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September 30, 2008

Oh Dear God
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 07:08 AM * 144 comments

There exists a Twitter election feed. It scans the Twitter stream for candidate names and echoes them in a single list, to which users can also deliberately post tweets.

Usually it’s full of talking points, scrolling slowly by. I note that the McCain ones tend to worse grammar and spelling than the Obama ones, and more often posted from users who haven’t even bothered to attach a picture to their profiles*.

The feed also includes a section at the top for “Hot election topics”, with the phrases that are appearing most often in the stream at the moment.

The current ones are “Latest Palin, Kathleen Parker, Tina Fey, National Review, Oh Dear God, Couric, Republican, SNL, Bush, House”

I think somebody’s in trouble.

This entry is not affiliated with any previous entries of a similar name, and any likeness is entirely coincidental.

* Update: for clarity, what I mean by this is that the people in question had created Twitter accounts with normal-sounding names, but with none of the peripheral details that make the accounts plausible as ordinary ones; the lack of userpics was only one aspect of that. I should also have mentioned that the accounts I was looking at had no apolitical tweets, nor any history before the election. The overall impression of these accounts was that they were astroturf, and very poorly constructed astroturf at that.

I apologize to anyone who felt that my use of this phrase was indicative of my attitude to people who choose not to use userpics.

Comments on Oh Dear God:
#1 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 07:36 AM:

Somewhere, Dan Quayle is celebrating.

#2 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 07:51 AM:

BTW: abi, do you happen to read "Elsevier" or know someone you does? I know their are suppossed to be an right-of-rthe-middle political magazine, but the last times I scanned it, they were just parrotting the GOP talking points (in their covering of the US election cycle, that is). Including an editorial mostly explaining why Palin's governordom and mayorship was indeed much better than everything Obama has done before.

That left me wondering a bit. One would think they would like their readers to respect their political judgement at least a bit.

#3 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:20 AM:

I do not like icons, userpics or whatever a given site is calling them This Week. It's just one more thing for me to fuss with, and finding one I like well enough to represent me doesn't happen without a lot of work. Visuals *matter* and a bad visual is worse than no visual. At least a nice font is a nice font.

So most of the time, I don't have one set. If I can't write well enough for people to pay attention, I shouldn't be posting.

Lack of icons doesn't mean the user doesn't care. Lack of caring means the user doesn't care.

#4 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:38 AM:

So if - as this Twitter site suggests - everyone and their dog is laughing at Palin and McCain, given that both the BBC and CNN agree that it was Republican congresspersons who shot the bailout package down, and that no-one including those Republicans is paying the slighest attention to Dubya now...

...why isn't Obama galloping away to certain victory? Or is this site suggesting that he is, and I'm misinterpreting it?

#5 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Shinydan@ #4:

Because, there's a significant percentage of US voters who aren't going to vote Democrat (or Republican) no matter how stupid, senile, ignorant or downright dangerous their preferred party's candidate might be. Then there's the race issue; no one will admit it, but there's another significant % that won't vote for a black candidate, period.

Add those groups together and you end up with the sad mix of voter preferences we've got in the US right this minute.

#6 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:49 AM:

Shinydan - a really good source of polling analysis is tends to be a bit more conservative in how they assign tossup states

#7 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 09:12 AM:

#1: That's "celebrateing".

#8 ::: Mia ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Torrilin @3. Thank you. I rarely comment here, but was discomfitted by the assumptions implicit in the phraise, "haven't even bothered" in regard to pictures and Twitter profiles. There are any number of reasons people might not have a picture attached to their profile; "not even bothering" is only one of them.

For myself, being blind, I didn't even know people had pictures attached to their Twitter profiles. (Unless tagged appropriately, there is no way screenreading technology can identify a picture as anything other than a generic graphic that could mean anything.)

But before anybody jumps to an incorrect conclusion that I therefore also don't have pictures to use, I do. I don't, however, know how accessible the process of attaching a picture is in Twitter. Also, and this is a very personal thing, in public life, I am aware that I am subject to scrutiny and staring from the nondisabled public that I cannot return. I kind of appreciate that online environments allow me to balance that situation by only providing information to others that I can get from them. Maybe this means I should upload a nonrepresentational picture for myself. Maybe I will do that.

But, in general, I prefer to judge people by their words, like the differences between saying that somebody has not done something versus "hasn't even bothered" to do something, and the judgments that are made based on one piece of information.

PS, I am not a McCain supporter.

#9 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 09:59 AM:

Shinydan @ #4, also do not forget the 27% crazification factor.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 10:32 AM:

Torrelin, Mia:

I have a number of Twitter contacts without userpics, but with genuine histories. I am aware that people choose to do this.

My posting, produced in a very brief timeframe, was an observation on the population of tweets in that stream in comparison to my experience of Twitter as a whole.

The majority of frequent posters on that stream had partisan names and icons, and were clearly targeting that audience. Others, however, had ordinary names and ordinary histories, and were clearly swept up in the database search.

The users I was referring to were a third population, who had apparently ordinary names. In general, they were trying to give the impression of being normal people who happened to hold these opinions. But they had no history, and posted the same points repeatedly.

The lack of userpics within that population didn't come across as a choice, but rather as a kind of carelessness, or perhaps unfamiliarity with how to blend into the Twitter crowd. And the proportion of users without them was unreasonably high for the general population.

Mia, particularly:
If you want to take offense at my remark by removing it from its context (talking points, repeated in terrible grammar), please do feel free. But surely the web is full enough of offense without having to go look for it?

An alternate approach might be to assume that I am not actually making a dig at everyone who doesn't set a userpic, but only those who are doing so while quite obviously astroturfing?

#11 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 10:42 AM:

Mia and Torrilin: Just for the record, none of my icons/userpics/avatars for online discussions are pictures of myself. Every one of them is nonrepresentational, but with the exception of the ones I use on LiveJournal, where different userpics can be used to indicate mood or similar things, every one is also chosen primarily for its usefulness in making my own posts easily locatable (both by myself and by others) in what can often be a long, long stream of type. Oh, yes, I can find my own (and others') posts in environments that do not use such items, as is the case right here at Making Light - but it takes more time and effort.

I'm not trying to start anything here, by the way, not even necessarily a discussion. I'm just providing a datapoint.

#12 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 10:58 AM:

I don't use representational avatars, either, because I fondly remember the days when a correspondent's words were the only merit and behavior one had to judge them by. When they first began appearing on the web forums I frequented, I protested them and mocked them as pointless. When the server that hosted the user pictures (which was apparently seperate from the one that hosted the forum content) went down, rendering any non-locally-hosted icons into Red Xs in IE4, the browser-of-moment in the day. Of course, I had my own hosting, so I created the blue y for further mockery. I use it almost everywhere, now, and it still amuses me and is a reminder, philosophically, to take one's fellows at their words and deeds and not their looks.

#13 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:02 AM:

So, you know, feel free to judge me for the incomplete third sentence...I think I should have begun it with "Then," maybe.

#14 ::: Mia ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:07 AM:

Abi @10:

Here is what I read: "Usually it’s full of talking points, scrolling slowly by. I note that the McCain ones tend to worse grammar and spelling than the Obama ones, and more often posted from users who haven’t even bothered to attach a picture to their profiles."

