s original post with the title: “False,” and which claimed “independent fact-checkers say this information has no basis in fact.” The same thing was done by Instagram to the original post from “realtina40” back in June.
This is not the first time Troemel has been censored by Instagram for posting criticisms of Biden. In response to questions, he told me he first earned the “false” label when posting a meme in April which he had created that mocked Biden’s campaign messaging. Instagram’s retaliation happened after the Biden campaign loudly complained about Troemel’s satirical ad. Biden campaign operatives falsely blamed the Trump campaign for having created it, and then induced Twitter to censor it.
As Troemel told me: “Here you can see Dems using the Russia-tinged cover of disinformation as a way to discredit any and all criticism of Biden found on social media.” When Troemel re-posted that meme last month with the clear notation that it was satirical, Instagram began “shadow banning” him: severely limiting the reach of his posts. It was those events — all involving Troemel’s criticisms of Biden from the left — that caused Instagram to heavily scrutinize his postings, culminating in its blurring of his latest post with a “False” label that contained these well-documented criticisms of Biden’s crime bill.
The only thing that is demonstrably “false” here is Instagram’s Biden-shielding assertion that there is a “fact-checking” consensus that this criticism of Biden’s 1994 crime bill is false. It is true that one media outlet, USA Today, fact-checked the identical claim posted back in June by the anonymous Instagram user and concluded that “our research finds that while the crime bill did increase the prison population in states, it did not bring about a mass incarceration relative to earlier years.” But that article so concluded even while admitting that Biden’s “crime bill did increase the prison population in states” and “any increase in the overall prison population would automatically translate into a larger number of Black inmates.” The article’s own premises thus bolster, not refute, the claim at issue.
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