Patterico's Pontifications

1/24/2010

The Recent Evidence of Astroturfing, Summarized; UPDATED: Ellie Light Located?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:01 pm

This post summarizes the evidence of Astroturfing by Obama supporters that surfaced over the weekend.

Astroturfing is phony “grassroots” activity. The term refers to opinions that seem to be genuine — but, in reality, are directed by a Central Planner.

Over the weekend, we discovered two types of Astroturfing:

Donald Trump Astroturfing: A letter published in multiple places from one person claiming to live in multiple cities

Ellie Light was the quintessential Donald Trump Astroturfer. In fact, her real estate holdings would put Trump to shame. She published the very same pro-Obama letter in 65 publications — including 31 states, and the District of Columbia. It also appeared in 3 national publications and a Yahoo link — and in 2 foreign publications, including a publication in Bangkok, Thailand.

And she claimed to live in almost all of these locations. Because that claim enhanced her ability to place her letters. So she claimed to live in Philadelphia, PA; and Daly City, California; and Mansfield, Ohio; and Waynesboro, Virginia; and Algoma, Wisconsin; and Bangor, Maine — and dozens of other places.

Who said Obama supporters were all downtrodden?

Mark Spivey appeared in several places as well. And Ellie Light and Mark Spivey claimed residence in almost every publication to which they sent their letters.

Not even Donald Trump can claim such extensive real estate holdings!

The conclusion is simple: Ellie Light and Mark Spivey are liars. They pretend to be from multiple places to enhance their credibility. In fact, they are from one location — and they are trying to pretend they are individuals from all over America.

But they aren’t. And that leads us to Category #2:

David Axelrod Astroturfing: Identical letters published in multiple places claiming to be from different people

You get suspicious when you see the same letter appearing in multiple locations with multiple names.

In this post, I documented the same letter being written by Janet Leigh and Earnest Gardner. And another letter written by Gloria Elle — and Jan Chen. And another written by Jen Park — and Lars Deerman. And another written by Jen Park — and John F. Stott.

And identical paragraphs from another letter were written by Gordon Adams of Danbury, Connecticut. And Joe Rodriguez of La Porte, TX. And Robert Stephenson of Austin. And Ron Avila of San Francisco, CA; Mary Acosta of Baldwin Park, CA; Nancy Speed of Tulsa, OK; Sheila Price of Valencia, CA; Clarence Ndangam of Clarks Summit, PA; Vernetta Mason in the Suffolk News-Herald; Greg Mitchell of Fort Mitchell, Ohio; Ermelinda Giurato of Elk Grove Village, Illinois; J. Scott Piper of Cape Coral, Florida; Robert Vander Molen of Camdenton, Missouri; and Terri Reese of Vista, CA.

This latter group appeared to be copying a letter they saw on the Web site of the Democrat party. But that doesn’t explain all of the similar letters.

One of two things could be happening.

Maybe there’s a P.R. firm behind it all.

Or maybe there’s a centralized entity (like Organizing for America or the Democrat Party) which says: Hey, guys! It would really rock if you all sent a letter to your local newspaper that read something (or, hell, EXACTLY) like this. And then they give you the text to send on to your local paper — of course, using your real name and location.

There appears to have been a lot of this as well. And readers of those Letters to the Editor were fooled.

While the participants were undoubtedly well-meaning, the effect is simple. A Centralized Body determines a message. Minions repeat it. And readers are tricked into thinking that the message is individualized.

So now that you’ve seen the evidence, what should you do?

Simple. Don’t take anything at face value. Look at pro-Obama letters in your own local paper and search phrases on Google to see if they are examples of Astroturf.

Then report back here with the results. E-mail me at patterico@gmail.com.

It’s our duty to get to the bottom of this.

Because Big Media never will.

It’s up to us.

UPDATE: Ellie Light left a comment at Amy Kane’s blog with a long justification of why she did it — but no explanation of why she lied about her addresses. The IP address of that comment: 174.144.15.155, which appears to come back to Huntington Beach, CA.

