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?