January 24, 2010

Could somebody shed some more light on Ellie Light?

I don't get it. Wouldn't a skilled astroturfer be much smarter, varying the letter and changing the writer's name? It's like "she" wanted to get caught... so who's behind this?

68 comments:

AllenS said...

The worse aspect to the story of Ellie Light and her emails claiming she was from all of those different addresses, was the thought that she was probably voting from those places, also.

Ann Althouse said...

If "she" changed the address, why didn't "she" change the name on the letters?

MrBuddwing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrBuddwing said...

I'm no expert on identifying gender purely through a person's writing (I guess looking at the author's photo on the dust jacket helps), but I can't shake the feeling that Ms. Ellie Light is really a guy trying to sound like a woman, or at least his idea of a woman.

G Joubert said...

Wouldn't a skilled astroturfer be much smarter, varying the letter and changing the writer's name?

Maybe with the fawning and non-inquisitive nature of the press coverage Obama has luxuriated in over the last two plus years, he and his minions have become complacent about niceties like covering their tracks.

Palladian said...

It cannot be a coincidence that "her" letter got published by so many newspapers and other news outlets. Is it possible that all these publishers received offers they couldn't refuse to publish this "letter"?

And I have no trouble believing that the Obama administration would make such a stupid, clumsy move because all they seem to do is make stupid, clumsy moves.

Zach said...

Why would an astroturfer be skilled? It doesn't exactly strike me as an interesting job with a lot of advancement opportunity.

peter hoh said...

It's a secret code, alerting deeply embedded agents to begin their covert activities.

AJ Lynch said...

When you write a letter to the editor, they typically ask for contact info so they can verify your name/ identity.

I am guessing this Ellie Light gave that name and a cell phone number and an email the papers could confirm she really sent it. One of the letters was published in the Philly Daily News and I know for a fact its sister paper will email or call to verify the letter-senders identity.

AllenS said...

Here's my take on it, Professor. Changing addresses gave her some local credibility at those different places she sent her stuff to. I doubt if she's bright enough to realize the power of the internets.

AJ Lynch said...

Palladian:

I doubt the papers got something to print her canned letters. The only thing that mattered was her letter's ideas and views tingled the legs of the editors who chose to print her letter.

AlgonquinS said...

Here's my take on it, Professor. Changing addresses gave her some local credibility at those different places she sent her stuff to. I doubt if she's bright enough to realize the power of the internets.

You may have a point.

Chip Ahoy said...

It proves it's not astroturfing. It's an extremely lazy and incredibly unimaginative but still highly motivated grass roots that imagines it won't be noticed.

[If you like this message then copy and paste it, the thing up there ↑, into a letter to your local newspaper editor then pass it along in its entirety by email to eight people you know, or you will get bad luck for a month, including flat tires and drained cell phone battery, and God will kill a pile of orphan kittens.]

AJ Lynch said...

Professor:

It was simpler for her to send one latter and when the conformation calls or emails came, she just said "yes this is Ellie and I did write the letter".

Would you say the letter is a proof of liberal bias in the MSM as well?

tim maguire said...

It's like "she" wanted to get caught... so who's behind this?

We're through the looking glass here, folks. A conspiracy to make it look like there was a conspiracy...

The most obvious explanation is that there is no one Ellie Light. There was a sample letter sent out by some low level Obama staffer to a mailing list and many of the recipients, too lazy to do their own work, sent it in largely unchanged except for the contact info.

victoria said...

A vast right wing conspiracy.


Vicki from pasadena

sane_voter said...

I like the Professor's take. What better way to further discredit the liberal MSM than with a stunt like this.

However, if it was an incompetent Obamaphile, maybe there are other instances lurking out there to be discovered?

AllenS said...

Vicky, did you take any science classes?

Roger J. said...

God I miss richard nixon. Now we Mr Obama who seems to have rolled Presidents Carter and Richard Nixon into a single entity--Richard Nixon's paranoia and Jimmy Carters incompetence. Well done Mr Obama--most of us, I suspect, didnt think that was possible.

alan markus said...

@ Peter Hoh = "It's a secret code"

My thoughts were "dog whistle" -

Robin said...

