Ellie Light: Obama Astroturfer?

posted at 6:01 pm on January 23, 2010 by Patterico

Someone appears to be doing a little Astroturfing for Obama.

In recent days, a letter defending Obama has appeared in dozens of newspapers throughout the country — all signed by an “Ellie Light.” In the letters, which all use identical language, Ms. Light explains that Obama never promised to fix all our problems quickly or painlessly. She declares:

Today, the president is being attacked as if he’d promised that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never did. It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Editors all over the country found Light’s message strangely compelling. It was reprinted at The Politico; the Philadelphia Daily News; the San Francisco Examiner; the Washington Times; and a USA Today blog. In addition, the letter has appeared at literally dozens of small-town papers across the country, with names like the Los Banos Enterprise, the North Adams Transcript, and the Danbury News-Times.

Ms. Light always claims to be a local in these letters. Her real estate holdings are apparently prodigious, as she has claimed residences in Philadelphia, PA; Daly City, California; Mansfield, Ohio; Waynesboro, Virginia; Algoma, Wisconsin; Bangor, Maine; and dozens of other places. Who said Obama supporters were all downtrodden?

The story was originally broken by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which published a thread of e-mail correspondence between the reporter and “Ellie Light.” But the original Plain Dealer story identified only the tip of the iceberg.

With the help of my commenters, I have been keeping a running total at my blog of the places where Light’s letter has appeared. At last count, her letter has appeared in at least 47 newspapers in at least 23 different states.

So far, that is. That number is growing all the time. It even appeared in a newspaper in Bangkok, Thailand!

As you can see at my blog, the states where her letters appear correspond quite well with the states that Obama won.

Who is behind this? Are all these letters truly the work of a single woman? Or is there an organization behind “Ellie Light”? (David Axelrod, call your office!) There’s no hard proof as of yet.

Here’s what we do know. Glenn Greenwald (yes, I know, but keep reading) flagged the fact that Obama’s pal (and head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) Cass Sunstein recently wrote a paper suggesting something sounding a lot like Astroturfing:

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government).

That sure sounds a lot like what’s happening here, doesn’t it?

Who is Ellie Light?

I would like to know.

How about you?


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freedom of the press definition ☆ freedom of the press

the right to publish newspapers, magazines, books, etc. without government interference or prior censorship

The freedom of the press to do the bidding of the administration?

What is going on?

ted c on January 24, 2010 at 4:42 PM

http://www.baltimorechronicle.com/2009/010509Letters.shtml

Mark Spivey and Janet Leigh in consecutive posts at this site.

ted c on January 24, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Editors all over the country found Light’s message strangely compelling.

Nay, unexpected, even?

It even appeared in a newspaper in Bangkok, Thailand!

Elliepong Lightarong?

RD on January 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Rod Blagojevich cursed his lack of “editorial support” over at the Chicago Tribune during his sordid tenure at Governor:

In one recorded conversation, Blagojevich uttered a series of profanities about the paper’s editorial writers, saying that “our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/dec/10/local/chi-blagojevich-tribunedec10

It appears that Blagojevich knew that you can get editorial support in some locales and that now Axlerod and company are getting the editorial support Blago wanted–and their getting it all over the country.

The Chicago Way.

ted c on January 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein?

Ellie Light.

atheling on January 24, 2010 at 3:10 AM

Ellie Red Light?

Let me make this perfectly clear. I did not know (fill in the blank) was writing those letters.
kingsjester on January 24, 2010 at 8:25 AM

This is not the Ellie Sunstein I thought I knew.

Get the editors that chose this letter to explain.
ted c on January 24, 2010 at 8:47 AM

+1

Cass Sunstein is now married to Samantha Power who is an Irish writer and journalist (”realise” in place of “realize” in the letter).

mankai on January 24, 2010 at 10:22 AM

That is suspicious enough. Tens of newspapers, publishing a letter from “their hometown” uncritically, even though they could clearly tell the author used the Queen’s English instead of the English taught in the local high school? Very odd indeed.

RD on January 24, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Don’t know, RD. A lot of people use ‘s’ and ‘z’ interchangeably. I do myself. It’s not necessarily an exact indication of where one was educated, only a possible one.

