Biden’s America: White House Briefs TikTok Stars on Ukraine Invasion in PR Stunt


Commentary

The North Lawn of the White House is seen in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2021. The TikTok logo is shown on a cellphone in Nantes, France, on Jan. 21, 2021.

The North Lawn of the White House is seen in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2021. The TikTok logo is shown on a cellphone in Nantes, France, on Jan. 21, 2021. (Daniel Slim – AFP / Getty Images; Loic Venance – AFP / Getty Images)

 By C. Douglas Golden  March 12, 2022 at 1:23pm

Well, thank heavens.

The war in Ukraine is over two weeks old. We have no idea how many casualties there are, but the level of human suffering is cataclysmic. Russian forces appear to be targeting Ukrainian civilians. The pain is stretching outside of Ukraine, too, with economies hurting all over the world.

But rest assured: The TikTokers have been briefed on the situation by the White House.

In the latest sign that President Joe Biden’s administration has no priorities except bad ones, The Washington Post reported Friday that the White House took time out to brief “top TikTok stars” on “key information about the war unfolding in Ukraine.”

This isn’t the first time the White House has spent its resources trying to recruit unserious influencers to shape public opinion on serious issues. Here at The Western Journal, we’ve chronicled the Biden administration’s past reliance on social media stars to push its agenda. We’ll continue to hold their feet to the fire. You can help us by subscribing.

On Thursday, 30 TikTok stars assembled via Zoom to talk with administration officials — and not just some random intern hacks, either.

“National Security Council staffers and White House press secretary Jen Psaki briefed the influencers about the United States’ strategic goals in the region and answered questions on distributing aid to Ukrainians, working with NATO and how the United States would react to a Russian use of nuclear weapons,” the Post reported.

One of the influencers, Kahlil Greene, posted about the virtual shindig, noting that he wasn’t allowed to take video or pictures.

@kahlilgreene The White House invited content creators to learn more about the crisis in Ukraine. #hiddenhistory #ukraine #blackcommunitytiktok ♬ original sound – Kahlil

Greene said he asked White House officials about how “many people from marginalized communities in the United States have become dejected regarding this situation because there is an imbalance of coverage and assistance given to the Ukraine-Russia crisis compared to other occupations, invasions and attacks throughout the world, some of which have U.S. involvement.

“What incentivizes these Americans to be in strong support of the U.S giving high levels of attention and direct aid against the Russian invasion, as we feel there isn’t enough attention on related issues in other places throughout the world and right here in the United States?” he asked.

That’s the kind of penetrating, erudite question we apparently sent members of the National Security Council to answer.

Forget about the madman who wants to rebuild the USSR, who is using “vacuum bombs” on the Ukrainian people and allegedly attacking innocent civilians, and who has indicated he’s willing to endanger the world by throwing nuclear weapons into the equation. Forget about the fighting that has likely caused the deaths of thousands of people. Let’s talk about what incentivizes “marginalized communities” to care about Ukraine.

How on earth are some of the most powerful men and women in the U.S. supposed to address this prattle with a straight face?

At least they got to let their hair down and take a break from thinking on Thursday, if only for a bit. (“Today, just call me the White House press ps-ecretary!” one pictures Psaki telling this gaggle of Gen Zers in order to break the ice.)

Or maybe they weren’t treating this as a blow-off assignment. As the Post noted, the Biden administration “has been closely watching TikTok’s rise as a dominant news source, leading to its decision to approach a select group of the platform’s most influential names.”

Say what you will about Greene’s thoroughly absurd question, he’s 21 years old. I think most of us would have run the risk of saying something this silly when we were barely of legal drinking age. He did a more credible job than I probably would have.

The people who set this virtual junket up are the ones currently running the gig at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however — you know, the folks charged with orchestrating the American response to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and informing us of how it’s proceeding. While they’re juggling those weighty responsibilities, they’re also allotting time and resources for outreach to TikTokers.

These people are a) older than 21 and b) not relying on viral dance moves to up the like-and-subscribe numbers. And, to make it even worse, this isn’t the first time they’ve pulled this.

Last year, the White House worked with TikTokers on COVID-19 vaccination efforts, which included “an intimate 1X1 Zoom call” with coronavirus czar Dr. Anthony Fauci, because “there is a massive need to grow awareness within the 12-25 age demo.”

NEW: I’ve obtained the *Confidential* White House PR email sent to TikTok influencers begging them to “do an intimate” zoom call with Dr. Fauci.

The goal is to influence children as young as 12.

How much did the White House pay for this cringe video? pic.twitter.com/OApHdHf5iR

— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 10, 2021

This led to an insufferable skit featuring Psaki in which TikTok star Benny Drama (driver’s license name Benito Skinner) played a White House intern trying to get, as per the clip’s description, “SHOTS [clapping hand emoji] IN [clapping hand emoji] ARMS [clapping hand emoji].”

@bennydrama7 Kooper the (White House) intern wants SHOTS👏 IN 👏 ARMS 👏 Head to vaccines.gov for more information! WE DID IT, JOE! #vaccinated #vaccinatedfor ♬ National Anthem – Lana Del Rey

Does Psaki actually, like, do anything around the White House aside from circling back during media briefings and hanging out with TikTokers?

White House director of digital strategy Rob Flaherty defended the TikTok briefing.

“We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest,” Flaherty said during the call, “so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source.”

The problem is that for everyone who’s reached by these influencers, there’s probably someone who isn’t a TikTok consumer who, in the resulting brouhaha, sees these clips and decides he can’t trust the White House line. It’s not that this is misinformation, mind you — but it appears that way to onlookers when it’s transmitted in such risible fashion.

Should the White House be using TikTok stars to spread information about Ukraine?

And why would anyone trust people this unserious? The press ps-ecretary debased the White House’s authority last year by appearing in that clanging bit with Mr. Drama in which she proceeded to lecture us all on the glorious benefits of the vaccine. That changed hearts and minds, didn’t it?

Now she’s decided we need to hear from TikTokers again, this time to inform youth about the Ukraine conflict as they scroll through sea shanties and dance videos set to “I Like to Move It.”

I believe that’s what the kids like to call “cringe.” Adults, meanwhile, call it propagandistic. Finally, something zoomers and boomers can agree on.

C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.

C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).

Birthplace

Morristown, New Jersey

Education

Catholic University of America

Languages Spoken

English, Spanish

Topics of Expertise

American Politics, World Politics, Culture

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