I have followed the story of “Ellie Light” with a mix of fascination and amusement, for a couple of reasons. First, Astroturfing campaigns to get letters printed in newspapers are nothing new, but rarely have been as successful as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks. Until the Cleveland Plain Dealer blew the lid off “Ellie Light” and people like Patterico began digging, an inordinate number of newspaper editors couldn’t spot the frauds.
That brings me to my second reason, which was that I had been receiving these astroturfing e-mails all along and sending them to my spam folder, which is generally where they belong. They looked to me to be the equivalent of what we call in talk radio “seminar callers,” people who plague talk-radio shows and work off of scripts in order to get someone else’s propaganda on the air. Why “Ellie” would send these to a blog that doesn’t print letters from readers is anyone’s guess, but I assume it was part of a shotgun approach that succeeded beyond Ellie’s fevered imagination with newspapers. Only one of the “Ellie Light” e-mails remained in my inbox, which pushed for a humanitarian response to the crisis in Haiti and was apolitical. I sent that over to Patterico along with the source code, and he got some interesting information from it.
Yesterday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Ellie Light sent them a follow-up e-mail explaining herself:
In a Sunday morning e-mail to The Plain Dealer, Light denied speculation that she’s actually President Obama, his wife, Michelle, or National Security Council member Samantha Power.
“I’m flattered, and I must give the Tea Partiers credit for even knowing who [Power] is,” Light’s e-mail said. “But what I want to point out is that, if I were a person trying to imply this huge groundswell of support for our beleaguered president, then I would have signed the letter with different names. However, as you may have noticed, my main point is that absence of support for the president.
“I am not surprised that an article that tends to discredit a pro-Obama letter-writer has lots of readers. I understand that there are 10 million dittoheads that daily scour the airwaves, print and online press for something nasty to say about the president, so I’m sure your article will get more hits,” she wrote in another e-mail later Sunday. “I’m not sure why you would write me that people would probably be interested in what I have to say. My impression is that my letter could contain Chinese food recipes with a Pro-Obama subject line, and the event would be interpreted as fodder for that same highly-motivated, but narrow class of people.”
I hate to rain on the CPD’s parade, but Ellie also wrote to me … and everyone else on her list, I’d bet. The content is a bit different, perhaps a little more baiting, but otherwise the same kind of clueless writing style that made her and her cohorts, whose missives I’ve also received, obvious “seminar writers.” Instead of using Ellie’s message, I’ll just open up the message header (with my info redacted) and see if that helps anyone track Ellie down:
From – Mon Jan 25 06:42:56 2010
Return-path: <[email protected]>
Envelope-to: [email protected]
Delivery-date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 07:38:46 -0500
Received: from tosh-PC (host11-164-dynamic.59-82-r.retail.telecomitalia.it [184.108.40.206])
by (Postfix) with SMTP id DBC0C1E1C6AB
Mon, 25 Jan 2010 06:38:30 -0600 (CST)
Received: from [220.127.116.11] by web335.mail.yahoo.com via HTTP; Mon, 25 Jan
2010 12:22:20 GMT
Message-Id: <[email protected]>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 08:22:20 -0400
From: “Ellie Light” <[email protected]>
User-Agent: Mozilla 2.0 (Macintosh; I; 68K)
Let’s try the open-source method and see if that works.
Update: Dan Riehl has been doing some sleuthing as well — and gets an Ellie Light comment that is almost identical to the e-mail I received this morning.
Update II: Little Miss Attilla got the same message Dan and I got.