Wednesday, February 21

Ratfucking in the 21st century

I got an email from the John Edwards campaign. Join One Corps (an organization that, as of yet, is not well-defined; I'm not sure what relationship it has to the campaign) and do something to push for universal health care. I typed in my ZIP code and got a list of five One Corps chapters in my area.

Good enough so far. I click on the chapter closest to me: One Corps for Palm Beach County Students. In the description of the chapter, it begins: "My name is Jeff and I'm a sophomore at a local high school."

And there's one more member listed besides the founder, Jeff. The other one is a guy who calls himself tedfun21. There's a photo of him, grinning, standing in a room, his arms crossed. Big arms. The guy works out. He's proud of those big ol' guns.

Let's look at the next-closest chapter, presumably a chapter started by a voting-age person in Palm Beach County. Thirteen members. And the second member listed is tedfun21. The next-closest chapter, just north of here. Two members, one of them tedfun21. The nine-member chapter in West Palm Beach includes tedfun21. And the seven-member chapter 22 miles south ranks tedfun21 as a member.

Let's check tedfun21 out by looking at his One Corps profile. Turns out he lives on South Beach, more than 100 miles south of the kid who started One Corps for Palm Beach County Students. He belongs to One Corps chapters from Florida's Panhandle to Miami Beach. Presumably, as part-owner of PR business, he's not going to have time to drive to all the meetings.

I mention the case of tedfun21 because he illustrates a hazard of online organizing. There's a real risk of getting ratfucked. (To put it another way, if a Republican candidate starts up something like One Corps, there's an opportunity to ratfuck his campaign.)

My first objection is the choice of the peurile handle "tedfun21." That sounds like the handle of someone who's cruising for anonymous sex partners, not like someone who is a serious, dependable political volunteer. Tedfun21's profile says he was Edwards's state volunteer coordinator in 2004. Well, OK. It still looks kind of weird when a grown man calling himself "tedfun21" gloms onto a high school sophomore online.

My second objection is the apparently unfettered ability for anyone to sign up for any One Corps chapter.

Neither one of these objections sounds like a big deal unless you consider the ratfucking possibilities. For the sake of argument, let's assume that John McCain starts something like One Corps, a vaguely defined online organizing thingie. Call it MegaCorpses, for his support for more killing in Iraq. Someone could adopt the handle GookKillr and join every chapter in the nation.

Someone calling herself Pu55yLiquor could join every chapter of Mitt Romney's online organization. If the object were to tweak the Mormon, the name Pu55yLiquor would provide a two-fer: lesbianism and alcohol.

Giuliani's online organization could be plagued by a guy calling himself Diallosnitestik.

Or maybe a guy calling himself Tedfun22 could join all the Republican online campaign organizations, post a nude picture of himself in his profile, and troll constantly for sex partners. That would take valuable time away from the people running the sites.

Naturally, we shouldn't expect the Republicans to come up with the same idea.

Update: Kos knows a potential ratfucking when he sees one.