‘Oldest’ political trick returns as gas prices become a front in US misinformation battle

April 21, 2021

Lindsay Battle says she knows “the truth” about why US gas prices in her area rose 90 cents a gallon in just over two months. “It’s because President Biden shut down the pipeline and because of all of his other policies... that make us reliant once again in the Middle East for oil,” she said.

This is inaccurate, but Battle’s claims – in emailed comments to AFP – reflect the age-old political cudgel of pocketbook issues used to attack opponents, and which have become a popular misinformation front on social media.

Battle’s was one of more than 250 emails which AFP received since February in response to fact checks that debunked misleading claims about the escalating retail cost of gasoline...

Ethan Porter, assistant professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, told AFP his impression is that there has been an increase in misinformation about gas prices, but the trend is to be expected.

“Casting aspersions on your opponents for economic misfortunes is among the oldest tricks in the book,” Porter said by phone.

“It’s really, really difficult to disentangle the price from the cause of the price,” so our “political brains” tell a story which, “especially in an age of intense partisan polarization, is that the other party is to blame,” said Porter.

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