None of the other information you provided in your response was present or implied in what you wrote. I didn't take anything out of context, and was taking issue with what appeared to be a choice of phrase about the use of images. The reason I didn't mention the issues of grammar or spelling was that you made a straight observation that it was poor, not that "they didn't even bother to check their spelling". If you had just said that there weren't pictures attached, then I would have accepted it as just another observational point, not an implicit critique of character.

It is fine to say that the post was hastily made, but I'm sure you're aware that as someone who posts to the main page of a fairly popular blog, there is a very good chance that people will point out where they disagree with or have issues with what you say or how you say it.
I don't know whether you "chose not to" or "didn't bother to" provide more context to your original post. I do know that if you'd provided the full context, as you did later, then that would have influenced my response.

I am also aware that when I choose to identify myself as a person with a disability while pointing out something I take issue with, it is most common to be told how offended I must be, because I am only allowed a few emotions that are rarely granted any level of nuance. The reason I chose the word "discomfitted" was because I believe it accurately represented my reaction. Not offense, not outrage, but a sense of discomfort with the way something had been expressed.

I appreciate the clarification, and wish you had provided the full explanation in the original post.

But I also remember why I post here so rarely.

#15 ::: Tom ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:28 AM:

I think it is useful to remember the difference between observations that apply to individuals and to populations. Noting that a population not initially defined by user icon use has a significantly lower instance of user icon use is an indication that that there is some attribute of the population which has an effect on icon use. A perfectly valid hypothesis is that the population contains many accounts created quickly, possibly in an automated way or by paid astroturfers, to create "buzz". This does not mean, and does not imply, anything about any specific account which may or may not have a user icon associated with it. The reason being, it is not the lack of icons which is interesting; it is the difference in icon use between the populations.

#16 ::: Avedaggio ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:37 AM:

*scratches head* I'm confused (situation: normal). Why is the Twitter feed a bad thing?

#17 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:41 AM:

For what it's worth, I interpreted the initial post the same way Torrilin and Mia did, and was surprised to see such a statement from abi. I certainly did not get a "these posters are assumed to be incompetent/lazy astroturfers rather than real users who just don't happen to have userpics" vibe from the original statement.

#18 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:53 AM:

#17: I read the same thing.

I'm enjoying a very Ozymandias (Watchmen) feeling watching these scroll past. Any high-speed information source does this for me, it's quite childish.

#19 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:54 AM:

I did get the astroturfer flag implication from the original post, simply because I was reading this entry in the context of Making Light, and astroturfing has been a repeated subject here (also a repeated subject of scorn and mockery, which I cannot say it does not deserve). I have no opinions on whether it's unfair to expect all readers to come to every entry in a weblog with a sense of full hustory of the weblog, though. If you make everything very explicit in every entry, the established readership might be bored. I guess there is a balance to strike.

#20 ::: Tracey S. Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 12:17 PM:

Shinydan @4 -

A recent AP-Yahoo poll suggested that Obama would be polling as much as 6% higher were it not for racial prejudice.

Here's a recent AP article about it.

This is without taking into account the Bradley effect, which (if it exists here) we won't see until the returns come in.

There are other factors, of course, but race is not one to be underestimated.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 12:29 PM:

What a coincidence. I just added Avatar to my list of LJ icons/userpics/avatars. Most of them bear no resemblance to me. Not that I'd mind being mistaken for Daniel Craig or Hugh Jackman, but I'm not that delusional. I also do not look like Hank McCoy, Ruk, David LoPan, or Gabrielle Anwar. Nor would I look that good in blue tights and a red cape.

#22 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 12:55 PM:

I don't understand "representational avatars" to mean "actually visually representative of the owner". Mine are rarely pictures of me, but they are still representative. I use the Mihama Chiyo one when I'm being playful or fannish on LJ, despite my physical resemblance to a cartoon Japanese schoolgirl being minimal. It still says something about me.

#23 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 01:07 PM:

Tracey @20, everyone's favorite election site fivethirtyeight has some detailed analysis of the Bradley effect in this particular election -- and the less-well-known reverse Bradley effect in areas with high African-American populations. The posts about the Bradley effect are here.

#24 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Criminey! I just caught this on that twitter feed.

I've never thought of reporting anyone to the Secret Service before. Not that I'd know how to, anyway.

I feel sick.

#25 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 01:51 PM:

@20, @23

As Nate Silver has pointed out many times, there are two parts to the question of race in voting. The first is the effect of race on people's vote; the second is the effect of race on what people tell pollsters.

Race and the vote: Many people will not vote for Obama because he's black. Let's hope that most of them are people who wouldn't vote Democratic anyway. There are also some people (though probably a smaller number) who will vote for Obama because he's black. For example, my sister- and brother-in-law, left-wing purists who haven't voted for a Democrat for president in a long time, if ever, are planning to vote for Obama. They have plenty of explanations for why, but I think his race is certainly a factor, even if they don't admit it. Black voters already vote Democratic in disproportionate numbers, but they will be very motivated to turn out this year; I expect to see a record turnout in black communities.

What people tell pollsters: a lot of this depends on how the question is asked. If you ask people whether they would vote for a black person for president, some will lie and say yes. If you ask a few questions about race and then ask about McCain vs. Obama, some people will say they're planning to vote for Obama when they aren't. But if you ask the question properly, so that the interviewee doesn't feel that his or her attitudes about race are being evaluated, they have no reason to lie, since there are plenty of socially-acceptable reasons/excuses for their vote. I think Nate Silver is right that the Bradley Effect is largely a myth.

I'm a lot more worried about vote-counting than the vote itself.

#26 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Calliope @24: Go to -- you should be able to find a contact number for your local Secret Service office. You may even be able to contact them by email.

#27 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 02:08 PM:


Thanks for the info. I think I'll noodle off to

#28 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 02:24 PM:

Here's the list of Secret Service field office contact information - it's just telephone numbers, other contact information (including email) for the Secret Service more generally is here.

#29 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Ah, and according to the FAQ, phoning the nearest field office is the proper procedure for reporting a threat to a Secret Service protectee.

#30 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Thanks, everyone. It felt very weird, but I called my local field office. I explained the situation to the operator, and that I wasn't sure if I should report this. Her response was an emphatic "Oh, you've called the right place."

She put me through to a very pleasant agent, who gave me his email, and I sent him the link, and my contact information.

I called the cops once when I witnessed a stabbing, and maybe two other times in 48 years for noise complaints, but I've never reported anyone for suspicion before.

It's not a nice feeling. And I used to do private security work. In my youth I was a uniformed guard, a plainclothes undercover store detective, and a credit reference investigator.

I still feel like a rat. I may have brought down the wrath of DHS on a harmless nutter, because of something he said.

Doesn't quite sit right with me. Even though what he said was...evil.

I'm going to stop rambling now.

#31 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 02:54 PM:


At his request, I gave the agent my name and phone numbers. He just called me back, because D.C. wants my address as well. Apparently just to make sure that I'm not some nut who constantly calls in false threats. (One would think they could just look at the twitter feed to actually SEE the threat themselves....)

Of course, I gave it to him. Not that they couldn't get it from my phone numbers, or my rather rare name.

