And sure, everyone has been laughing or crying about these sites for days now but something just struck me about tactics and truth and spin and attitude on these sites.
On the two "liberal" sites the theme is generally that someone holds up a hand written sign and takes a picture of themselves with it. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of such pictures, about 9 to a page. These pictures don't just show a message, they show a face, that face shows identity and emotion.
On the "conservative" reactionary site, the idea is to do the same thing but the follow through is not there. I mean first of all there are only 5 per page and only 32 pages. But the much more interesting thing is that the vast majority of pictures do not feature a handwritten sign or the face of the author. They almost all have computer written text overlayed onto an image. Sometimes the image appears to be of the author of the message but how are we to know that it isn't a stock photo? How are we to know that there aren't a few random self-appointed spinsters out there taking random images from google or wherever and sticking these slogans on them and posting them? How are we to feel that this is a genuine outpouring of conservative feeling from a vast array of real people?
It hadn't occurred to me until I noticed this just how powerful the format of the "liberal" sites is. Associating the image with the handwritten message provides a level of validation, of identity authentication. These images are (mostly) clearly not farked, photoshopped, or otherwise faked. They aren't centrally generated spin. The site creates a real image of what a subsection of "liberal" america looks like.
The "conservative" site doesn't show many pictures of people that we actually know are conservatives. Not only does it fail to establish trust through the authentication method of associating faces with handwritten messages, it also fails to portray an image of a cross section of "conservative" America.
While many people get angry and sad when they see all the hurtful and hateful and ignorant messages on that site, I get happy. Because it is so pathetic. I mean is this the best astroturf they can come up with? I mean can Bush supporters on the net not even PRETEND to be sincere in their gloating? This is like the opposite end of the spectrum of typical astroturf which reveals itself by being TOO polished and consistent. This stuff is too consistently inconsistent. Sincere gloating would have been so much more powerful, and they had a chance to do it, but only a handful of them took up that chance. I wonder why these "conservatives" are so completely unwilling to show their faces. Are they shy?
(Note: I tried to put "conservative" and "liberal" in quotes throughout this because I don't generally like the generalizations that those labels and their associations with political parties creates....but for the purposes of this post that debate is irrelevant and I didn't want to get bogged down in defining terms. The sites themselves set up a conversation in terms of these diametric polar terms, I don't see the world in those strict "us" and "them" terms but if I'm talking about these sites, I might as well pick an "us" and a "them" for the duration of the talk. FWIW I didn't post a picture to any of these sites and don't plan to, because I didn't vote for Bush or Kerry.)