She probably works for ACORN. That would explain the incompetence.

garage mahal said...

Old spin: Free speech! We must celebrate and rejoice it!

New spin: Just WHO is this woman writing all these polite letters!??!? We must find out where she lives!

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Vicki from pasadena

Hey, I just saw the same comment on another blog that was signed "Vicki from Scranton"!

Andrew Hyman said...

Ann, there's a very simple explanation for why the content of the letter and the signer of the letter are uniform, whereas the addresses given by the signer vary.

The addresses vary to conform with the location where each local newspaper is located. A local paper is more likely to publish a letter from a local person.

The reason why the content of the letter does not vary is because the writer is a professional PR person hired by some other person who pays a fee to the professional PR person, depending upon how many newspapers the letter appears in. Thus, it is convenient for the letter's content (and the signer) to be uniform, so that the professional PR person can very easily prove authorship to the person who pays the fee. Got it?

EnigmatiCore said...

I think the interesting thing is just how successful she was in getting published. Papers get many more letters-to-the-editor than are ever published. Yet, her success rate suggests a remarkable amount of group-think among the editors.

AJ Lynch said...

Ecore:

Group think is just another name for tingle up the leg. Heh.

The success rate was f-ing astronomical. I bet it will be printed a few more times before the MSM catches on.

Ashley said...

The Gender Genie (http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php) thinks the text is written by a female FWIW.

Paddy O. said...

While reading that my first thought was the issue Palladian raises.

Newspapers don't publish every letter they get. So, even assuming that this letter was sent to every newspaper around, this is still a fairly high rate of publishing.

Maybe it's not Ellie Light who put the address on her letter. Maybe that space was left blank for editors to fill in their own locations.

A skilled astroturfer might change names and details. Lazy editors almost certainly wouldn't.

Lincolntf said...

It does raise some interesting questions. Groupthink among editors or someone putting the squeeze on all their newspaper buddies? If 35 (so far) have already been published, how many total were sent? If this is a Gov't employee, I wouldn't be surprised if the number is embarrassingly large. Lots of free time and resources in that field.
This would be "shady" even if it was done by a campaign operative in mid election season, but if it was done by an actual Government official, that would change everything in my mind. Not nearly as excusable.

ET1492 said...

I'm not sure Ellie Light was a hired hand. I think she is just an Obama supporter who blanket-mailed her letter to a bunch of different newspapers.

I used to work for a small, daily newspaper and we got a lot of letters like that. But we also required a phone number from every letter writer for verification. Unless you lived in our readership area or had some local connection, you weren't going to get your letter published unless it addressed a local issue.

It wasn't a perfect system, but it would have prevented us from printing one of Ellie Light's letters.

Andrew Hyman said...

This kind of letter campaign is unfair on many levels. Lying about the address is basically fraud. It not only gets a letter published that would not have otjerwise been published, but also bumps letters that would have been published instead. It also misleads readers into thinking that local opinion is different from what it actually is. This would be a scummy stunt even during a campaign, IMO.

Lincolntf said...

If it really is just a "lone moonbat", then it's pretty much a non-story. Kind of funny, but not really important.
But if someone in the Admin. was actually dumb enough to participate in something as creepy and sleazy as this, they should never work another day in Government.

pm317 said...

@Ashley
The Gender Genie (http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php) thinks the text is written by a female FWIW.
1/24/10 12:44 PM

--------------
Thanks for this site info. I have been curious about this issue but had not gone looking for any research done on this topic.

Bob_R said...

N0, no, no, I got it. It's an Obama operative who left all the names the same to make us think that it was a right wing conspiracy to make us think that it was an Obama operative trying to make us think that it was a genuine grassroots uprising in favor of ... Oh, Damn! I lost the thread again. When does the playoff game start?

garage mahal said...

Althouse
I'm surprised that cruelly neutral absolutist bullshit meter isn't blinking red today. Check to see if it's still working. *tap tap*
One day after hearing about FREE SPEECH, conservatives are already complaining about free speech! To the point of finding out her identity and where she lives. I mean, fucking c'mon.

You got sucked into your own vortex.

AJ Lynch said...

It could have been a conservative, media analyst who wanted to see if the MSM would be eager to print a well-written apologia for Obama's troubles.

