Wednesday, September 16, 2009

GOP Twitter Paranoia and its Implications

Summary: Today, WAYLA focuses on picking and choosing followers on Twitter, stemming from Colorado Republicans "scrubbing" their liberal followers - what it means for each party, for future campaigns, and what they're missing.

On Monday, - a Democratic-leaning political blog in Colorado - reported that Republicans on Twitter began purging liberals from their list of followers over the weekend.

From the post:

Apparently the word went out over the weekend that "liberals" are attempting to "follow" Republicans on Twitter. This is being interpreted as a bad, nefarious thing, needing to be stopped, although "following" on Twitter is in most other circles considered desirable. In fact we're not certain under what circumstances attracting Twitter followers is undesirable, but then again we've been following Republican “tweets” ourselves. We understand why some of them would prefer to not have just anybody seeing this stuff.

We're told that the advice to begin 'purging' liberals from high-profile conservative Twitter accounts was supposed to have gone out quietly, with the goal being an under-the-radar purge.

Colorado State Senator Dave Schultheis (R-09) didn’t do it very quietly, however, tweeting “Important! Many libs and progressives attempting 2 Follow conservatives. Scrub your "followers" I blocked three more today. #tcot #redco”

This development is interesting for two reasons.

The first is how the GOP is using Twitter. They want to be able to rally supporters without the other side getting word of the language or tactics they’re using.

Unfortunately for them - as they should know - anything done or said in the political realm in this day and age can be leaked faster than water in a sieve. Just take President Obama’s comments about Kanye West the other day, or many of the embarrassing tweets Republicans have made that we have relayed here on WAYLA.

As we said in a post about new media last month:

"The point is that politicians wouldn’t (in most cases) say those sorts of things to rally supporters in a speech - because that too would be picked up by the mainstream media - so they shouldn’t try to engage supporters with such rhetoric in the social networking realm either."

It seems that Colorado Republicans don’t read this blog.

The second reason it’s interesting is how liberals are acting in terms of new media - or rather, political people in general.

The simple psychology of it is that it is alright to follow the opposition on Twitter - it doesn’t compromise your own ideological principles. Similarly, many smart campaign workers will sign up for the email lists of their competition.

[In fact, there are occasionally email wars between liberal groups (like, say, and conservative groups (like, say, FreedomWorks). In these wars, one group will email its supporters saying something somewhat confrontational in order to drive support (typically in money or online petition signatures) and someone from another group will receive the email too. Then they’ll use it to send out their own email, blasting the original, and driving their own support (in money or e-petitions). Sometimes it can go back and forth for a while.]

Contrast that sneaky way of watching the competition with another new media tool - Facebook. On Facebook, in order to keep track of an opposing politician or ideological group automatically, one needs to become a supporter. A follower is one thing, but identifying yourself as a supporter is too much too handle!

Nonetheless, the media follows - and “supports” - everyone in order to keep tabs on their campaign activities. That’s how we get word when somebody like Sarah Palin coins a phrase like “death panels” with a status update.

Colorado Republicans have hardly anything to fear in liberal followers on Twitter - it’s the press that they should look out for.

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