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Playing Devil's Advocate On The Astroturfing Story

Well, so far we have the standard, predictable responses to the Jawa Report's investigation into just who might be behind the Palin smear video: "there's no absolute proof! The whole thing is ludicrous! This is just another Rethuglican/Karl Rove false flag story!"

Now, I'm no great investigator, but I think I do have enough of an intellect to take a look at the facts laid out by Rusty and crew and run them through the conspiracy theories.

Here are the facts, as laid out by Rusty:

* Evidence suggests that a YouTube video with false claims about Palin was uploaded and promoted by members of a professional PR firm.

* The family that runs the PR firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, the netroots, and are staunch Obama supporters.

* Evidence suggests that the firm engaged in a concerted effort to distribute the video in such a way that it would appear to have gone viral on its own. Yet this effort took place on company time.

* Evidence suggests that these distribution efforts included actions by at least one employee of the firm who is unconnected with the family running the company.

* The voice-over artist used in this supposedly amateur video is a professional.

* This same voice-over artist has worked extensively with David Axelrod's firm, which has a history of engaging in phony grassroots efforts, otherwise known as "astroturfing."

* David Axelrod is Barack Obama's chief media strategist.

* The same voice-over artist has worked directly for the Barack Obama campaign.

So, let's suppose that I wanted to put this video together myself, to implicate these folks and, by making such an attack on Palin supposedly in their name, discredit them and help the McCain-Palin ticket, what would I have to do?

First off, I'd have to make the video. I know diddly about video production, so while it looks pretty damned good to me, I'll say that any decent video jockey with a good home setup could put it together. So that's no problem.

Then, I'd need the voiceover artist. I'd have to either hire the same woman who has done plenty of work for David Axelrod's firm, including at least one spot for Obama, or a woman who sounds so much like her that it's virtually indistinguishable.

Then I'd need to get some good info on who I could frame to behind the video. I'd need names and other personal information so I could create accounts at YouTube and other places in their names for my framing, and hope like hell they hadn't already registered those names as accounts.

I'd have to pick my targets for the framing very, very carefully. I'd have to choose people all within the same company that COULD produce my video, but wouldn't have airtight alibis for making the videos and would not immediately run to the police and file complaints for defamation.

More specifically, I'd have to be very, very, very lucky that Mr. Ethan S. Winner has several accounts around the web under that name, but NOT at YouTube, where that name would be up for grabs for my nefarious purposes. And even more fortunately, Mr. Winner has lengthy involvements with Democratic politics, so he's the ideal patsy.

I'd also have to set up another YouTube account, "cnwinner," in the name of Charles N. Winner, Ethan Winner's father and boss at the firm that I am setting up to take the fall.

Then I've got to get the word out. I'd have to find a third employee of Winner who has an account with a very distinctive name at some site and use him or her. I'd find, somehow, that Jared Liu-Klein of Winner is registered as "stickyfngz" at ESPN.com. Then I'd have to set up a Democratic Underground user account in that name to start pushing the video.

The tipping off the Nutroots part is easy. A few throwaway e-mail accounts is all you need to feed the morons at Daily Kos, Jesus' General, and others. This is "red meat," confirming their prejudices, so they'll bite on it without question.

I'd also have to be monitoring the net for the first signs that my plot was beginning to unravel (at least, enough to be pointing at my targeted victims) and start pulling all the evidence down as soon as it started getting the "wrong" kind of attention. That, alone, takes some serious resources.

My whole plot hinges on several key points: finding the perfect patsies with the perfect confluence of motive, means, and opportunity to produce this video who won't loudly scream their innocence and drag the authorities into the story immediately to clear their names, who won't have ready evidence to counter the scenario I've constructed, who won't have the legal wit or web fu to exonerate themselves and trace the whole mess back to me. And I'll have to engineer my scam perfectly, without a single error or revealing mistake that would point me out as the nefarious mastermind out to besmirch the Winner name for my own political purposes.

When that is taken into consideration, and weighed against the attempted rebuttals -- such as "are they so arrogant and so stupid as to put their REAL FIRST INITIALS AND LAST NAMES on this thing?" and "they wouldn't use the SAME WOMAN WHO READ OBAMA ADS FOR THEM!" -- still seem implausible, but far, far more likely than the alternative described above.