I alse noticed Ben Smith received the letter in his email and Smith re-printed it on his Politico blog on January 7th. One of the blog's commenters called "Bullshit" or "astroturf" on it that same day.

Synova said...

Caught by unexpected success?

And don't most papers usually try to get some variety in viewpoint on the letters page? Maybe *all* of their other correspondence was pissy at Obama.

Derek Kite said...

Lets be charitable. Maybe for the sake of balance, the newspapers wanted to have some pro Obama letters to publish beside the anti-Obama.

They had only one to choose from.

Derek

Maguro said...

garage, you dope, she's obviously hinting at a vast right-wing conspiracy (like "she" wanted to get caught) and you don't even pick up on it because you're feeling victimized.

C'mon, man, even Vicki from Pasadena got the coded message.

SMGalbraith said...

One day after hearing about FREE SPEECH, conservatives are already complaining about free speech! To the point of finding out her identity and where she lives. I mean, fucking c'mon.

That has to be the goofiest post ever made on the internet.

It's the goofiest I've ever read.

Here's a clue: we're not the government and we don't have the power to ban her letters.

Geezus freezus.

garage mahal said...

I'm not feeling victimized about anything.The fact remains conservatives are so blatantly hypocritical and unaware of what they were just preaching a day earlier.

Here's a clue: we're not the government and we don't have the power to ban her letters.

Then why do you care who wrote them? The person who wrote them "signed" them, is there something more this person needs to disclose for you? Is it okay for this person to keep writing letters? Are there conditions? Then entire Citizens United case was about free speech, and disclosure!

Seriously Althouse, we must address this before we can even think of moving on.

Dammit Ann! I'm a grown assed man!

Maguro said...

The fact remains conservatives are so blatantly hypocritical and unaware of what they were just preaching a day earlier.

What hypocrisy? I don't think anyone here has called on the government to stop Ellie Light fron writing letters to the editor.

She's free to write the letters and we're free to wonder what the hell's going on.

It's all about the freedom, man. Far out.

SMGalbraith said...

Then why do you care who wrote them? The person who wrote them "signed" them, is there something more this person needs to disclose for you?

That's a fair point but one different than suggesting that somehow we're (or those talking about it) are somehow banning the writer.

For me, I have zero interest other than, perhaps (and it's reaching), that it's astroturfing by White House operatives.

SMGalbraith said...

I will note (reaching while doing so) that if Ms. Light was writing those letters on behalf of a corporation and it was 60 days from the election, she would probably be getting a call from the FEC.

That was the situation, of course, prior to Citizens United.

SMGalbraith said...

Hey, I'm 6'4, I've got quite a reach.

Both arms.

garage mahal said...

That was the situation, of course, prior to Citizens United.

And now is now.

NoName said...

Ellie Light is Karl Rove

garage mahal said...

SMG
Put more simply:
Yesterday conservatives were wondering why a political body had to disclose anything. Today, they're doing the disclosing themselves. Ironic, you have to admit. Oh well.

jeff said...

She writes the same letter over and over and uses deception to get them published. What of the people who actually live in the newspapers footprint who did NOT get their letters printed because this person took some of a limited amount of space? Why do you deny THEM their freedom of speech garage? Why must you support the chilling of the unpublished letter writers freedom of speech?

jeff said...

"Yesterday conservatives were wondering why a political body had to disclose anything. "

Who is against disclosure? Serious question. I've been busy, what did I miss?

p.t. fogger said...

On some other blog, somebody pointed out that "Ellie" = L.E., or, "Letter to the Editor", and further that the first name "Ellie" means, at least in part, "Light", so her name's "Light Light".

Make of it what you will.

LonewackoDotCom said...
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LonewackoDotCom said...
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LonewackoDotCom said...

1. Why isn't Patterico using his posting privileges to point out that Obama is rushing to add 200,000 new workers to the labor market via what amounts to an amnesty? Highlighting that could improve the situation for U.S. workers and for Haiti and could make the BHO admin look bad. So, why isn't HotAir discussing that? Why isn't Instapundit discussing that? Odd. Why, it's almost like they aren't smart enough to be able to handle it the correct way, or they think cheap labor is a good thing. Odd!

