July 02, 2008
The sock puppet in the news

It's probably not a good idea to do stuff that makes your boss have to answer questions like these on camera.

I agree with Boadicea that Elise Hu asks a good question:

Is this kind of masquerade ethical when it comes to politics, if a paid staffer is anonymously writing about the very campaign for which he's paid?

And I agree with the answer: No. That's what this is about, the misrepresentation by David Beckwith of himself. How many times must people be outed as sock puppets before the message sinks in that this is both lame and stupid?

By the way, I love that the quote of Beckwith/Buck Smith shilling for a raise for himself has gotten prominent play in these stories. Politics aside, that captures the reason why this is a Bad Thing about as well as one can.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 02, 2008 to Election 2008

This comes up regularly in the online marketing world, whenever a PR firm or a corporation pulls the same thing. It's kind of a no-brainer: misrepresenting who you are or hiding your personal interest as an employee of on organization is unethical.

Cornyn's "gosh, that wacky internet!" response makes him sound like an idiot.

The right answer here is to fire the staffer and make it clear that this kind of dissembling won't be tolerated. Period. Not that I'm holding my breath for "Big John" to make it clear that his staffers need to be ethical and honest.

Posted by: John on July 2, 2008 7:01 AM

** Is this kind of masquerade ethical when it comes to politics, if a paid staffer is anonymously writing about the very campaign for which he's paid? **

What about those who blog about campaigns with which they are affiliated professionally? Or who get campaign research mailers and post them nearly verbatim (with the understanding the sender won't be identified)? I've seen this from partisans of both sides sans disclosure, and it doesn't impress me much -- it seems the right thing to do is to disclose, but it's not always done. In face, I've thought about starting a blog to post all such materials I receive unsolicited. That might be kind of entertaining!

Putting on my political scientist hat (heh), the bigger question I have about this apparently senior staffer is what the hell was he trying to accomplish for the campaign?

He's not going to win over converts at many of the places he was posting. And if his identity comes out, it's embarrassing. So what was he THINKING? Was he thinking this race is so in the bag that he can go and entertain himself at the expense of the Texroots? If so, that sort of arrogance is a good way to lose a race....

BTW, that "Cornyn staffer exposed" graphic in the story makes it sound even worse, if you think about it. :D

Posted by: Kevin Whited on July 2, 2008 7:44 AM

Kevin, as we've seen, Beckwith has been doing this sort of thing since 2005, well before there was a Noriega candidacy for Senate or a well-defined "Texroots". I think he just liked spreading FUD and stirring shit up, especially since as "Buck Smith" he claimed to be a Democrat. Lame and juvenile, to be sure.

John, you'd think after the John Mackey story was such big news last year that people would have learned not to be a sock puppet, but you'd be wrong.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 2, 2008 8:43 AM

So David Beckwith is both a sockpuppet and the auteur of the Big John video? He's wasting his time at such a low level place as the Cornyn campaign. He's obviously ready to start ghost-writing Kristol's NYT op-eds.

Posted by: Temple Houston on July 2, 2008 10:01 AM

The implication here is that you can shame a sockpuppet into proper behavior. Unfortunately sockpuppets believe they can multiply faster than rabbits and are as immalleable as their bosses.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on July 2, 2008 1:52 PM
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