DHS scares the piss out of me anyway, and while I've done a lot of security work, I am an old lefty. Not too happy to have "D.C.'s" attention.

Now I feel like a rat who may have inadvertently brought down DHS on myself. Instant karma, perhaps?

#32 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Calliope, I fully sympathize with the feeling. During the week following the Oklahoma City bombing, one morning when I got off the bus there was a disabled car (flashers on) in front of my building almost under a sky walk.

I looked at the car and the driver, and went straight to the security desk in my building and asked, "Has anyone checked on that vehicle?"

The senior guard said, "Yes. It's legit." I blushed and started to apologize for bothering them, and the guard stopped me, and replied, "You are the only person who has stopped and asked about that car --I'd love to have 10 other tenants like you. It would make my job easier."

Believe me, the Service would rather find out this person is a "harmless nutter" rather than have an assassin successfully eliminate one of their charges.

#33 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Threats aren't speech. I think the crucial matter is less a material threat that some Twitter munchkin poses to Barack Obama's person and more 1) the harm that threats of violence do by themselves, and 2) the chilling effect that such threats create for people of colour running for political office. Remember Colin Powell's much-publicised decision not to run for President because of his wife's fear for his safety.

#34 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Apparently just to make sure that I'm not some nut who constantly calls in false threats. (One would think they could just look at the twitter feed to actually SEE the threat themselves....)

OTOH, for all they know you're the one who put up the tweet for giggles.

Thanks for alerting them. It's probably nothing, but it at least bears a quick check.

#35 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:11 PM:

Calliope @ 31: I'm sure the first thing he needed to do was confirm your phone number, just to make sure you were not the nutter. Well-meaning citizens like you are generally easy to identify because you keep telling the truth, which they verify. It's nerve-wracking at first, because the underlying tone of "not trusting" comes through, and that's enough for us law-abiding citizens to start spilling all kinds of beans, just out of habit it seems.

Shorter me: Been there, done that too, sympathizing right along with everyone else. I looked at that twitter after you posted, and I agree: it's evil. It generates the wrong vibes entirely.

#36 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Lori @32: Intellectually, I know that the Service wants to hear about these things. It's reconciling my heart and my head that's the difficulty. Thanks for the support. And good for you about asking about that car.

Sean @33: Thanks for pointing out the chilling effect. I hadn't thought of that.

Jen @34: Good point!

Ginger @31: Yeah, I figured he'd was also verifying my number was real. It was more the mention of D.C. wanting my address that made my adrenaline spike. :)

As for the tweet generating the wrong vibes: I went back and reread some of his earlier tweets, and the one that states that Obama's not going to win, because our nutter "knows a secret" becomes creepy as hell in context with the tweet that started all of this.

Thanks everyone. I'm feeling less upset now.

#37 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:45 PM:

*sigh*. That's Ginger @35, of course. I'm @31. So much for my copy editing.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 03:50 PM:

I apologize for any offense caused to anyone. I hope that my further clarification causes readers to see that I was not trying to make a dig at anyone who chooses, for whatever logical reason, not to use a userpic.

I am, however, still quite irate at the assumption of malice. This is nothing to do with anyone's disability, which was quite irrelevant to the tone of the accusation.

If I can't post things quickly, then there will be many times that I won't be able to post things at all. Next time I see something amusing, but don't have time to check my post for every possible misinterpretation, I simply won't write about it.

I hope that was the intention, because it's certainly going to be the result.

#39 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:12 PM:

abi: I sympathise, being highly prone myself to foot-in-mouth disease, but I don't think anybody is nailing you to the cross here or assuming that you bear a grudge against people without userpics. The strongest word Mia used was "discomfited", which even in the most rarefied of social situations is hardly worth duelling over.

#40 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:21 PM:

They're toppling on Wall Street,
Off moutains of debt,
The so-called free market,
Disaster to get
They'd first bought up junk bonds
And when those went dry,
Investing in houses
In oversupply.

With crony appraisals,
Far over their worth,
Those bundles of mortgage,
Of fraud was no dearth.
They looked for the quick bucks
Of property churns,
Kiting the markets,
For quite high returns.

Off blowing their bubbles
In cauldrons that stank
And no regulation,
They're breaking the bank.
There's been little blame thrown
At Congress's role
Removed regulation,
Republicans' goal.

Now Wall Street is reeling
And Congress perturbed,
But note that the churners,
Have not been disturbed.
They're living quite well off
Their ill-gotten gain
The rest of the world has
Been stuck with the pain!

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:22 PM:

The word "discomfited" was not a problem. I'm grieved to discomfit people.

What got my goat was this sentence:

But, in general, I prefer to judge people by their words, like the differences between saying that somebody has not done something versus "hasn't even bothered" to do something, and the judgments that are made based on one piece of information.

Even in the original, it wasn't a judgment based on one piece of information. That seemed an unnecessarily sharp and uncharitable interpretation of what I wrote.

#42 ::: Calliope ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Abi @38: Please don't stop posting the quick, interesting stuff! Your posts are one of the reasons I read Making Light.

For example, despite all my tsuris about DHS, I find the twitter election feed to be strangely mesmerizing. I read a lot of blogs, but to have so many disparate views and bits of information flowing by at the speed of a conversation is fascinating. I've also followed some good links from there.

Thanks for posting this!

#43 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:39 PM:

I was originally confused by the reference to users without avatars; the astroturfer association didn't occur to me. But I do agree that Torrilin's response was both unduly harsh and superior.

#44 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:41 PM:

I have read pretty much every entry in Making Light, including the Astroturf entries, and I read the original post as Mia did: suggesting that the Twitter commenters were lazy or inconsiderate, not that they were unreal.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:41 PM:

abi @ 38... Next time I see something amusing, but don't have time to check my post for every possible misinterpretation, I simply won't write about it.

Please don't otherwise I'll have to resort to making puns.
Really bad puns.
("Like you ahven't already?")
I heard that.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 04:58 PM:

I have updated the post to clarify my original meaning. I am certain that if I have not yet made myself clear enough, people will feel free to bring it to my attention.

Otherwise, I think we should move on from this sub-topic.

#47 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Calliope @31,

I wonder if you're getting the same reactions as I've felt when calling the highway patrol on seeing what looks like a drunk driver.

They also want one's name and phone number. So there's this combined feeling of
1. my name in a database-ick,
2. calling LEO's against some stranger who might not be drunk,
3. background knowledge about how the highway patrol can be arbitrary (ticket quotas) or wrong (profiling)

But then
A. I know nothing about the driver other than they're erratic and weaving (for minutes--it isn't just one sneeze attack or even a cellphone call). I'm not profiling or being arbitrary.
B. LEO's will test for alcohol
C. even if the driver is just really tired, the random weaving and going from 50 to 40mph on a 65mph highway isn't safe.
D. no one else is going to call (late at night, quiet highway)

And so I call.

The analogy isn't exact. I can assign probabilities to "is this person drunk?" based on observations of drunk people, Mythbusters, accident statistics, etc. I couldn't do the same for "is this writing a sign of danger?" I'd hope that lack of [certainty? prior evidence?] wouldn't keep me from doing what you did.

I'm glad you called.