2. Patterico is a lightweight Internet tiger who tends to go after nobodies, such as someone who pretended to be a doctor at a public meeting. He didn't go after the fact that no one at the meeting asked questions that could have made SJL look bad, because he just isn't that capable.

3. "Ellie" will probably turn out to be just a regular citizen. As even Althouse recognizes, a pro would vary their names and text.

4. I frequently get swarmed by low-grade "Ellies", and I don't see anyone rushing to my defense. See this comment from me (as 24AheadDotCom) here, and then look at all the little noisemakers swarming me. Help me Patterico!

5. I've seen many interesting examples online, and for some reason a lot of them seem to be at The Atlantic. For a recent example, see this, with someone pretending to be a mechanical engineer using the brochurespeak phrase "this global marketplace". I noted something similar in January 2008. Where was Patterico then?

Synova said...

"Yesterday conservatives were wondering why a political body had to disclose anything."

I'm pretty sure that yesterday conservatives were having very little problem at all with disclosure with the exception of wanting to protect individuals from abuse and reprisals, loosing their jobs or possible physical violence.

If you're equating disclosure with banning unapproved speech from select sources, you're really confused.

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

She writes the same letter over and over and uses deception to get them published.

You don't know that. Anyhow, it's free speech. Creative free speech. I can start a 527 tomorrow, relatively cheap, and call up George Soros and potentially flood millions of dollars of propaganda mercilessly to every editor in America. Crush with a fist any opposition or dissent to my interests. We all agreed to that last week. Oh, we all didn't agree to that last week? Tough shit.

garage mahal said...

unapproved speech

Who approves that? The government?

Maguro said...

Really, garage, threatening us with a deluge of Soros-funded propoganda?

That's so scary. How could the republic survive if people like Soros were able to influence the political process?

Shudder.

garage mahal said...

What could happen.

LonewackoDotCom said...

This page has several letters from several suspected sockpuppets, and that paper's address is also used by Allegro Communications. One explanation is they're just easy; another is that they're ground zero.

MrBuddwing said...

Apparently, Ellie Light isn't alone:

http://tiny.cc/jHL80

SMGalbraith said...

and call up George Soros and potentially flood millions of dollars of propaganda mercilessly to every

Yesterday it was Hugo Chavez, today it's Soros.

Is Gargage really Glenn Beck?

Anyway, banning political speech to prevent a takeover of the country by people who will ban politcal speech is a bit self-defeating, it seems to me.

More seriously, the danger of wealthy speech overwhelming our electoral process is clearly there.

I just don't care for the solution.

MarkW said...

Then why do you care who wrote them? The person who wrote them "signed" them, is there something more this person needs to disclose for you? Is it okay for this person to keep writing letters? Are there conditions? Then entire Citizens United case was about free speech, and disclosure!

You're seriously missing the point. Should astroturfing be illegal? Absolutely not. Should there be government mandated disclosure requirements for letters-to-the-editor? Again, absolutely not.

So what's a reasonable response to astroturfing? Same as for all free speech -- more free speech. It's worth knowing how many papers were willing to publish the letters without bothering to check to see whether there was any such woman as 'Ellie Light' living in their community. And it would be interesting to know too, if possible, how this came about and whether the writer is a single, energetic advocate or whether this is an organized, professional effort.

We don't need any stinkin' new laws or regulations here--as we can see, a collection of internet connected citizens is perfectly capable of exposing likely astroturf operations.

Joe said...

One possibility is that the newspapers simply copied the letter from elsewhere. Either way, it simply reflected what their liberal ideals believed should be. And intellectuals wonder why newspapers are tanking across the country.

c3 said...

including the Ruidoso News Hey I used to live in Ruidoso. Not a hot bed of liberalism. Why did she pick Ruidoso.

that's my burning question: "Why did she pick the papers she did?"

Revenant said...

that's my burning question: "Why did she pick the papers she did?"

Maybe she mailed to all of them and the ones we know about are just the ones that decided to print the letters?

Revenant said...

So what's a reasonable response to astroturfing? Same as for all free speech -- more free speech.

Nicely said, Mark.