Posted by: The moderator | January 23, 2010

Manipulating the Media

I used to think that Republicans were the kings of astroturf, what with their contrived tea parties and hokey town hall disruptions. But now there is definitive proof that Obama’s vociferous supporters are no better than their elephant rivals. A certain “Ellie Light” has come into the spotlight, after Ms. Light submitted identical letters to the editors of newspapers all over the country praising Obama and defending him from the negative publicity he’s been receiving as health care reform falters and his poll numbers continue to shrink. The letters all said the same thing, but the address on each letter was changed to match the newspaper’s geographic area. Instead of a concerned citizen writing to their local paper, one zealous citizen grabbed a national audience without anyone knowing.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland uncovered the mass circulation of the Ellie Light letter in newspapers from coast to coast, commenting that Obama had a suspicious number of fans across the country with the same name. Soon afterward, Patterico’s Pontifications started a tally of all the newspapers that were duped. It looks like 42 publications in 18 states and the District of Columbia printed the same letter, all attributed to an Ellie Light supposedly living in their city. Even Politico.com and USA Today fell for it.

Looks like editors need to do a better job checking the background of their voluntary contributors. Not only are people able to spread their viral messages anonymously on the internet, but the print media are also vulnerable to “grassroots” political manipulation.

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