#48 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:30 PM:


I did feel a certain sense of cosmic balance restored when looking at the tweets twitted by that thoroughly unpleasant twitterer linked by Calliope and found them arguing with a similarly (if not equally) ill-spoken and fanatical Obama supporter. Perhaps they will mutually annihilate!

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:31 PM:

abi @ 46... we should move on from this sub-topic

About this topic
Of things iconic,
Let's be laconic.

I want to say that what you do here (when you could be spending your time on other activities) is very much appreciated.

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Torrilyn, Mia, you've both grabbed hold of the wrong end of the stick. Torrilyn's objections are easily dealt with:

Lack of icons doesn't mean the user doesn't care. Lack of caring means the user doesn't care.
Users who care are more likely to use icons and avatars than users who don't. That's not a moral judgement passed on individuals. It's a technique for assessing overall populations.

Mia, your comment #14 was whiny, verging on obnoxious. You need to wrap your head around the idea that Abi's post was not about you. The rest of the comment thread isn't about you either.

Not everyone uses visual avatars. I frequently omit them myself. That's not the point. What Abi's saying is that a segment of the McCain supporters she sees on Twitter have an unnaturally high percentage of certain characteristics, one of which is not having personalized their account by adding a visual avatar.

She wasn't saying that avatars are inherently good, or that people who don't have them are are inherently inferior. However -- and please try to follow this -- people who have already been in the habit of using Twitter for its own sake tend to have personalized their Twitter accounts, and when people personalize their accounts, they frequently install avatars.

This means that in the circumstances Abi's discussing, scanning for avatars is a legitimate technique. It's clever. It's a quick visual check that can tell you a surprising amount about the user population. And it's not an offense against you to mention that the method exists, or to use it in situations where it's appropriate.

No one gets all the channels. Some of us here can't instantly gauge the incidence and style of spelling and grammar errors. Some can't track numerical data. Some can't identify the obvious interpretation when there are several possible interpretations in play. Some can't follow quiet background cross-talk during face-to-face gatherings. Some can't remember faces. Some are oblivious to body language. And so on.

I'm sorry you're blind, but not being able to see doesn't mean you're incapable of acting like a jerk. Another way to put it is that I credit you with the same moral agency possessed by every other person here. I did the same for Chuck Harris and James White, and they did the same for me. It feels like an important point.

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:40 PM:

SeanH @48:

I confess that one of my feelings about that stream was that it was using up the time and attention of a number of people who might otherwise have been trolling newsgroups or littering in the street.

The contrast between the astroturfers barking Empty suit! and McSame and Failin' past each other and the snatches of more complex lives was intriguing. It felt like a roadcut through sedimentary rock, showing many layers all at once.

But as Teresa once said about Catholicism, the intellectuals don't, and shouldn't, have a lock on the institution. Democracy is about the entire spectrum of the population, from the brash and the foolish right through the subtle and the wise.

One just rarely sees the various extremes in such close proximity, in such neat bite-sized pieces.

#52 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 05:48 PM:


I didn't *quite* get your point on the first read-through, but I read it within the context of Making Light and understood approximately what you were getting at. Your clarification is a good thing (and very graciously offered), but you certainly shouldn't be criticized for making others feel uncomfortable, when that was obviously not your intent, much less for attributing to them only a few emotions without nuance.

Please don't stop feeling comfortable posting on the fly. I'm sure Mia never intended that, just as you never intended to impugn her for lack of an avatar.

#53 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 06:15 PM:

That... feed... is... brain... poison.

I applaud you for staring at it long enough to divine any meaning or pattern from it whatsoever. It just makes me angry and sad and full of despair.

I'm gonna have to go look at some lolcats to clear that out. Heh. (And another voice raised to the tune of 'keep posting.')

#54 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 07:57 PM:

I just twittered,

"tnielsenhayden: Obamalies is posting faster than human beings can post. He's a disinformation bot."

Calliope, you did the right thing. You can't know who that person is. All you know is what he said.

If he's young, unreflective, and getting his first lesson in being taken at his word, he's learning something valuable. If he's crazy, he needs help. Bringing him to the attention of authorities makes that likelier to happen. If he's a bullying thug who likes saying nasty things in contexts where he thinks he's safe from retaliation, he too is learning a valuable lesson. And so forth.

Was it doing any harm to have that statement up on Twitter? You bet it was. Statements like that get taken as permission to behave badly and say worse. They're part of the process whereby wanna-be thugs egg each other on into worse behavior than any of them would have the courage to commit on their own.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale (47), I do that too. The logic is the same: I can't know what's going on inside his car or his head. All I know is that his driving is a hazard, and that he's almost certainly impaired. I phone in pedestrian crazies if they're doing something dangerous, or if they don't seem capable of taking care of themselves. Heck, I'll phone in reports on anyone who doesn't seem able to take care of himself or herself, or who seems to be impaired in ways they're not accustomed to cope with.

Back to the feed:

When I first checked it out, I didn't catch anything to match Calliope's sighting. All I got was a classic right-wing invocation of nonexistent parity, with a side order of self-pity:

Littlebytesnews @USA_Patriot: I am wondering when MSM will have some Obama/Biden, Barney Frank and Pelosi skits on SNL?
Dweebus Maximus. When you've nominated a pair of stinkers like McCain and Palin, the fairness doctrine doesn't require comedians to pretend that Obama and Biden are as incoherent and poorly prepared as Palin, or as short-sighted, self-centered, and wrathful as McCain. Humor doesn't have to encompass all truths, but the truths it's based on have to be real, because otherwise it doesn't work.

I'm sure he thinks it's the "liberal media" at work again.

Hypothetical reply:

Dear Littlebytesnews: that will happen when Obama, Biden, Frank, and Pelosi are as easy to make fun of as your own candidates. Don't hold your breath. McCain and Palin really are as bad as everyone says.

Sincerely, etc.

It's no use. He wouldn't hear it if I said it to his face.

#55 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Teresa #54:

This suggests another theory for how they could possibly have been so incompetent as to nominate Palin. They hired the SNL scriptwriters to do their vetting.

Damned conflicts of interest....

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 08:40 PM:

I've got to get away from that feed. I started talking back to it.

#57 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 09:17 PM:

The funny thing is, if you needed to name all of the openly conservative comedy writers who are working in the mainstream media today, your list would be as follows:

1. Jim Downey, writer, Saturday Night Live

If there's no mockery of Obama on SNL, it's because a right-wing professional writer who's responsible for the vast majority of the political humor produced by one of America's few remaining topical comedy institutions knows there's just no jokes worth making.

#58 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 10:08 PM:

TNH @54, my reply to that right-winger kvetching about SNL, if I thought he was worth replying to, would be "Try watching The Daily Show instead; it's much more even-handed." Which it really is.

#59 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 10:19 PM:

Actually, SNL has been trying to do Obama for months. Unfortunately, unlike Amy Poehler's inspired Hillary Clinton and Tina Fey's truly frightening Sarah Palin, the actor is dreadful.

#60 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2008, 11:51 PM:

abi, the last time we had two threads with the same name, something happened with the search. I don't remember exactly, maybe Patrick does.

#61 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:07 AM:

If the thread ends up having to be renamed, I'd like to suggest "Great googly moogly".

#62 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:18 AM:

Did I miss something? What thread needs to be renamed, and why?

