August 8, 2008

McCain Opens a Can of AstroTurf

This is very amusing:

Spread John McCain’s official talking points around the Web — and you could win valuable prizes!

That, in essence, is the McCain campaign’s pitch to supporters to join its new online effort, one that combines the features of “AstroTurf” campaigning with the sort of customer-loyalty programs offered by airlines, hotel chains, restaurants and the occasional daily newspaper.

But is it ethical?

This type of thing has always occurred. What’s (only kinda) new here is the use of social networking and brand-loyalty promotion by a candidate for president to engage in the ancient practice of seeding public discourse with a particular message for the promise of swag. The technical term for this is propaganda (see also definition #3) — no pejorative intended.

I have no ethical problem with this partly because it seems like such a dumb idea. It’s difficult to work up a bluster about something that, IMHO, is doomed to utter failure. Reason: It’ll be easy for the targeted websites to search and destroy this stuff. Or, better, it’ll be easy to identify and ridicule it.

What’s troubling here isn’t that the McCain campaign is making this attempt, but that some yutz might actually suspend his/her own ability to think and spread the talking points instead of his/her own thoughts. We all lose when that happens.

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