UPDATE x2: Joy McCann also received a comment from Light, and e-mails to say that IP address is the same as the comment left at Kane’s blog. The comment was also left early this morning, so there’s no guarantee that’s a static IP address. It would help to have the IP address on comments she left in other places on other days.

For what it’s worth, nobody using that IP address has ever left a comment at my blog. If you have a blog, you might check your past comments for that IP address. And if she comments anywhere else, please pass along the IP address.

UPDATE x3: It bears repeating that, as I noted in a previous post, a series of letters published in newspapers recently has been traced to the web site for the Democrat Party. And Barack Obama’s Organizing for America has been in on the act, too. More on that here.

White House Responds to Massachusetts’ Loss

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 10:30 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Obama Administration is responding to Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts by bringing back its 2008 campaign manager:

“Senior White House officials tells ABC news that Obama for America campaign manager David Plouffe will soon set up shop at the Democratic National Committee to oversee House, Senate, and gubernatorial races this fall, in what is shaping up to be a difficult political environment for Democrats.

“Plouffe is one of the smartest guys in the business, he has the full trust of the President and his team, and we appreciate any and all help he can give us,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. “This is a very challenging political environment and you want all the best players on the field.”

Brown ran as a candidate focused on the economy and being the 41st vote against ObamaCare. His win suggests the public believes the White House is headed in the wrong direction on these issues. It seems Obama and the White House believe the problem isn’t their policies but how they’re being sold.

— DRJ

Caption Contest

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:36 pm

Looks like a Photoshop — but it’s not:

Obama Kid Teleprompter

Thanks to Jammie Wearing Fool.

UPDATE: Apparently TOTUS was present for an address to the media conducted in an elementary school classroom. POTUS’S earlier remarks to schoolchildren were apparently given without the benefit of TOTUS.

For the record. Not that it makes the above image any less idiotic.

Still More Astroturfing: Gloria Elle and Jan Chen Write the Same Anti-Republican, Pro-Obama Letter; UPDATED: Two More Pairings Found; UPDATED AGAIN: Four Pairings Total, and One Is a Triplet!; UPDATED AGAIN with Countless Other Examples

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:06 pm

Now that people are paying attention, the Astroturfers are coming out of the woodwork:

Jan Chen of Seattle writes to the Northwest Asian Weekly (a small Asian paper serving the Seattle area):

As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that drop you after you make a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Elle writes to the Baltimore Chronicle — on the same page as Mark Spivey and Ellie Light:

As one listens to the Republican anger over health care reform, one can imagine an anti-government protester cheerfully paying premiums on insurance policies that cancel you for making a claim, or happily sauntering out of an emergency room that denied them treatment because of a coverage problem. One can imagine a town-hall sign-waver enthusiastically forking over most of their pay to bill collectors after suffering a catastrophic injury, thinking, “Wow, the free market system is great.”

Jan Chen and Gloria Elle certainly have a similar writing style, don’t they?

To the word. Thanks to liberrocky on Twitter for the find.

[UPDATE: Greg McCoy e-mails to note that Cherry Jimenez of Bloomington had this exact same verbiage — and much more — in an essay at the Indiana Daily Student.]

Freepers discovered another one: Janet Leigh. (Cute.) This one is explained here. [UPDATE: To make it clear and explicit, the link shows that the very same pro-Obama letter was written by Janet Leigh to NewburgGraphic.com, and by Earnest Gardner to the Memphis Flyer. She also finds Janet Leigh next to Mark Spivey in the Santa Barbara Independent.]

The story is exploding. There is Astroturf everywhere.

Go find some yourself. Just take phrases from suspicious-looking letters and put the phrases into Google and see what you find. Then report back here.

UPDATE: Liberrocky found another one: Jen Park and Lars Deerman writing the same letter to different publications. Lars Deerman writes to the Deccan Herald:

I hear the Obama Administration talk of getting a health bill passed by compromise.

Maybe the so-called public option can be used as a bargaining chip to bring the Republicans to the table.

So what do the Republicans say? That Obama is not a U.S. citizen, and has no right to be President, that his plans are Socialist and contain death panels.They hope the Obama Presidency fails.