#63 ::: Arachne ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:33 AM:

I don't get incensed at the bots or the astroturfers. I get incensed at some of the real people.

Like: "Dems got attention with the black vote - and the Repubs played the gender card with Palin in response. Sad-very sad on both sides"

As if politics rightfully only belong to white males, and anyone else is a card and that's their only saving grace in a political fight.

Only it would get really complicated in some cases; a Latino Transgender card might make some people's heads explode.

Or, I don't know, an Asian card. I always get this sense that people really wouldn't like an "inscrutable Asian" for president. (That was always a really weird vibe for me to feel in the Midwest, and I didn't understand it until someone explained the Asian film villains to me. Sorry. I still don't understand. I mean, I understand, but I don't understand.)

*seethe seethe seethe*

*goes back to TwitterFox client where she can't see the stupid election 08 ticker*

P.S. On the other hand, most Twitter people seem clueful despite it being teh Internets so I'm not really angry all that often. Just SOMETIMES. I'm not even going to talk about the post-Hurricane-Ike tweets that made me see red.

#64 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 02:25 AM:

Arachne #63: Only it would get really complicated in some cases; a Latino Transgender card might make some people's heads explode.

Hmmm, I think we have the design seed for an election collectible trading card game. I know that people already parody that general kind of "card" with Magic the Gathering inspired artwork and flavor text (I've seen it mostly over on Fark, though, where cultural sensitivity is often a low priority goal).

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 03:36 AM:

Marilee @60:

Follow the link.

Only a parser that conflates the various ages of English will have trouble with "Oh Dear God" and "O Dere Ghod".

#66 ::: Tracey S. Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:35 AM:

Many thanks to those who provided (and pointed me in better directions for) information about how race may be a factor in the election.

Now I, like Janet @25, will focus my worrying on the vote-counting....

#67 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 06:05 AM:

Earl @64 MightyGodKing tried that idea by taking a Stab at Relevance, twice with Magic the Gathering (or Stabbening) style election cards. Found in a Particle here.

#68 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 07:13 AM:
The overall impression of these accounts was that they were astroturf, and very poorly constructed astroturf at that.
We need a new term.

Traditionally "astroturf" has meant "the appearance of a grassroots campaign that is actually done by large moneyed interests buying peoples' time".

Now, is it astroturf when PZ Myers sends his horde of readers to go crash a poll? He isn't paying anyone. He isn't even getting anyone to do anything they wouldn't do of their own inclination; he's just saying "do it over here", and providing a link. Is it astroturf to bus in your ardent supporters, if those supporters aren't otherwise compensated for their support?

I think we need another term to account for things like this twitter account. I have no reason to believe that this twitter account is anything other than what it appears - the twitter account of an unrepentant misogynist and racist who sincerely believes the bile he tweets out, and who uses twitter only to yell out politically-motivated slurs.

Now, calling this strategy ("send a bunch of the most rabid supporters we have over there and turn them loose to do whatever they want") astroturf feels wrong. That feels like stretching the word to cover activities that might have a similar effect, but in execution are distinctly different.

These people aren't artificial grass, they're weeds.

Therefore, I propose:
"tares" (or possibly "darnel") - rabid supporters of a particular side in some topic of general interest who join a site/forum/whatever solely to exclaim their passionate support of whatever it is they passionately support, totally disregarding the surrounding culture and etiquette of the place they've invaded. A subspecies of troll.
"sowing tares" - the act of encouraging rabid supporters of candidate/cause X to descend in large number upon some site/forum/whatever and "make themselves known".

I like "tares" for the cultural resonance of the phrase "sowing tares" (see Matthew 13:24-30), but it lends itself to easy misspelling as "tears" which then makes no sense, so maybe "darnel" is a better term.

#69 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 07:36 AM:

Tares or darnel, there's also an important point about weeds in general: they're plants which are in the wrong place.

What they don't tell you in the Wikipedia entry on darnel is that the wheat in the time of Christ was rather different to that of today.

Anyhow, weeds are distinct from trolls, and some of them can be hard to distinguish from a crop.

#70 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 10:27 AM:

Tracey #66:

There was a NYT/CBS News poll a few months ago that I thought gave some nice insight on this. I'm reposting a piece of something I posted on one of Ta Nehisi Coates' comment threads awhile back:

...the result said that 90% of whites said they'd be willing to vote for a black candidate for president, 70% said the country was ready for a black president, and 69% said most people they knew would vote for a black presidential candidate.

It's plausible that some of the white responders answering the "would you vote for a black guy for president" question were lying to avoid saying something socially unacceptable. But then they had this easy out, because they could say whether most people they knew would vote for a black presidential candidate. That lets a closet racist report his true feelings in the guise of "well, some of my friends...." So a plausible guess is that more than 69% and less than 90% of whites voters are, in fact, willing to vote for a black president.

Is there better data available, say which breaks down people by Democrat/Republican leanings? Frex, blacks will overwhelmingly vote for Obama, but since blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic in every election, this doesn't have much of an impact. Similarly, if most of the folks who will never vote for a black guy were dedicated Republicans, then their beliefs won't have much effect. On the other hand, if a lot of those folks would otherwise have voted Democrat, then Obama will have troubles. (This is complicated by the fact that, this year, the Republicans have such an awful record to run on that a great many people are likely to stay home, or to vote Democratic simply to vote the old bastards out, not because they're especially excited about the new bastards.)

#71 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 10:29 AM:

Daniel #68:


#72 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 10:35 AM:

Daniel@68: Now, calling this strategy ("send a bunch of the most rabid supporters we have over there and turn them loose to do whatever they want") astroturf feels wrong. That feels like stretching the word to cover activities that might have a similar effect, but in execution are distinctly different.

How about "trollbussing"?

#73 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Daniel #68: Slashdotting?

I don't think that has the right connotations; it implies that people are being sent to see something the notifier thinks is cool, and thus accidentally overwhelming the cool thing. There's no malice involved.

#74 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 11:37 AM:

Tares and Darnel sounds like the name of a vaudeville act. heh.

When I looked up the definition of "tare" it said "the seed of a vetch", leaving the casual googler none the wiser. Launching an astroturfing campaign via persuasion or meme fondling instead of payment is still astroturfing. You could call it "kneejerk astroturfing", I suppose. The core is the intent to deceive.

#75 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Also, "crowdsourcing" one's astroturf campaign would seem to apply.

#76 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 11:47 AM:

My understanding of the term was the "Slashdotting" described the effect of Slashdot linking to a website which immediately crashed under the sheer weight of visitors via said link. Farking works on a similar principle.

#77 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Clearly, though, my understanding of "reading comprehension" could use some help. Sorry for lowering the signal-to-noise ratio.

I quite like "trollbussing" as a term; I was trying to think of something that implied one's generalship over a sort of troll army, but came up with nothing.

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 11:51 AM:


#79 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 12:09 PM:

Possibly meta-trolling....

#80 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Troll herding, surely.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 12:36 PM:


('crottesourcing' would be also appropriate, as those who can read French would attest, what with 'crotte' translating as 'turd'.)

