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McCain’s Frequent Liar Program

It isn’t often that irony hits this close to home, but the revelations in the Washington Post that McCain’s campaign is giving out prizes to people who spam political blogs explains some strange things that have been happening to over the last month.

You can see it for yourself, on McCain’s official site. They even give you handy talking points and tell you which blogs you should spam, conveniently dividing them into Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, and Other. Heck, you don’t even have to think to participate! For each verified comment you post, you get “points” that can be redeemed for prizes, much like a frequent flier or frequent buyer program.

It isn’t that I get much spam — I guess my site isn’t big enough to warrant being on the robo-list that tells the ditto-heads which blogs to inundate with irrelevant drivel. The bigger thing I have noticed is that suddenly (on July 20th to be exact) anti-McCain stories from Political Irony that were submitted to news aggregators like Digg, Reddit, and others were getting immediately voted down. Suppressed, if you will.

The Washington Post article doesn’t talk about this tactic, but it makes sense. Voting down good news about your opponents or bad news about yourself is much easier than getting people to actually write things. Besides, as the WaPo article points out, Astroturf campaigning (making things appear to be grass roots when they aren’t) can fail because “germaneness” is an issue. People who post random talking points to blogs for “points” are often just ignored. But if McCain supporters are suddenly crawling over blogs and aggregators looking for posts to comment on, of course they are going to be voting down posts they don’t like.

It works like this. When a story on Political Irony (or other site) gets submitted to a news aggregator like Digg, people vote it up or down. Only stories that get enough votes appear on the front page and get lots of viewers. These sites have a queue of new stories, but most people don’t look at the new stories, they only look at the front page. So a very small number of people can exercise quite a bit of control over what makes it to the front page, especially if they are “motivated” enough. And since many people on the Internet depend on aggregators to tell them what’s interesting, they will never see these censored stories.

And the censorship works — I had a dramatic (and continuing) loss of new traffic to the site (although I’m very grateful that loyal repeat readers kept coming). How dramatic? The seven days leading up to July 19 had a total of 156,944 unique visitors, but the seven days after July 20th had only 10,304 unique visitors — a greater than 15x drop that happened at the same time that McCain instituted his robo-spam program. I’m not a commercial site that depends on page views for money — I do this for fun and don’t run any ads — but that kind of drop would be fatal to someone who was trying to make a living at this.

This is a huge concern to me. Since the mainstream media has been completely bought out by large corporations who don’t hesitate to exercise editorial control over the news, many of us hope the Internet will provide a needed alternative voice for news. It will be very sad if it turns out that all someone needs to do is give away points and prizes to get people to suppress stories on the Internet that they don’t like.

UPDATE: I’m not the only blogger who has been bitten by the McCain “bury brigade”.

UPDATE 2: Electoral-vote makes the point that this program means that “McCain, even at 71, is finally getting the hang of how to use the Internet.” Maybe so, but at least Obama doesn’t have to bribe people to get them to blog for him.



  1. Luke wrote:

    The way they have the program set up makes little sense; there are only a handful of “Liberal” blogs listed for McCain supporters to spam, but dozens of “Conservative” blogs. Is the McCain strategy to try to bolster “conservative” voter support rather than swaying (or counteracting) the “liberals”?

    Greatly enjoy your site, by the way. Found it via reddit and am a frequently reader via RSS.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  2. Mike wrote:

    Just curious, how does Google choose it’s stories. I’ve always imagined number of links. Could this kind of thing could percolate upwards to the google site? I too love this site, which I think I found through electoral-vote.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  3. Dan wrote:

    Don’t worry about Digg. A few months ago it was nothing but Scientology and Ron Paul, and look what happened to the latter. All his forum trolls and rEVOlutionists have completely disappeared and given up, and it used to be you literally could not find a political site or forum without one of them mentioning Ron Paul.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  4. Joe wrote:

    This is my first time here. I’m appalled at what McCain is doing. He says he’s a straight talker but he actually is a friggin’ liar.

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  5. Mary from TN wrote:

    Here’s an interesting article if one wants to know the REAL John McCain. After reading this, nothing McGoo does should be a surprise.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 3:46 am | Permalink
  6. Hi,

    I had just recently created my new politically themed blog. I was looking for some inspiration for my first serious post, then I came across this posting of yours. It proved to be the inspiration I needed :-). The link I provided is for this blog of which I speak.

    I wish you well.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  7. michelle63 wrote:

    No to John McCain

    Barack Obama for President!

    Obama/Biden 08

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Looks like this year we are able to choose our candidate not only by his policies, but by thinking, is he a lesser liar. So, voters, defend your choice – who is competing honorably, and who is a bigger liar – Obama or McCain?

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The McCain Spam Squad « Garnet Donkey on Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 10:49 am

    […] The McCain Spam Squad Posted on August 9, 2008 by whopkin1 A number of blogs that I read have been writing about an effort by the McCain campaign to gain mastery of internet resources.  The McCain campaign site has a point system through which supporters can win prizes for posting on targeted blogs and message boards.  The campaign selects sites and labels them as Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, and Other.  Then, they post daily “talking points” that they want painted on every blog in the blogosphere.  Among the tasks set for supports is burying damaging or unfavorable articles on sites like Digg, reddit, and Newsvine.  You can read more about that particular story at Political Irony. […]

  2. Political Irony › Obama gets Snarky! on Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 10:08 am

    […] fears by juxtaposing a black political candidate with a sexy young white woman? Well, just as McCain is learning how to manipulate the Internet by rewarding followers for carpet bombing politica…, Obama seems to be getting the hang of using innuendo in press […]

  3. McCain Gives Green Light to Spamers | The Civil Libertorian on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    […] affected in this way is Political Irony; a blog focusing on the humorous side of politics. In his recent post, the author explains how many of his stories, that he posted onto Digg, had been voted down. This […]

  4. […] the help he can get. Since he’s running for Bush’s third term, he’s developed a habitual lying problem and warmongering, used deceptive tactics, he’s easily bought off and he has […]

  5. Political Irony › The Wizzdom of Crowds on Monday, August 25, 2008 at 10:42 am

    […] few weeks ago I did a post about McCain’s “frequent liar program” that gives out prizes to people who spam political blogs. When his program started, I […]

  6. Political Irony › McCain campaign also spams letters to the editor on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    […] a couple of posts on McCain’s program to reward his supporters for spamming political blogs (McCain’s Frequent Liar Program, and The Whizzdom of Crowds). But a new article shows that the McCain campaign is doing the same […]

  7. McCain Gives Green Light to Spamers | Encyclopedia Toranika on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:20 am

    […] affected in this way is Political Irony; a blog focusing on the humorous side of politics. In his recent post, the author explains how many of his stories, that he posted onto Digg, had been voted down. This […]