Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Censorship and astroturfing will not win the Democratic nomination

In recent days, I've come across some interesting reports about Clinton, her supporters and her campaign. I'd like to put some of them together here for your review. What I share here could be used as a measure of the weakness of Clinton as a candidate for president. There are plenty of websites and Facebook pages dedicated to explaining why you might not want to vote for Hilary Clinton. But they probably don't cover the examples I found in the last few days.

Last night, I began to notice reports that an organized, concerted effort was made to take down the largest Sanders groups on Facebook. This has been observed and documented. Why supporters of Hilary Clinton wanted to do this the night before 5 states are set to in their respective primary races is beyond me. Here is one meme currently in circulation to get the word out:

Such an effort belies the confidence that Clinton supporters have about their candidate. If they truly believed that Clinton will prevail on the merits, they have no need to interfere with Sanders supporters and their social media activities. Such action would expose them to criticism by the opposition. If this were reported in the mainstream media, it would surely compromise their standing in their respective social media circles and perhaps tarnish the image of Hilary among her supporters and people who have not made up their minds.

The Hilary campaign has spent $1 million to correct the record. There is, actually, a SuperPAC called "Correct the Record" and it is actively coordinating with the Clinton campaign to "address" people who have attacked Hilary Clinton on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and elsewhere. These are paid professionals, writing responses to such attacks, and they call it "pushback". The Daily Beast has the story and here is the nugget:
"Due to FEC loopholes, the Sunlight Foundation’s Libby Watson found this year that Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign, despite rules that typically disallow political campaigns from working directly with PACs."
The Clinton campaign is using a legal loophole to allow coordination with a SuperPAC for the purpose of getting their message out. But the best part is this: people working for Correct the Record are paid to do what they do and to make it look like they are just ordinary, unpaid supporters. This is called "Astroturfing". According to Wikipedia:
"Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word "grassroots." The implication behind the use of the term is that there are no "true" or "natural" grassroots, but rather "fake" or "artificial" support, although some astroturfing operatives defend the practice (see Justification below)."
These are just a few of the signs that Hilary Clinton's campaign doesn't believe it can muster the support needed to win the nomination without paying people to speak for them in social media. Some of her supporters honestly believe that they have to silence the opposition to win. Clinton supporters and her campaign would have us believe that Hilary Clinton is the presumed nominee, but without our knowledge of their behavior.

Yet her supporters and even members of her campaign are not so sure she can win. If her supporters were so sure, there would be no need for attempts at censorship. Fortunately, all the Sanders groups on Facebook that went missing last night, on the eve an election in 5 states, have been restored to their original status. If her campaign were sure that Clinton would prevail in the remaining primary contests on the merits, they would have no need to pay anyone to act covertly to shape public opinion in social media circles.

Censorship and misinformation campaigns are not signs of confidence. They are signs of desperation.
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