#82 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 12:39 PM:

albatross @70

Talking again of race and the election, I'm reminded of an anecdote from a few months ago that I've been meaning to mention. This was during the primaries. A woman who lived somewhere in rural Texas called in to Talk of the Nation (NPR). She described talking to a white man, a Democrat, who was railing against Hillary Clinton and saying how much he hated her, and then he paused and asked:

"Who's that n***** who's running?"
"You mean Barack Obama?"
"Right! That's who I'm voting for."

All of which indicates to me that race, racism, and voting decisions may be way more complicated than we think.

#83 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Now, calling this strategy ("send a bunch of the most rabid supporters we have over there and turn them loose to do whatever they want") astroturf feels wrong.

You need a word for a malign influence brought in to overwhelm the environment and crowd out the locals?


#84 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:07 PM:

I like flying monkey attack, from the Boingboing thread on that VB person, but maybe it's not quite the same thing.

#85 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:11 PM:

I really like "crowdsourcing." Could easily be altered to "mobsourcing" if you want to put on more of a negative connotation.

(I thought of "overseeding," trying to stretch a lawn-care metaphor. Doesn't work as well as crowdsourcing.)

#86 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Ooo. I think Anticorium wins.

#87 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Well, I'm avatarless by choice (and one of the benefits of ML is that I don't have to deal with all the stupid pictures, and also the fckng dmn dtc flshng mrn pctrs (oh, sorry, I mean "graphic emoticons")). But I'm not someone that associates visually - I have icons turned off on my menus, because they're just a waste of space (I have to convert []->[] to "move" in my head and then decide if I want to do it - might as well just have it say "move"). I realize I am in the minority in the world - about 10% works that way, the other 90% are image-oriented. But that doesn't mean I have to play their game, sorry.

I do, however, personalize, and check for speeling and correct grammerization in my posts. And I check for that in others, too. I can tell the difference between "He's German (Russian, Viet) and is writing in his native language with English words" and "this guy doesn't know how to spell" pretty quickly, and "is intelligent" matters more than "looks cute".

Having said that, comment history is a useful tool - "inflammatory comment, and look, it's your first!" is a good sign of something, at least.

OTOH, Twitter makes no sense to me - it sounds like "we're going to go gossip in the cafeteria. Go ahead and listen in if you want".

#88 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:18 PM:

abi #78: trollsourcing?

That one sounds pretty good, and the meaning is clear based on its component parts.

#89 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Troll-herding? Troll-gardening? I have this nagging feeling that there's some obvious play on "roll" that I'm missing.

#90 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Earl Cooley III @64: Back when Ron Paul was still running, I'd get a brain fart every time I saw one of his bumper stickers. I found myself with a burning urge to make a parody poster: RU PAUL FOR PRESIDENT.

Just think: we could hit all the major demographic hurdles in one go: Race, gender, sexuality....

Oh well.

(But who would be the VP?)

#91 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:31 PM:

You can't go on Twitter without being twitted by twits!

#92 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:35 PM:

If you crossed a troll with a tout, you'd have a trout.

#93 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:35 PM:

If you crossed a troll with a tout, you'd have a trout.

#94 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Trollrolling, kind of like rickrolling?

If the Wikipedia article is accurate, it even encapsulates the "send-people-over-here-to-do-this" sort of thing.

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Anticorum, #83: Seconded! Thirded!

#96 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 06:20 PM:

I've noticed that some people are not "ideologically committed" to their racism. You know the kind: the inconsistent xenophobe.

They will spout racist remarks about large groups of people they don't know ... but are still able to make friends who are dark-skinned or simply "foreign"... and NOT think of these friends as part of the same vaguely defined "Others" they talk about in such sweeping terms.

So: Is there among this type a "Reverse Bradley Effect"? People who say they would never vote for a "black candidate"... but actually do so anyway, once they've mentally separated Barack Obama from the murky "Them" in their minds?

#97 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2008, 07:54 PM:

Whatever happened to the verb to freep?

#98 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 12:05 AM:

"Troll roll" is sort of... in reverse.

Pardon me while I think in public.

Rickrolling punishes the people who are rickrolled. "Look at this [thing of interest]!"
(Never gonna give you up... never gonna let you down...)

Trollrolling punishes the target. "Yell at this [thing of disdain]" and they do.

I was working on "Troll stampede" but it's not punchy enough. Trollcharge?

#99 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 01:18 AM:

abi, #65, ah, sorry. The numbers in the URLs always make me think I shouldn't bother.

#100 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 04:52 AM:

How about "ricktroll", lower case? Marries the two concepts neatly enough.

#101 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 06:57 AM:

Eight years ago, four years ago, by this time of the campaign season there were bumper stickers on cars all over the place -- city streets, freeways, park'n'ride lots, parking lots. The "W" (or W/Cheney) Flag stickers were especially in-your-face. Right?

So where are the bumper stickers this year?

#102 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 07:07 AM:

@98: Trollnami? Trollslide? Trollquake?

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 08:05 AM:

Pyre @ 101... So where are the bumper stickers this year?

I had noticed that. There are indeed so few, compared to 4 years ago. My favorite so far is one I saw but a few days ago.

Polar bear mammas for Obama
#104 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 08:32 AM:

Reminds me of shiny conspiracy hats ... tinkudzu? (And when you successfully root them out, foiled kudzu!)

#105 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 08:37 AM:

(In retrospect, "tin kudzu" works better.)

#106 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 09:04 AM:

Shinyday #4:

"So if - as this Twitter site suggests - everyone and their dog is laughing at Palin and McCain, given that both the BBC and CNN agree that it was Republican congresspersons who shot the bailout package down, and that no-one including those Republicans is paying the slighest attention to Dubya now...

...why isn't Obama galloping away to certain victory? Or is this site suggesting that he is, and I'm misinterpreting it?"

Because what you read online is a very small, self-selected subset that does not accurately reflect the voting public. It's easy to just read Twitter and your favorite columnists and bloggers and come away thinking Obama will win in a landslide.

#107 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 09:30 AM:

I'm worried that the Diebold effect will be attributed to the Bradley effect. "Oh, well, you know, there's lots of people who say they voted for Obama, but we all know that they're really just trying to hide their racism. There's no proof that there was anything wrong with the vote counting."

#108 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 10:57 AM:

From a proposed variation on the "Alien Invasion" and "Nuclear War" variants of Risk, as applied to LOTR Risk:

Troll migration.

(One gathers all the cave troll plastic figurines and starts at one corner of the board and marches straight across, battling normally whenever armies of any stripe are encountered. Never implemented, so we haven't thought about how to "make change" using smaller army-count figurines when a troll is partially defeated, while maintaining the theme of a Troll migration)

Unfortunately, it does not connote malicious intent - merely the unfortunate consequences of being in the way of a large horde of trolls.

I do like Anticorium @#83's kudzu, but as Lindra @#104/105 notes, it needs some other qualifier. Neither "kudzuing" nor "kudzuer" seem to work. "Planting kudzu" is too wordy to compete with "astroturfer".

Then again, a name that doesn't accept modifiers well isn't necessarily a problem with a comment like "This thread/feed/etc. needs some Roundup, there's too much kudzu in here."

On the other other hand, however, kudzu will probably survive nuclear warfare...