No, Rusty doesn't have a "smoking gun" on this one.

Not yet.

But the astonishing chain of coincidences he's strung together are far, far more convincing than the sheer scope of the conspiracy needed to engineer them deliberately.

Any single part of such a conspiracy could be pulled off. For all of them to happen, flawlessly, with not a single person leaking a hint of it, beggars the imagination.

Even mine.

I'm sold. Unless some truly remarkable exculpatory evidence comes out, as far as I'm concerned, Winner and Publicis are guilty as hell -- and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Axelrod's hand was in here somewhere, too.

That's David Axelrod, one of the top people in Obama's campaign -- for now.


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Comments (22)

I have a peculiar ability t... (Below threshold)

I have a peculiar ability to put names to voices pretty unerringly which may be a side effect of perfect pitch, which I also have. In any event, after listening multiple times to the voiceover on a number of Bambi's paid political announcements as well as the Sarah Palin hit piece, you bet it's the same voice!

What really, really ticks me off is that these pinheads assume that we are STUPID in flyover country. What a bunch of boneheads!

Jay, eswinner's youtube acc... (Below threshold)
Paul Duffau:

Jay, eswinner's youtube account was set up in August of 2006. Jim treacher has a screen shot at http://jimtreacher.com/

To allow for your "Rovian" conspiracy, the fallguy would have been identified two years before the plan was implemented.

I had a similar reaction. I... (Below threshold)

I had a similar reaction. I just...couldn't believe anyone would be stupid enough to troll using his real name, which is also his employer's name. I mean, this is a group that's supposed to be ultra savvy about grassroots and new media and all that? Then to start pulling things down when it hit the fan, as if they didn't know that screencaps and caches would surely be available. This would be unbelievably foolish and amateur from a group that makes big money off of knowing how to do this stuff.

But the alternative is even less persuasive.

Paul Duffau,Rove s... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

Paul Duffau,

Rove simply must have "hacked" eswinner's account. After all, Rove is capable of anything. :-)

Rove you magnificent bastard!

Thanks Paul Duffau.<p... (Below threshold)

Thanks Paul Duffau.

You just proved it was impossible to just fabricate this account for a Rovian Plot involving Palin. Because its 2 years old.

It is now much more believable this was a genuine account for at least a few years now.

S.weasel, I can believe it ... (Below threshold)
Mikey NTH:

S.weasel, I can believe it in one word: Arrogance.

This up at LGF:... (Below threshold)

This up at LGF:

"UPDATE: Within an hour of this post going up, YouTube videos implicating Ethan Winner were yanked, sockpuppet accounts deleted, and more importantly, the Wikipedia entry on David Axelrod began to edit out mentions of his well known astroturfing campaigns. Hmmm, it sounds to me like we're on to something.

We have backups of all the deleted websites, and will update as soon as we can."

I don't know how many times... (Below threshold)

I don't know how many times you have to spin in place, chasing your own tail, to think this is a setup (it may not be linked to Obama, but a set up??). You'd have to believe that someone did a huge amount of work compiling info on the perfect patsies, then put together this bogus ad that somehow fails to actually tie to Obama easily, then puts their plan into action by framing the patsies, making it look like the patsies put together this almost-clever almost-grassroots almost-viral video in a pretty underhanded fully sockpuppeted way, but leaves us with the impression that the people we're trying to portray as clever viral marketers are too dumb to use fake id's to post stuff.

Yes, that's much easier to believe than that people used their normal web id's and accounts, especially some that were already in place.

Oba-Occa-Obamum...Obama's Razor! Sorry...channeling Teddy K a bit there.

As you know Jay, it ... (Below threshold)

As you know Jay, it is not a big job to track down IP addresses. While it can be tedious using a one address at a time program like Sam Spade, there are other resources that can backtrack by the bundle.

So if Ace or Jawa want to know who was watching in the wee hours last night, they can find out, if they log IP addresses like you do here at wizbang.

A little thing like "eviden... (Below threshold)

A little thing like "evidence" never stopped John Murtha from slandering our Marines in Haditha. A little thing like "proof" never stopped the lefttards in this country from slandering the President of the United States of America, even to the point of claiming he orchestrated the attacks of 9/11! But NOW these peabrains want proof absolute? Give me a freaking break!

