Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blogs and Campaigning, Pt. 2: Hillary's Volunteer Turf Crew

For some time I've seen and heard pro-Hillary statements that supposedly came from regular folks, but that sounded an awful lot like talking points. For example, this comment from last week (read also my response). And then today an anonymouse dropped links to the CTV story. And for the past few weeks Diane Rehm fields at least one call from a Hillary supporter who sounds for all the world like he/she is reading off a card.

Well, I got this a couple days ago from the Hillary Campaign. It went out to contributors:

    Join the Hillary Rapid Response Team

    We have worked too hard, We have come too far, and We have fought too long to allow our candidate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to get unjust treatment in the media and on the internet.

    This has not been a fair fight when it comes to how our candidate's words and actions are misrepresented and misconstrued to voters. The other candidate has been given a "pass" and handled with "kid gloves" while our candidate is consistently damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

    The time is now to join the HILLARY RAPID RESPONSE team and fight the factual untruths.

    Sign up here!

    What is a RAPID RESPONDER:

    * Someone who speaks the truth, to all forms of media, about our candidate's message and positions.
    * Someone who counters the attacks with factual truths.
    * Someone who stands up against the constant and negative bashing of our candidate.

    What do you get as a RAPID RESPONDER:

    * Daily talking points about our candidate's positions.
    * Daily talking points about how the opposition is misleading voters with false statements.
    * The satisfaction that you ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE on the campaign.
Well, as long as it's about the truth.

This is a dodgy business. On the one hand, it makes sense for a campaign to make supporting information available to supporters. On the other hand, sending out "talking points" in effect jeopardizes deputizes* grassroots supporters as flacks. And most of them aren't terribly good and speaking the campaign's "truth" while sounding genuine.

For some time, even before getting this suspicion-confirming email, too many pro-Hillary statements have sounded canned. Having gotten this, it's hard to take many as genuine. Jill's Hillary SUPPORTER is an obvious exception.

*Proofread, Pho. Proofread.


redhorse said...

I don't know, Pho. Jill's guest poster has sounds like a person with native intelligence taking liberty to make the talking points hers. Many themes are consistent. Certainly, it could be coincidence.

Then again, at this point, I'm just cynical.

Is it March 5th yet?

Annie said...

Pho, I totally disagree with your assesment here. As a campaign supporter and someone who is heavily involved in the grassroots effort, I find it really helpful to have talking points to give to wafflers and supporters alike so that they may become versed on the issues. Cause dont forget, our campaign is about actual issues and policies, not about fancy speeches.

Also, the campaign has supported two unique websites that promote individuals' stories about their own personal reasons for supporting HRC. The young version is here: and the older version here:

These two sites show that the campaign wants to hear voter's own personal stories and not the "robotic" practiced verses some are suggesting.

Chris Baker said...

I consider myself to be a master one man wrecking crew of a rapid responder with my days back as self appointed online Hackett defender as an example. I always considered my postings on other people's blogs to be more effective than my own posts.

As a craft it's based upon reputation, relationships and finesse. This sort of robopunditry is completely artificial and completely ineffective IMHO.

I've been amazed at how bad Hillary's champions have been online. From these sorts of lowly comments all the way up to national media figures. It's clear that like most old school politicians they simply don't get it.

A smart campaign finds a few people that they can trust to act as online defenders. These people can quickly set the tone for how the network reacts to attacks. Get me talking about this and I'll start talking about my theories of resonance and message dissonance and the network as an instrument. It's interesting stuff, and the 21st century's contribution to the art of propaganda. (Lucky for us the Pentagon has absolutely no clue as to how this works.)

Joe R said...

Its nice to know the Clinton campaign finally found the internet.

I have noticed on my blog especially in the last week a number of comments that seemed to be almost word for word the same as others.

Pho said...


Cause dont forget, our campaign is about actual issues and policies, not about fancy speeches.

Well, at least you have your talking points down.

I think the other three commenters have highlighted the big issue -- the Clinton campaign has done this work in a way that rings false. Some combination of the phrasing of the campaign info, the accompanying instructions and the people they send it too apparently create this air of inauthenticity that we are detecting.

Your comment is an example. I know you are too smart to actually believe that Obama has no substance, that he is simply about fancy speeches. Yet you roll in here and drop that line like we are all the hoipolloi, ready to be taken in by, well, a fancy slogan.

Even your candidate admitted that Obama is a serious guy with serious ideas, which is part of why her debate performance seemed so meaningless.

Eric said...

So do robopundits ensure a campaign official is responsible for the accuracy of talking points, or do they assume liablity for disseminating "a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate?"

BTW, I hereby permit Senator Obama use of the following: "I see a day when Hillary Clinton's Will America Choose High Skills or Low Wages? appears on (so-called) freedom shrines in high schools throughout our colony as America's instrument of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament."

Jill said...

Jason - yes - you are being too cyncial. It's not becoming. :)

LOL ROFL - ok - Chris is 100% right - I JUST THIS SECOND got a phone call saying that they are reaching out to Hillary supporters - it was an older woman, stumbled over her words, I let her speak, and I said, Okaaaayy -waiting for the ask of some type - and the line goes dead. LOL

Sigh - on the other hand, think think think: if someone supports someone, they can vote for that someone and they can try to persuade others to vote for the someone. But that doesn't mean they are going to be GOOD at doing that persuading. Delete the robocomments and hang up on the robocalls and point out that if you can't be genuine, find something else that might work.

Otherwise, enough. Not everyone is good at selling someone else's bill of goods. So.What.

Ok - tell me what I'm missing now.

Colin Morris said...

Man, this explains a lot of what I've been seeing on campus. Actually, Akron's more than Kent's.

Yesterday, I was assigned by a producer at Kent's student TV newsroom to collect man-on-the-street interviews of people reacting to the fact that Bill was coming to Kent's Tuscarawrus campus instead of the main one. We scoured the bustling student center and couldn't find anyone who cared.

redhorse said...

Jill - I think this is the missing point:

The robotic resposne, particularly that seen at BSB, rings hollow. It's dramatic, dense, exactly in line with campaign talking points.

That these responses are inauthentic is not in question. And that's the problem. I doubt highly that anyone of us seek out blogs for campaign talking point regurgitation.

I don't mind that there's overlap in thought. Certainly, with so much information available, overlapping thought is inevitable.

But the individual debate is missing, replaced by campaign bullet points. That, I believe, is counterintuitive in blogdom.

Jill said...

Debate good. Robocomments with talking points bad. Agreed. Anyone else deleting "Janet Reno" robocomments?

Pho said...

And the other point here is about transparency. People who represent themselves as just folks but are regurgitating campaign talking points are, on some level, engaging in misrepresentation. I wrote the post and included the email in large part to confirm what apparently many were feeling -- that the phony sound just folks comments can be traced directly to Hillary Central.