I cannot think of a single nice thing that a Republican Congress member has ever said about Obama or his plans. Not one. Can you? Where does Obama get the idea that Republicans want to work with him? They clearly don’t want to.

Lars Deerman

And Jen Park writes at the Baltimore Chronicle:

I hear the Obama Administration talk of getting a health bill passed by compromise. Maybe the so-called public option can be used as a bargaining chip to bring The Republicans to the table. So what do the Republicans say? That Obama is not a U.S. citizen, and has no right to be President, that his plans are socialist and contain death panels, and that they hope the Obama Presidency fails. I cannot think of a single nice thing that a Republican congressmember has ever said about Obama or his plans. Not a one. Can you? Where does Obama get the idea that Republicans want to work with him? They clearly don’t want to.

This is the very same Baltimore Chronicle page with letters from Ellie Light and Mark Spivey.

Oh — and there’s also one from Lars Deerman.

Can we get a Big Media investigation yet? Anyone want to tell the Baltimore Chronicle that its “representative letters” page is filled with garbage from Astroturfers?

UPDATE x2: Another pairing: Jen Park and John F. Stott.

Jen Park writes in The Source Weekly:

So let’s get this straight. Obama’s predecessor took America to war under false pretense, citing “weapons of mass destruction” that everyone agrees did not exist, and today’s Republicans don’t want Obama addressing children because of “indoctrination?”

Our previous president preached war against Iraq to anyone who would listen, children, adults, young and old, making us partners in his blunder, and the Republicans dare talk of keeping their children safe from Obama’s ideas? What are Obama’s ideas? That the government can be an active partner in change, rather than a nuisance? And this notion is suppose to be bad?

The Republican Party seems determined to be “against” everything Democratic.

[UPDATE: A couple of readers expressed concern that the “Source Weekly” link is setting off anti-virus programs. If you want to go to the link, be warned that it may have malware. Here it is.]

And at our favorite Baltimore Chronicle letters page, John F. Stott writes:

So let’s get this straight. Obama’s predecessor took America to war under false pretense, citing “weapons of mass destruction” that everyone agrees did not exist, and today’s Republicans don’t want Obama addressing children because of “indoctrination?” Our previous president preached war against Iraq to anyone who would listen, children, adults, young and old, making us partners in his blunder, and the Republicans dare talk of keeping their children safe from Obama’s ideas? What are Obama’s ideas? That the government can be an active partner in change, rather than a nuisance. And this notion is suppose to be bad? The Republican Party seems determined to be “against” everything Democratic.

Thanks to Mitchell B.

UPDATE x3: wtfci on Twitter writes:

John Stott, Gloria Elle, and Mark Spivey all have #astroturf published by Buzzflash. Mark Karlin & Associates runs Buzzflash.

(I added the links.)

Mark Karlin & Associates is a Chicago-based public relations firm specializing in “Media Relations,” “Issues Management,” “Strategic Positioning,” “Public Interest PR” and “Advocacy Campaigns.”

For what it’s worth.

UPDATE x4: And still more, courtesy of astute reader James O:

First, we have a letter from Gordon Adams in Connecticut’s Danbury News-Times, [cached version], published on 11/20/2009.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives made history by passing H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

After nearly a century of false starts, this was the first time a chamber of Congress has ever passed comprehensive health insurance reform. This is a historic accomplishment.

Representatives who voted for this bill deserve thanks for resisting tremendous pressure from the insurance industry lobbyists and standing up for their constituents.

Those who did not vote for the bill have one last opportunity to reconsider and support reform in the upcoming final House vote — and they should do so.

A vote for this bill was a vote to provide secure and stable coverage for Americans with insurance, expand coverage for those who do not have insurance, lower costs for families and businesses, and begin to reduce the deficit.

Adams lists a home town of Newton, CT.

An identical letter appears in Texas’s Baytown Sun, published on 11/10/2009. Author Joe Rodriguez lists a residence of La Porte, TX.

The final three paragraphs of this letter are identical to one published in the Austin-American Statesman by one Robert Stephenson of Austin.