I know a little bit about t... (Below threshold)

I know a little bit about this agency. They are THE go-to guys whenever there's a need for some positive spin on a negative story out of China.

Check out some of their handy work here:


They were also the group behind the pro-stem cell research push in Missouri and California a few years back that involved Michael J Fox. They're apparently quite proud of that work.



People are creatures of hab... (Below threshold)

People are creatures of habit. Habit is a bad thing if you plan on screwing around on the internet. It's also bad if you come with the idea in mind that you're smarter than everyone else.

I hope Winner and associates have their asses handed to then.

To allow for your ... (Below threshold)
To allow for your "Rovian" conspiracy, the fallguy would have been identified two years before the plan was implemented.

I knew that screenshot would come in handy! Good call.

Here's something interestin... (Below threshold)

Here's something interesting: within a short time of posting this, I got a visit to that page from Covington & Burling, a Washington DC law firm.

From legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2008/07/obama-visits-co.html, "Covington partner Eric Holder Jr. is a close adviser to Obama, and a member of his vice presidential search team".

Forgot the <a href="http://... (Below threshold)

Forgot the link to my post that got a visit.

JT - you can add a bit, may... (Below threshold)

JT - you can add a bit, maybe very small and not connected, but 10 days, maybe two weeks ago (3?) some lefturd dropped a link to that same video (minus the intro graphics) in a thread here at Wizbang.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the IP associated with that commenter was traced back to someone or something connected to any of the parties named in the Jawa post?

I seem to remember a Wizban... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

I seem to remember a Wizbang post by DJ about how 'Lefty trolls are working to elect McCain'.
"..People plain do not like trolls. ... And of course, there are the political trolls. And like all trolls, people react to them adversely, but what sets them apart is that they also tend to damage their patron at times. And so it is, that Barack Obama's pet trolls have been chewing away at support he needs in the election, weighing him down and making his message look, well, like he's lying through his teeth. It's one thing for The Obama campaign to examine Governor Palin's record as an executive, but out of line to attack her family as their trolls have done so gleefully. And since Obama has not made much of an effort to rein them in, the implicit approval of their attacks has attached him to the stench of their conduct. So too, the smear attempts by trolls to deny John McCain's heroic service in Vietnam has come back to make people wonder about why Barack Obama has not tried much at all to make clear that he respects John McCain's service. Barack Obama has been a little too cute the past month, with monsters who - if not under his direction, they have certainly not been condemned by his campaign - have tried to damaged the public perception of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but have instead provided each a stage to defend their records (which they have done well) and to make regular folks question why a man like Obama, Mister 'Above the Rancor', would let his people act like thugs. While Obama has tried to distance himself from the dirty tricks, they are very similar to tactics he used to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary season, further staining the image he tried to paint for himself.

It is true that Barack Obama can win this election. But he has a big problem with the trolls he set out to trip up his opponent. They are working, instead and with great energy, at tearing apart the underpinnings of Obama's own character and judgment, and at the moment, trolls like Brian are creating an increasing momentum - for the McCain campaign."

The Astroturfing Trolls seem to be a part of this phenomenon and they will end up hurting, rather than helping, the Obama campaign.

Splendid. All is proceeding... (Below threshold)
Karl Rove:

Splendid. All is proceeding according to plan.

C'mon, we all know that's y... (Below threshold)

C'mon, we all know that's you behind the Karl Rove mask, Darth Sidious.

Obama's cesspool diving is ... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

Obama's cesspool diving is one of the factors that have contributed to his collapsing campaign. Appealing to trolls and moonbats isn't the way to win an election contary to Axelrod beliefs or those of the Chicago Machine. The Kos Kiddies and DU do not represent even a small fraction of Americans. Too bad Obama has shown his true colors.

Whewn will Obama throw these folks under the bus?

Seems eswinner has official... (Below threshold)

Seems eswinner has officially taken the fall for Obama et al on this one.

Watch this short clip that ... (Below threshold)

Watch this short clip that builds on Rusty's work. See if you think this Chicago voice over actress is the one in the ad. If the voices are the same, this has Axelrod's fingerprints on it.







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