Back in October, I postulated the 2016 election would be won with GIFs, pointing out “the GIF has become the lowest common denominator of communication, which therefore makes it the most effective when trying to reach a mass audience.” I cited experts in the field, like Adam Leibsohn – “We’re going to communicate through our content; we’re not going to communicate through words anymore, especially when it’s efficient, effective, mobile and goes on social really well.” – and professional smart person Mike Rugnetta of PBS’ Idea Channel#:

“A GIF is more complete than quotes on paper because the words are reunited with the actions and attitudes of the person who spoke them. It’s more context…”

However, what I and my like-minded peers forgot to account for was the fact that the average political enthusiast doesn’t actually care about context.

They just want the content.

Which, thanks to the inherently libertarian nature of the internet, means they’re also ripe for the suckering.

In a digital landscape where unfettered creative freedom can give us such already-legendary political lambasts as TrumpDonald.org

TrumpDonaldGIF

…there’s also a unique susceptibility of the modern political process to the everyday inconveniences of the internet – e.g. astroturfers, trolls, domain campers#. The same conditions that allow for the lighthearted trolling of a would-be authoritarian xenophobe also leave the door open for a more insidious breed of social media malevolence.

But while Donald Trump will always be, as FiveThirtyEight dubbed him, the world’s greatest troll, it’s actually Senator Ted Cruz who has led the charge down the steep slope of digital demagoguery and deception…

CruzGIF

Last month, Ted Cruz had to fire his chief spokesman/communications director Rick Tyler for spreading a misleading video of Senator Marco Rubio in which Mr. Tyler claimed Senator Rubio passed a Cruz staffer, looked at a Bible he was reading, and said, “Good book there…not many answers in it.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4s6CU-88l8

It immediately became a damning candid camera moment for Rubio at a time when he was on the rise still in the race. Plus, it was so damn sharable!

Except it turns out Senator Rubio, the consummate politician, didn’t actually say those campaign-killing words.

In fact, he said just the opposite:

And this wasn’t the first time Cruz’s campaign got caught playing fast and loose with the Wild West-esque rules of social media…

Right before BibleGate, Rubio’s campaign alleged Mr. Cruz’s operatives were responsible for circulating a counterfeit Facebook post claiming to be from South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy (one of Rubio’s staunchest backers) that said Gowdy had changed his mind and was endorsing Senator Cruz instead:

TreyGowdy

When Rep. Gowdy got word of this, he immediately and adamantly clarified it was a hoax by declaring, “Nothing could be further from the truth and I’m demanding that Senator Cruz and his campaign repudiate these dishonest and underhanded tactics.”

While there never was any concrete evidence tying Cruz or his campaign to the post, Gowdy pressed even further still in his condemnation of the Texas senator:

“Unfortunately it appears that the campaign of Senator Ted Cruz may not place the same value on waging a contest based on the truth and facts.
 
In the last week, we have seen a systematic effort by Senator Cruz and his allies to spread false information and outright lies in the hopes of winning votes by appealing to our lowest common denominator.”#

What Gowdy may have been referring to is the fact that two weeks prior to the Facebook forgery, Cruz’ campaign was called out by Ben Carson, and then louder by Donald Trump, for misleading Iowa caucus-goers and telling them CNN’s Chris Moody had reported# Carson was suspending his campaign.

TedCruzPressRelease

Making sure the message was heard loud and clear throughout various social media channels, of course…

TedCruzMessage

However, in reality, Carson was just going home to get some clean clothes – which Moody clarified in his following tweet, published less than a minute later:
 

Later that week, Carson’s campaign released a recording of a voicemail Cruz staffers were leaving Iowa precinct captains:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il_1ve9hDd8

Cruz eventually made a formal apology to Carson, but it was more of a CNN culpa than anything:

“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story.
 
That’s fair game.”

I know not what weapons World War III will be fought, but the 2016 election has been fought with subtweets, fake Morgan Freeman voiceovers#, and most recently, outright tweet-threats:
 

Nevertheless, until Trump locks up 1,237 delegates, it will be digitally pillaged by a man whose campaign manager once essentially bullied an opponent to the point of suicide.

#TrumpDonald, but never trust @TedCruz.

A shadow of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is shown as he speaks Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)