See this search for many, many, many more. [UPDATE: Including Ron Avila in the San Francisco Chronicle; Mary Acosta of Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune [cached version]; Nancy Speed of Tulsa in the Tulsa World; Sheila Price of Valencia in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, and Clarence Ndangam of Clarks Summit, PA in The Citizen’s Voice. Interestingly, Mr. Ndangam’s unusual name allows us to learn that such a person really exists, as an Intelius search (no link) reveals.] [UPDATE: Still more: Vernetta Mason in the Suffolk News-Herald; Greg Mitchell of Fort Mitchell, OH in the Cincinnati Enquirer; Ermelinda Giurato of Elk Grove Village, Illinois in Chicago’s Daily Herald; J. Scott Piper of Cape Coral, Florida in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze; Robert Vander Molen of Camdenton, Missouri in Missouri’s Lake News Online — and finally, Terri Reese of Vista, CA in the North County Times. (Calling Bradley J. Fikes!)]

If this isn’t an Organizing for America deal, I’ll eat my hat. [Probably something very similar to this Organizing for American letter-writing campaign. H/t: Reader Michele and the blog Because No One Asked.]

[UPDATE: I don’t think I should have to eat my hat. Michele at Because No One Asked figured this one out, and it’s Astroturfing. But it’s not Organizing for America, it’s The Democratic Party. Nice job, Michele! This may be worth a separate post. And I will ask Bradley J. Fikes to ask his editors if they’re embarrassed at reprinting this talking points nonsense.]

Also, It’s Only Words investigates a letter from a Bambi Lin Litchman in Tacoma, to the Seattle Times — and notices that it is identical to one from a Bambi Lin Litchman in Honolulu, to the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

UPDATE x5: Ellie Light speaks further to the Cleveland Plain Dealer — but does not explain why she lied about where she lives.

Who is Mark Spivey? Another Obama Astroturfer; UPDATED With Still More Astroturfing

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:21 am

I joined a Facebook group called “Who is Ellie Light?” This morning I was invited to join a new group: “Who is Mark Spivey?”

Who is Mark Spivey? I know only this: that he is the author of this pro-Obama letter that has appeared in numerous publications:

A recent Associated Press article stated that President Barack Obama’s hesitancy on the Afghan war buildup implies weakness.

I wish world leaders had more of that kind of weakness. Clearly, Obama does not want to send soldiers into harm’s way without a clear goal, a solid plan and an exit strategy, three aspects sorely missing from former President George W. Bush’s military ventures.

I know that we Americans are used to presidents who play cowboy, who say things like “bring ’em on” and “mission accomplished” without a second thought; presidents who send Americans into battle on falsified weapons reports.

But it seems our current president understands that you don’t send soldiers into battle without first nailing down what they’re supposed to be doing, and why.

So hats off to Obama’s “hesitation.” Soldiers are human beings, not chess pieces. It’s about time we get a president who understands that.

— Mark Spivey

The letter has appeared — at a minimum! — at The Minnesota Daily, at the Baltimore Chronicle (on the same page as Ellie Light’s letter!), at the San Diego Union-Tribune (where he claims to be from San Diego), at the Naples News (where he claims to be from Naples, Florida), and at Buzzflash.com.

And there are more. You know what to do.

UPDATE: In more Ellie Light news, Dan Riehl and LeftCoastRebel are on the trail of Ellie Light.

Also: Ed Morrissey forwarded me an e-mail he received from Ellie Light several days ago. The mail appears to have been routed through the IP address 212.24.236.50, which comes back to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia??

I assume this is some sort of masking or spoofing device and not the actual location of “Ellie Light.” Which makes you wonder: why does a grandma writing letters on behalf of Obama use an IP spoofer?

Finally, the latest count for Ellie Light’s letter. It has appeared in at least 62 publications in 29 states and the District of Columbia; national publications and a Yahoo link; and 2 foreign publications.

Not bad for a single individual. Just think of how many rejects she got.

UPDATE x2: Another example: this time identical pro-Obama letters allegedly written by two completely different people. Details here.


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