3 min read

What Are Israelis Saying About the US Presidential Debate on Social Media?

If talking heads from Washington DC to Jerusalem can agree on one thing, it’s surely this: last Thursday Joe Biden had a terrible debate. However, sentiment on Joe Biden actually rose in Israeli social media.
A picture of the US capitol building
Photo by Joshua Sukoff / Unsplash

It’s hard to find consensus in today’s global, fractured, hyper-partisan media environment. But if talking heads from Washington DC to Jerusalem can agree on one thing, it’s surely this: last Thursday Joe Biden had a terrible debate.

Imagine FilterLabs' surprise, then, when we were looking at reactions around the world and discovered that on Israeli social media, post-debate sentiment on Joe Biden actually rose:

A line chart showing slight variations in sentiment on Biden for the past two months. At time of the debate we have marked the chart with a line, and showed how the sentiment rose at that time.

What was going on? Using our data platform Talisman, which can analyze the social media artifacts underlying sentiment shits, we took a closer look. 

One thing we found - and this is important to keep in mind - is that a story with positive sentiment isn’t necessarily complimentary. In this case, some of the social media posts with positive sentiment scores were in fact mocking the president. Several commenters made light of a pre-debate post in which Biden held up a novelty energy drink with his face on it. “I don’t know what they’re got in these performance enhancers,” read the text accompanying the picture, “but I’m feeling pretty jacked up.” 

(The can clearly states “It’s just water,” but perhaps he could have used something a little stronger.)

It wasn’t all mockery, though. One of Biden’s lines landed with the Israeli audience: “I provided all the weapons they needed.” This line showed up several times between June 27 and 29th, and always in a positive light. A Telegram user also echoed Biden’s claim that Hamas had been significantly weakened, with the implication being that the US military aid was making a big difference.

American commentators have focused on Biden’s time-worn appearance and seeming inability to complete his sentences–and understandably so. Yet it was interesting to see some Israelis focus on something else: the material difference he had made in their country’s fortunes. 

In case you missed it

FilterLabs CEO Jonathan Teubner appeared on Marvin Ventures, a podcast about venture capital and the startup world. Teubner and the host, Marguerite Rivard Benson, discussed his background, how FilterLabs grew out of his research on religious conflict, and why it’s a good idea to design your products with your clients. 

Note: for the summer, FilterLabs’ newsletter will feature recommendations from our staff. This week, it’s what to watch.

Peter Moench, Data Curator: Season 3 of The Bear. If you haven't seen it, it's a show about a fine dining chef who goes home to Chicago to take over his family's sandwich shop after his brother dies. It's great. It combines a dysfunctional family and a dysfunctional work environment with just enough hope that things can get better. As far as this season goes, I mostly think it's very good, but I do have a bit of the feeling I sometimes get after a few seasons of a strong show, wondering if it still has quite the same initial magic -- and whether that's really about the show or about me.

Sher Dyusushe, Data Curator: The Traitors is a three-part documentary produced by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Team, delving into the rampant corruption in 1990s Russia among the first oligarchs (the trendsetters, if you will). This post-dissolution era, often overlooked in Western discussions, is crucial for understanding modern Russia's dynamics and Putin’s rise to power. The documentary offers a comprehensive overview of key figures such as Yeltsin, Berezovsky, and Sobchak, and highlights pivotal events of the decade. It also raised questions about the rewriting of modern Russian history among the oligarchs who were later persecuted by Putin (Mikhail Khodorkovsky gave two interviews to a Russian opposition journalist Yuri Dud that are also worth listening to; the second interview addressed, for the second time, the points raised in the documentary). As someone who spent the past six years fascinated with that period of Russian history, I highly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in understanding post-Soviet Russia and who helped break it before it was even built. The series is available on YouTube with English subtitles.

Paul Gleason, Lead Newsletter Writer: I’ve been watching Ethos. It’s a character-driven drama about the intersecting lives of men and women in Istanbul. The characters represent a geological cross section of Turkish society: poor, rich, young, old, religious, secular, married, single, famous, and obscure. The show’s pacing is slow, almost defiantly so when compared to the frenetic editing and non-stop action that characterizes most TV, but for those who occasionally like their drama to emerge from the vagaries of daily life, rather than mob hits and ticking timebombs, it’s a welcome change of pace.