It’s one of the psy-ops operations that never seems to get any coverage. Unlike polls that are “scientific” with “methodology” that is more closely guarded than the nuclear missile codes and are designed to make it seem like one side is winning when it isn’t, online trolls and astroturf “support” for any one candidate is a little hard to pin down. We all know how it works. Keyboard commandos sit behind the comfort of their flat screens, create fake accounts since most of social media is free, trash one candidate or another, and get paid for the effort.
In the conservative website world of the internet, we’ve seen this for a couple decades. Anyone who spent any amount of time on Free Republic back in the day and remembers ZOT! and the Viking Kitties knows about trolls.
In 2016, though, the online army working to create the impression that Hillary Clinton’s support is a lot wider and deeper than it really is got a bit cocky and other users got suspicious.
Savvy Reddit users outed one of the Clinton staffers, Adam Parkhomenko, her director of grassroots engagement, who was apparently posting anonymously on the site threatening Trump supporters. Under the username rcMI9HXF, he wrote, “Warning- participation in this slanderous witch hunt will result in legal action. Mrs. Clinton has been made aware of your childish attempt to slander her and her supporters. There will be consequences for your actions.” When Reddit users guessed he was being paid by Clinton, he responded, “I am just an average Joe fed up with the blatant lies you people are slinging towards HRC. I’m a Bush supporter and volunteer, actually.” But when they discovered his home address, he finally admitted his real identity, “You can call me Adam. My buddies call me A.park.”
This is but one effort of the astro-turf army that has been outed by users and admins at various liberal and progressive sites, actually. This year, they aren’t just going after the conservatives, and the reporting on it is spreading to liberal bastions such as the Atlantic. The Daily Kos outed more than one troll claiming to have switched from Bernie Sanders to Hillary. Media Matters, a David Brock operation, has even been attacked.
This is not a new tactic for the Clinton people. They have been trolling online for years, even developing websites that appear to support one candidate when they are really there to troll for Clinton. This happened with the “Feel the Bern” website and a site called Bill for First Lady. The code for these efforts was found on the accounts of the astroturf trolls.
The anonymous fake accounts come are nothing new for Clinton. In 2007, paid campaign staffers and volunteers on her campaign were caught creating anonymous accounts to artificially inflate her support. The influential Blue Hampshire blog discovered the ruse, when several anonymous accounts were all created in succession on the site from the same Clinton campaign IP address, which then bolstered pro-Clinton diaries.
Clinton hired a campaign manager this election cycle known for his scorched earth tactics. Robby Mook started a listserv in 2009 known as “Mook’s Mafia” to share political information with associates. He says things like “smite Republicans mafia-style” and “F U Republicans. Mafia till I die.” He has also said, “First, the mafia never separates, it just continues to grow and expand and move into other states in order to destroy Republicans.” By choosing Mook, Clinton reveals the type of campaign she wants, Alinskyite tactics of do anything to win.
Which, according to some of the trolls’ friends, is being under utilized this campaign season. Other parts of the Clinton campaign are spending millions to employ an astroturf army of keyboard commandos. One of the pros mentioned above is sort of sitting idle. (Outed too many times?) It sounds like the campaign learned its lesson that on the internet, everything can be traced. In that, all trolls are in danger of being outed at some point or another.
So, when conservatives see the day’s talking points put up for the third time, don’t respond or engage. Just ignore or block the person. Yes, we’re on to the Alinskyite tactics.