Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hey, Paulians! Are you guys setting up bogus forums?

That's what a Wired blogger is alleging:

It took less than a month for Jason Francis to realize that he was not among allies at the so-called Fred Thompson Forum, a website purporting to support the candidacy of the Republican presidential contender.

Maybe it was the site's tagline -- "Hope for North America" -- that made him doubtful of the forum's legitimacy. Or, the oddly bombastic tenor of his fellow forum members' posts. While Francis was posting thoughtful missives about his candidate's positions, other purported Fred-heads seemed to hold a sinister view of the former senator. A poster named "Chuck Manson," for example, expressed confidence that a Thompson White House would deploy improvised explosive devices in Iraq. "We've got bigger and better (IEDs), and we need to start using 'em! We will not be defeated! We will rule the Middle East!"

After voicing some mild suspicions, Jason Francis finally threw his virtual hands up in the air. "I am now convinced that this site is owned and operated by Ron Paul supporters with the express purpose of discrediting any and all presidential candidates, especially Fred Thompson, without reasoned debate or even relatively polite discussion," he wrote in July. "I have come to this conclusion after finding my posts (not inflammatory or vulgar) removed without a trace and my vote on the Ron Paul vs. Fred Thompson poll reversed."

Welcome to the online house of mirrors that is the 2008 campaign: A growing bag of tricks employed by tech-savvy amateur political operatives now includes a collection of spoofed online forums purporting to support top candidates, while damning them with praise for extreme positions they have never voiced. The operating principle: The best way to undermine a candidate's supporters is to pretend to be one of them.

If it's true, you're selling your integrity for naught. You won't even enjoy a Pyrrhic victory.