#109 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Sarah Palin, comic book cover model

It occurred to me last night that if she weren't at real risk of ending up as U.S. president, Palin and her family would make great sitcom material. Sort of a cross between Benson and Married... With Children. I wonder if it's too late from some network to make her an offer?

#110 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 12:53 PM:

I've never figured out the Twitter thing at all. A techie from Continuous Labs has been trying to explain it to me, but I think I'm just hopeless. No, no--don't explain; let me sit here in my Neanderthal ignorance.

#111 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 01:32 PM:

I like short, pithy one-liners more than most people, but diving into Twitter would seem like squandering my efforts because everyone there would be expecting short, pithy one-liners, and the impact of same would be diminished thereby.

Twitter poetry, however, has potential.

#112 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 01:54 PM:

No bumper stickers because people's driving is way down due to the price of gas?

Because people's houses have been foreclosed upon?

It's an interesting observation though.

Here in predominantly blue Manhattan, where many of us don't have bumper attachments, I'm not seeing any bumper stickers either, even on the weekends when people drive in from elsewheres.

I did see a vehicle a couple of weeks ago with a bumper sticker -- It was for Kerry/Edwards 2004 ....

Love, C.

#113 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Pyre, #101: You're right, there don't seem to be many. And most of the ones I've seen have been for Obama -- McCain stickers are really thin on the ground. I'll keep an eye open this weekend; Dallas is much more politically conservative than Houston.

#114 ::: Tom Barclay ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 02:41 PM:

I'm in Orange County, CA at the moment. I see slightly more Obama bumperstickers than McCain/Palin bumperstickers.

What's seen most, though, are the Bush 2000 and Bush 2004 relics, and variations on 'NOBAMA' or "It's Not A Democracy, It's A Republic."

As to new terms and names, I like 'kudzu-turf.'

#115 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 03:15 PM:


You mean you missed the "Hockey Mom" trailer?

Spun off Matt Damon's comments that Sarah Palin as VP sounds "like a bad Disney movie", some folks created this trailer for it.

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 04:46 PM:

Here, in moderately conservative Pasadena, Calif., the trend in lawn signs is about 8:1 Obama. Bumper stickers are even more prone to be Obama.

The most heartening was in San Marino (one of the wealthiest parts of the area; I don't know if, even now, any of the homes are worth less than a million. Amusement... the US Census Bureau considers it economically depressed because there is not one employeer inside the city limits).

I had to do a double take and turn around to be sure I'd seen it correctly:

Under the word Obama was the Republican Elephant Logo. Under that was,

Even in San Marino, the signs are about fifty-fifty.

#117 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 06:01 PM:

My current Austin neighborhood is very light on the presidential yard signs, perhaps because of a perception that the HOA might disapprove. (Didn't stop the guys down the street from the HOA president from touting a Dem in a local race.) Outside the HOA, but still in the neighborhood, an almost equal lack of signs, with the exception of a McCain/Palin one in the yard of the one house where it might be most expected.

On the East Side today, I drove down an entire half mile where *every* yard had an Obama sign.

There are not a huge amount of bumper stickers this year. Seems as though the McCain stickers belong to the *really* aggressive drivers with cellphone issues.

#118 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Tom Barclay #114: "It's Not A Democracy, It's A Republic."

Are you familiar with the old robot saying "does not compute"?

#119 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 09:00 PM:

In the Bay Area I see Obama bumper stickers pretty often, but haven't seen a McCain sticker in quite a while. Here Obama stickers are almost superfluous; this area is deep, deep blue. I suspect that bumper stickers are more common in places where there really is a contest.

The most lawn-signed, bumper-stickered issue seems to be Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage bill -- and around here it's wall to wall "No on 8."

#120 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2008, 10:36 PM:

In conservative Manassas, I see almost no yard signs and few bumperstickers. Many of those are anti-Obama. I sure hope the 20K new registrants will vote for Obama and Warner.

#121 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Here in my westside Cleveland 'burb, my Obama yard sign was stolen last week. And this is a blue 'burb in a blue area...

#122 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 01:17 AM:

I definitely like trollbussing - brings to mind the stories I heard in the primaries about hiring homeless people and bussing them in to polling centers to distribute misinformation pamphlets. (Anyone know what I'm talking about? I can't find any evidence of it via Google and I'm worried that it may be a legacy memory from a collapsed alternate universe.)

#123 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 04:57 AM:

Tom Barclay #114: "It's Not A Democracy, It's A Republic."

Well, of course. It's like a democracy, but the Corruption rates are much higher and it hasn't discovered Recycling yet.

#124 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 08:14 AM:

ajay: part of my soul knew there was a Civ2 joke to be made, but it wasn't in me. I'm glad somebody stepped up.

#125 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 08:24 AM:

ajay: part of my soul knew there was a Civ2 joke to be made, but it wasn't in me. I'm glad somebody stepped up.

#126 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 08:33 AM:

124: Hmmph. Whippersnapper. That was a Civ 1 joke!

Does anyone else suspect that the Civ games were PKD-style* influence propaganda in favour of central planning? Anyone else notice that the winning strategy was "go communist soonest"? Hmm? These are no accidents, comrades!

*1959, "War Game"

#127 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 08:33 AM:

ajay #123:

On the other hand, it's easier to keep lots of troops far away from home as a Republic.

shadowsong #122:

If I recall correctly, this happened in the Maryland governors' race (and one congressional race) in 2006. The Republican incumbent governor[1] and lt[2] governor ran as governor and congresscritter, respectively. They bussed in homeless people to distribute "Democratic voting guides" which correctly listed all the Democratic candidates for other races, but which also listed these two Republicans as Democrats.

Just as an aside, you know it's a bad year for your party when your dirty tricks tactic is to try to get voters to think you're a member of the *other* party. This same election had at least one fundraiser for (I think) Steele, in which Dick Cheney came to raise money for him, but he got "stuck in traffic" and couldn't make it in time to have anyone take pictures of him and Cheney shaking hands or anything.

[1] In Maryland, this pretty much requires that he be more liberal than the average Democrat who could get elected in a conservative state.

[2] I am apparently unable to spell this right without a dictionary, a Google search, and an assistant to correct it when I'm done. Damn, all this whiteout on my screen is annoying.

#128 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 09:39 AM:

re: Bumper stickers - here in NoVa, the thing I noticed was that tons of people were still sporting their Bush/Cheney stickers until gas hit $4/gallon. Then they all mysteriously disappeared.

I see bunches of Obama stickers, and the rare McCain/Palin one. Which is very weird to me, because the pro-Bush stickers were on for so long, and nobody had Democrat stickers of any sort. (And I pay attention, because all political bumper stickers make me angry. I'm kind of not looking forward to our big arts festival tomorrow, because, while it will be fun, it will also be overrun with political operatives, which will most definitely not be fun. Stay in your booths so I can avoid you! Yes, I'm registered to vote! No, do not give my child a red elephant balloon! Do not stick a "Dogs for Obama" sticker on my dog! Leave me alone!)

But the yard signs are probably 2:1 in favor of McCain, while the median signs are more probama, with one lone Ellsmore sign floating in a sea of blue. (Well, his sign is blue too, because he likes to hide the fact that he's actually a Republican, but, y'know, it's got a 2-point red border, so it's different.)

