Photo: Seth Wenig/AP
Conservatives are frothing at the mouth over Joe Biden’s decision to forgive $10,000 in student debt for millions, arguing against what they call “student loan socialism.” But their carefully crafted tweets have been undermined time and time again with two words: “Is that you?”
Were there ever seven letters more powerful? On Twitter, the phrase is an instant indicator of hypocrisy, diminishing the powerful from politicians to celebrities and brands. It usually comes in response to a reasonable tweet, accompanied by a screenshot of a previous remark by the same person who takes the opposite view.
Now Biden’s debt cancellation has given new life to the phrase: “Is that you?” has been rolling around on Twitter like a bowling ball, upsetting critics as he debunks their claims. The source of many of the “receipts,” in this case, is the public record of those who had their Payment Protection Plan (PPP) loans forgiven — the federal funds intended to keep businesses afloat early in the pandemic.
The conservative advocacy group PragerU proclaimed: “It’s not complicated. Saving irresponsible behavior will encourage more irresponsible behavior.” “That’s you”; @kaoticleftist asked, shows hundreds of thousands of dollars in forgiven PPP funds.
The right-wing Daily Caller published an article headlined: “Biden’s debt cancellation could send tuition through the roof,” prompting another Twitter user, @coreyastewart, to post a screenshot of the PPP funds that the agency had allegedly forgiven.
“Student loan forgiveness sounds great to illegal immigrants, people with no life experience, people who don’t have families yet, and people who use preferred pronouns,” wrote the conservative commentator Steven Crowder;winning over a crowd “This is you;” answers – with screenshots highlighting more than $71,000 in loan forgiveness for his company.
Those closer to the seats of power also received useful feedback. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley also criticized Biden’s plan, saying it would “further fuel inflation by hurting those who can’t afford it UNFAIRLY.” “This is you;” asked a candidate for local office, highlighting Grassley’s petition for a federal farm bailout.
Users also accused right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro of double standards, but he denied receiving PPP money and said he would a cease and desist was issued letters to organizations claiming otherwise – pointing to the messy nature of internet capture. But it wasn’t just everyday Twitter users who called out the hypocrisy.
On Thursday afternoon, the White House jumped into the fray. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said it was “completely unfair” for the government to “say your debt is completely forgiven” – after her loan of more than $180,000, the official White House account famous. It was just one of a series of digs at critics: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the White House said, had more than $482,000 in PPP loans, while Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly topped $987,000.
It’s not the first time the meme has been widely used to illustrate double standards on a national scale. As brands and celebrities touted their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, social media quickly exposed many as mere followers of the trend, juxtaposing their posts with examples of past offensive behavior — typifying what Aisha Harris described in New York Times as “quickly undermining executive alertness.” Users drew attention to an NFL star who posted a symbolic black square after hanging out with Donald Trump. words of support from the Baltimore Police Department years after Freddie Gray’s death. and a number of other apparent changes in the heart.
As Harris wrote, there is power in such a common medium. It is true that, as a Twitter user @trayne_wreck – who collected countless examples of loan-based duplicity – writes, pointing out the hypocrisy is unlikely to change the minds of those called.
But, he says, it could make a difference to those of us reading: “You, who can do something about it, who can create the power to make them obsolete. I hope it resonates with you.”