Ozwitch on January 24, 2010 at 5:46 PM

That is suspicious enough. Tens of newspapers, publishing a letter from “their hometown” uncritically, even though they could clearly tell the author used the Queen’s English instead of the English taught in the local high school? Very odd indeed.

RD on January 24, 2010 at 5:11 PM

I checked the letters printed in the US, and “realize” was spelled with a “z”, as in American English. However, the letter published in Thailand has it spelled with an “s”, as in Queen’s English.

Do you think the editors of the US paper “corrected” the spelling to avert suspicion?

atheling on January 24, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Don’t know, RD. A lot of people use ’s’ and ‘z’ interchangeably. I do myself. It’s not necessarily an exact indication of where one was educated, only a possible one.

Ozwitch on January 24, 2010 at 5:46 PM

“A lot”? I can usually spot a Brit commenter or writer because they use “s” instead of “z” in “realise” or “organise”, etc… Don’t know many Americans who spell that way… Are you sure “a lot” do?

atheling on January 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM

After I told my mom about this, she came up with this:

“Ellie” = LE = the French “le” = “The Light”. Sounds like “The One”.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on January 24, 2010 at 7:06 PM

They’re Marxists. Where they can’t control public opinion, they manufacture it.

spmat on January 24, 2010 at 7:26 PM

That these letters all appeared and ALL RIGHT AWAY, is clear indication of connivance by the editors / publishers of the OpEd sections where they appeared. Clearly a coordinated push and the editors involved should be somehow chastised for their willing and obvious;y ideologically driven and corrupt abuse of their media power in the service of propaganda. In AMERICA.

rayra on January 24, 2010 at 7:37 PM

Yeah, and pretty soon, you’re going to find letters from fake people who gave to his campaign, right? Such a conspiracy theorist you are, Patterico.

By the way, today, the president is being attacked as if he’d promised that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never did. It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Yours sincerely,
- Doodad Pro

Doodad Pro on January 24, 2010 at 7:40 PM

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. She just couldn’t understand why the David Axelrod would “astroturf” our fellow Americans. “Even the Baltimore Chronicle ?” she asked pitifully.

I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why David Axelrod would insult the intelligence of every American, past and present. “And yes honey, even the Baltimore Chronicle”, I was forced to say.

I tried to keep my voice steady, but it became increasingly difficult – the rage and feelings of helplessness were just too much. I think my daughter could tell something was wrong. I found myself at such a loss for words – nothing made any sense; nothing makes sense anymore. I finally had to admit, “Honey, I just don’t know – I don’t know what’s going on in this country anymore…”

When I finished her lower lip started to tremble and her eyes began to fill with tears, “Daddy” she said, “why are the Democrats doing this to the country?” Well, that was it for me: I finally fell apart. She just fell into my arms and we both began sobbing for several minutes.

For once she had to comfort me and get me back on my feet. Sometimes I just think it’s too much, but seeing the strength in my young daughter’s voice helped me to get through.

J_Crater on January 24, 2010 at 8:07 PM

Doodad Pro on January 24, 2010 at 7:40 PM

Hi, Mark!

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on January 24, 2010 at 8:10 PM

For what it’s worth, OFA twittered the crap out of the original piece at Politico: http://bit.ly/info/9392rN

So did OFA members/supporters take it upon themselves to spread this op-ed all around the country, using the same name? Were they directed to do so by OFA?

In any case, all of the editors of those newspapers have some explaining to do. A cursory Google search to ensure you’re not publishing something stolen from somewhere else should be the bare minimum expected of them.

Seixon on January 24, 2010 at 9:14 PM

If government can dispel such (conspiracy) theories, it should do so. One problem is that its efforts might be counterproductive, because efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them. We have suggested, however, that government can minimize this effect by rebutting more rather than fewer theories, by enlisting independent groups to supply rebuttals, and by cognitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracyminded
groups and informationally isolated social networks.

Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law School Jan 2008

ted c on January 24, 2010 at 10:03 PM

Supposedly Ellie was Michelle Obama’s nickname at one point and Obama is referred to as the Lightbringer. Coincidence?

txmomof6 on January 24, 2010 at 10:59 PM

Has anyone here sent this to Beck? HE WOULD LOVE THIS! And he would be just about the only one other than Rush who would speak about this in public.

Excellent work Chunderroad! And in all your findings have you noticed the numbers of people on you list and others they know who have ties to what we now know as The Muslim Brotherhood? Or for that matter direct relationships to Hamas?

freeus on January 24, 2010 at 11:50 PM

This blogger was on the trail since last October and thinks Ellie is an individual called Russo…
http://muffledoar.blogspot.com/2009/10/critics-tame-as-puppies-with-blog-squad.html

Annie on January 25, 2010 at 12:16 AM

I found this on FR:

“This is the list of papers and owners I’ve compiled. We’re thinking some of the higher up’s at Media News Group and Gannett instructed their papers to run the piece.”
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2436185/posts?page=53#53

Annie on January 25, 2010 at 12:26 AM

What makes them think it’s Russo?

atheling on January 25, 2010 at 12:29 AM

They appear to have done a lot of investigating – go to their first page…here’s more info…
http://muffledoar.blogspot.com/2009/10/anonymous-doj-blogger-campaign-attacks.html

Annie on January 25, 2010 at 12:34 AM

The astroturfing name “Ellie Light” could only be fabricated by libs. Smacks of the same “brilliance” they thought they displayed when they used the very pithy and original “wave a magic wand”.

Grace_is_sufficient on January 25, 2010 at 5:35 AM

Don’t know, RD. A lot of people use ’s’ and ‘z’ interchangeably. I do myself. It’s not necessarily an exact indication of where one was educated, only a possible one.

Ozwitch on January 24, 2010 at 5:46 PM

That sure sounds a lot like what’s happening here at hotair, doesn’t it?

The lib trolls here are paid Acorn workers shilling for Obowma?

Ellie Light aka light worker? Just throwing it out there, and don’t put anything PAST THIS ADMINISTRATION.

dthorny on January 25, 2010 at 6:40 AM

Nope. Don’t know, don’t care.

kg598301 on January 25, 2010 at 8:15 AM

After I told my mom about this, she came up with this:

“Ellie” = LE = the French “le” = “The Light”. Sounds like “The One”.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on January 24, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Ellie Light = LE Light ?

Too bad it’s not LO Light -
then this whole thing would just be LOL.

dissent555 on January 25, 2010 at 8:59 AM

I hope this story doesn’t go away.
AS opposed to to trolls who just sound like a broken record of Gibbs, these letters to the editors get to the very people that propelled The Won into office.
And whether the papers knew or not is worthy of investigation.

ORconservative on January 25, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Gee, too bad Holly Golightly was already taken…..!

Seriously, this is pathetic. I only get our local paper on weekends, so I’m not sure if it was published. I may check online to find out…..

atlgal on January 25, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Hey, Patterico… did you get me email(s)? Just curious.

Abby Adams on January 25, 2010 at 12:21 PM

There’s no question that my local daily has been cooking the letters to the editors page for years.

They “rank” each weeks topics of interest based on how many letters they receive and they then decide how many to print on each side of each issue based on the rankings.

Except they’re full of it.

“Dissatisfaction with Bush/Bush administration” just happened to be in the top 5 every week for…8 FREAKIN YEARS!

When they kept printing Palin-bashing letters in 08 (full of LIES) they claimed “dissatisfaction with Palin nomination” in the Top 5 every week.

I got my pro-Palin group together, all locals, no astroturfing, and we submitted over a hundred letters trying to refute some of the garbage they were printing, and not one was printed.

They are just editorializing through supposed “letters.”

A real paper knows darn well you can’t print anaonymous slurs and ridiculous claims (Palin is a racist cuz one person in a crowd of 20,000 allegedly yelled a racist comment) so they just make up letters saying this stuff to get it out there.

BlueStateBilly on January 25, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Looks like this made it all the way to England…..

ELLIE DOES ENGLAND?