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 10:24 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 109... I think it's here that I noticed some resemblance between Palin and Jean Grey when she first appears on X-men. Better watch out for firebirds.

#130 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 12:08 PM:

I think people are just too tired and scared to treat this one like a sports contest.

#131 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 01:00 PM:

Even here in north-central AZ there are Democrats. The two gay men who live part-time across the street (mostly when one's sister is here in our building) have an Obama sign up, and moved it to a more prominent place on their latest visit. The Dem. houses down the block and around the corner haven't put up anything yet, but the only yard with a Rep. sign, further down that street, is obscurely touting a would-be congress-critter whom the Dem. ads call a "tool of the lobbyists". It's nice not to be awash in a Red sea, at any rate.

#132 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 07:32 PM:

@65 Only a parser that conflates the various ages of English will have trouble with "Oh Dear God" and "O Dere Ghod".

Google are nearly there.

@68 We need a new term.

Traditionally "astroturf" has meant "the appearance of a grassroots campaign that is actually done by large moneyed interests buying peoples' time".

Now, is it astroturf when PZ Myers sends his horde of readers to go crash a poll?

Sounds like a grass mob to me.

#133 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2008, 07:44 PM:

I forget if I mentioned this one...

Of course Boulder is rather awash in Obama bumper stickers (along with "EndlessTHIS War" and similar sentiments... but every once in awhile I run across someone from the other side of the aisle. Usually it's leftover "W" or "Bush/Cheney"; more rarely it's "McCain 2008" (on the same car as the leftover "W" sticker).

But the one I saw a few weeks ago takes the cake for going beyond "oddly Republican/Conservative for Boulder" and straight into "That's just ugly."

It said "OBAMA: White Guilt '08"

(For what it's worth, it also said, "Actually, I like the smell of cattle yards" or similar. I suspect they were down from Greeley for the day.)

Patrick, Teresa, thank you for particling/sidelighting "Google being not evil again". That really warmed my heart.

#134 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2008, 02:25 AM:

albatross, #127, the shady voting guides did happen.

Cat, #128, we have Fall Jubilee in Manassas tomorrow. I haven't been in years, so I don't know if there'll be political tables, but I do know if I have to go out between 10am and 5pm, I'll have to go the opposite direction of where I want to go. The joys of small cities.

#135 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2008, 12:12 PM:

On my walk this morning I came across a sidewalk table offering Obama/Biden tshirts, buttons (3 varieties), and bumper stickers. I bought a button and a bumper sticker. Solidarity!

The last and only time until today I put a bumper sticker on my car was for the 1984 election.

#136 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Earl Cooley III @74:

Tares and Darnel
I can't help but think of Shields and Yarnell.

#137 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2008, 08:25 PM:

The mention of t-shirts reminds me: has anyone heard about the latest vote suppression tactic? Republicans are pushing for dress codes at the polls.

I only wish I were making this up.

Pennsylvanian Sue Nace thought election volunteers were joking last spring when they told her she would have to remove her T-shirt to vote in the U.S. presidential primary.
But it was no laughing matter to the poll workers-turned-fashion police, who said Nace's Barack Obama shirt was inappropriate electioneering - and made her cover the writing before casting a ballot.
Now, a political fight over what voters can wear to the polls is headed to court in Pennsylvania - with the Republican Party favoring a dress code and Democrats opposed.
#138 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2008, 09:54 PM:

Driving up to the Bay Area and back to LA: two Obama stickers, one sign on a roadside mailbox (99 isn't all freeway even now), *one* McCain-Palin sticker (on a fairly new Mazda sportscar), two 'Yes on 8', one 'No on 8'. Also a lot of downticket (congress and state legislature) billboards with names but no visible party affiliation - I'd bet those are Republicans trying to avoid the fallout from Washington.
One of my former classmates is a vocal Republican; most are either not Republican or not vocal about it.

#139 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2008, 10:01 PM:

Wesley, #137, Virginia, Maryland, and DC all have a non-propaganda range around the poll. They differ in size, but not in intent. If you wear a t-shirt advocating a candidate, they'll ask you to turn it inside out. No buttons, etc. This way, nobody is being influenced by who they see wearing what.

#140 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Marilee #139:

Yep, I believe we had something like this in Missouri, too--certainly, there were signs around the polling place saying something like "no electioneering within nn feet of the polls." It doesn't sound much like a voter suppression tactic, though I imagine any rules at all can be used that way. (Think about the "literacy tests" for voters that were used to keep blacks from voting in the south.)

#141 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 07:30 AM:

I'll have to remember to take my Obama button off my purse strap before crossing the street to vote.

Here's what the DC Board of Elections recently posted:

In response to various rumors circulating on the web and in the media, the District of
Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics would like to clarify the policy regarding
electioneering at polling locations. D.C. Municipal Regulations sections 708.4, 708.5
and 708.8 cover restrictions on "political activity" within 50 feet of the entrance of a
building used for voting. Section 708.8 clearly states that "the term 'political activity'
shall include without limitation, any activity intended to persuade a person to vote for or
against any candidate or measure…"

This means that if a voter is showing an outward sign of support for a candidate (i.e.
wearing hats, buttons, t-shirts, etc.) the voter will be asked to remove or cover the
article before entering the polling place.

This law was challenged in 1998 (Civil Action No. 98-02566) and the court found that, as
a matter of law, section 708.4 restricts speech in a manner which is both reasonable and

The Board of Elections and Ethics asks that all voters in the District of Columbia turn out
to vote in a manner consistent with the law.

#142 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 10:48 AM:

#137 et alia--the "No campaigning withing X feet of the polling place" is a pretty old rule that applies in a lot of states--the only difference I'm aware of is the specific distance. It's not intended to keep people from voting, just to make sure the actual polling place is kept as non-partisan as possible. When you consider some of the shenanigans engaged in by machine politicians in years past, it's an understandable approach--and of course, most of these laws were put into place before the campaign t-shirt was an item.

There's a story in Nashville political and campaign lore about a voter wearing a t-shirt supporting a local candidate (Leo Waters, I believe) who was told she couldn't go in while wearing that shirt--she removed the shirt and proceded to enter the polling place and vote in her bra, much to the amusement of the little old ladies who were clerking the election. As far as I know, no indecent exposure charges were filed.

That was the same polling place that, one August primary when they had all the doors propped open, had one of the neighborhood dogs roaming in and out--a dark yellow mutt, which prompted several people to ask if she was in fact, a Democrat, and if so, whether her presence violated the no-campaigning-in-a-polling-place laws.

My mother regularly clerked elections for several years, and still tells the story about counting the write-in votes, and running across one in my father's handwriting, where he has voted for Mickey Mouse over George McGovern and Richard Nixon

#143 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Well, I did go to the art festival, and it was fun, except for the campaign stickers. They even had special ones for Republican dogs - "McCanines".

I wish I were making this up.

#144 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 02:20 PM:

Down here in NC this "dress code" issue was mentioned in the local news, who sent a reporter to the voting registrars to find out what they had to say about it.

Basically, they reported that as long as you didn't stand in line and try to persuade voters to vote for your candidate, you could wear whatever damn well you wanted. We do have an exclusion zone around polling places, but they specifically said the law was to prohibit active campaigning, NOT precluding what a voter could wear when going to vote.

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