MississippiMom on January 25, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Hmmm… Methinks “Ellie Light letters” are akin to Benjamin Franklin’s “Silence Dogood letters.” I’m betting we’ll see more of them.

Fortunately in today’s world, finding the source is infinitely easier to do than when Benjamin Franklin wrote his Dogood letters. And I’m betting no 16-year-old boy is writing them now like Franklin did back then.

But I’ll bet it is a man who is writing them.

jedijson on January 25, 2010 at 5:36 PM

This reminds me of the scene from Animal House where the guys in the frat say…

“I state your name…”

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on January 25, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Obama minions AstroTurfing???

Nah!!! Say it ain’t slow Joe! How UNTHINKABLE!!!
For a Messiah, he’s got a long ways to go. Hope he ain’t no ways t’ard.

Roy Rogers on January 25, 2010 at 6:24 PM

FREE ELLIE LIGHT!

leftnomore on January 25, 2010 at 7:18 PM

ellie light is obviously an anagram for “Get Lie Hill”. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

whiskeytango on January 25, 2010 at 7:25 PM

Axelrod face is what we in Hollywood call “character actor” material.

leftnomore on January 25, 2010 at 7:47 PM

I just want to know why Ellie Light must lie to me so much. I searched for her in Baltimore, in Waynesboro, in Cleveland. Everywhere I look, she hides, I cannot find her. Her tropes are so moving, so convincing—that an extraordinary groundswell of patriotism washes over me for our beleaguered president. A simple man, trying to do a simple job for which an overwhelming landslide of voters so decidedly selected him to perform. His thanks? Not a moment of peace, not a benefit of the doubt. The more he explains, the more he is rejected….Clearly there is some ignorance on the part of the public that simply cannot see clearly the blessings and joy which Mr. Obama has brought down and wants to shower our country with. I am certain that Ms. Ellie Light would so kindly join with me here in HotAir and together we’d proclaim his greatness and majesty that promises to secure prosperity and equality for all Americans.

/

ted c on January 25, 2010 at 8:02 PM

It’s strange that ALL those newspapers published Ellie’s letters. Bizzare.

TN Mom on January 25, 2010 at 8:16 PM

Ellie:

Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin discussed your letters tonight. They discussed that this effort was astroturf. I urge you to meet me here and let’s get this cleared right up, k? *call me*//

ted c on January 25, 2010 at 9:33 PM

“Grassroots” , herr Obama you keep using this word…I do not think it means what you think it means.

Fighton03 on January 25, 2010 at 10:04 PM

I can’t help but think that Axelrod’s pathetic combover is a metaphor for his Astroturf act.

disa on January 25, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Could it be Plouffe?

I base this on Axelrod’s comment regarding the re appearance of Plouffe

“We are turning the corner to a much more political season,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, who confirmed Plouffe’s role. “We are going to evaluate what we need to do to get timely intelligence and early warnings so we don’t face situations like we did in Massachusetts.”

Obama has given everyone, everyone Miranda rights. The only way to gather intelligence in the Obama administration is to put on a wig and change your name to Ellie

They are so hamstrung there is little option left

entagor on January 25, 2010 at 10:45 PM

TURK 182!

Now I have the homework of checking out Puerto Rico’s three newspapers…great!! >:(

ProudPalinFan on January 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM

I love this story, and I really hope that it keeps its legs. Aside from the obvious questions about the identity of Ellie Light, isn’t there another question about the publications who printed the letters?

I apologize if this has been covered already in the comments, but it has generally been the practice of newspapers to confirm the identity of authors before printing their letters to the editor. Historically, if a person wants to have a letter published, they have to provide a phone number so that the paper get confirm that the purported writer actually wrote it. Otherwise, people could have fun with writing a letter just like the one “Ellie” wrote and sign Patterico’s (or Michelle’s) name to it. So, if they did confirm Ellie, what phone number did she provide and to whom does that number belong? And if they didn’t, why not? For the conspiracy theorists out there, the latter would be much more interesting.

Selkirk on January 26, 2010 at 1:51 PM

UPDATE: Radio interview with alleged Ellie on radio show via Hannity.

ProudPalinFan on January 26, 2010 at 9:28 PM

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