A former paid “Internet troll” for Clinton speaks out: It was “nasty” and “left a very bad taste” (UPDATED)
UPDATE: As my website partner brought to my attention, and ReverbPress and other sites have reported, there has been no verification of this Reddit post’s accuracy, no such user has come forward as the author of the piece, and the validity of it has been debunked by some sites online. However, in the interest of transparency, I have left this post up with the above disclaimer.
Astroturfing launched by the Clinton camp, on the other hand, IS real and is confirmed – Correct the Record, a Clinton Super PAC entity, has launched to the tune of a million dollars Barrier Breakers 2016, a digital social media pushback movement to combat Bernie Sanders supporters, and on its own website confirms that it “currently combats online political harassment, having already addressed more than 5,000 individuals who have personally attacked Secretary Clinton on Twitter.”
I’d like to first admit I am fairly clueless about how Reddit works – the ins and outs, sub-reddits, up-posting – but it’s an intricate system and there’s a lot of good info out there if you can navigate it.
I stumbled on this tonight, and even though, as my husband pointed out, “This is so Clinton’esque,” it still came as a little bit of a shock that the Clinton campaign – yes, the same campaign that’s scolding Bernie Sanders for negativity, the candidate who’s playing the victim card and gender card at every stump stop – has strategically unleashed a bunch of paid trolls (the term has been upgraded by the Clinton camp into “digital media specialists”) to the tune of a cool mil onto social media with instructions to annihilate Bernie Sanders and his supporters, .
“Confessions of a Hillary Shill” was evidently deleted, but as is the wont of all things social media, someone captured it and re-posted it. Here’s the link and here’s the post (emphasis mine):
Good afternoon. As of today, I am officially a former “digital media specialist” (a nice way to say “paid Internet troll”) previously employed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign (through a PR firm). I’m posting here today as a confession of sorts because I can no longer continue to participate in something that has become morally-indigestible for me. (This is a one-time throwaway account, but I’ll stick around for this thread.)
First, my background. I am [redacted] … and first became involved in politics during the 2008 presidential race. I worked as a volunteer for Hillary during the Democratic primary and then for the Democratic Party in the general election. I was not heavily involved in the 2012 election cycle (employment issues – volunteering doesn’t pay the rent), and I wasn’t really planning on getting involved in this cycle until I was contacted by a friend from college around six months ago about working on Hillary’s campaign.
I was skeptical at first (especially after my experience as an unpaid volunteer in 2008), but I eventually came around. The work time and payment was flexible, and I figured that I could bring in a little extra money writing about things I supported anyways. After some consideration, I emailed my resume to the campaign manager he had named, and within a week, I was in play. I don’t want to get bogged down on this subject, but I was involved with PPP (pay per post) on forums and in the comments section of (mostly-liberal) news and blog sites. Spending my time on weekends and evenings, I brought in roughly an extra $100 or so a week, which was a nice cushion for me.
At first, the work was fun and mostly unsupervised. I posted mostly positive things about Hillary and didn’t engage in much negativity. Around the middle of July, however, I received notification that the team would be focusing not on pro-Hillary forum management, but on “mitigation” (the term our team leader used) for a Vermont senator named Bernie Sanders. I’d been out of college for several years and hadn’t heard much about Sanders, and so I decided to do some research to get a feel for him.
To be honest, I was skeptical of what Sanders was saying at the beginning, and didn’t have much of a problem pointing out the reasons why I believed that Hillary was the better candidate. Over a period of two months, I gradually started to find Bernie appealing, even if I still disagreed with him on some issues. By September, I found myself as a closet Bernie supporter, though I still believed that Hillary was the only electable Democratic candidate.
The real problem for me started around the end of September and the beginning of October, when there was a change of direction from the team leader again. Apparently, the higher-ups in the firm caught wind of an impending spending splurge by the Clinton campaign that month and wanted to put up an impressive display. We received very specific instructions about how and what to post, and I was aghast at what I saw. It was a complete change in tone and approach, and it was extremely nasty in character. We changed from advocates to hatchet men, and it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
Just to give you an idea, here are some of the guidelines for our posting in October:
1) Sexism. This was the biggest one we were supposed to push. We had to smear Bernie as misogynistic and out-of-touch with modern sensibilities. He was to be characterized as “an old white male relic that believed women enjoyed being gang raped”. Anyone who tried to object to this characterization would be repeatedly slammed as sexist until they went away or people lost interest.
2) Racism. We were instructed to hammer home how Bernie supporters were all privileged white students that had no idea how the world worked. We had to tout Hillary’s great record with “the blacks” (yes, that’s the actual way it was phrased), and generally use racial identity politics to attack Sanders and bolster Hillary as the only unifying figure.
3) Electability. All of those posts about how Sanders can never win and Hillary is inevitable? Some of those were us, done deliberately in an attempt to demoralize Bernie supporters and convince them to stop campaigning for him. The problem is that this was an outright fabrication and not an accurate assessment of the current political situation. But the truth didn’t matter – we were trying to create a new truth, not to spread the existing truth.
4) Dirty tactics. This is where things got really bad. We were instructed to create narratives of Clinton supporters as being victimized by Sanders supporters, even if they were entirely fabricated. There were different instructions about how to do it, but something like this (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/10/31/1443064/-Dis-heartened-Hillary-Supporter) is a perfect example. These kind of posts are manufactured to divide and demoralize Sanders supporters, and are entirely artificial in nature. (The same thing happened in 2008, but it wasn’t as noticeable before social media and public attention focused on popular forums like Reddit).
5) Opponent outreach. There are several forums and imageboards where Sanders is not very popular (I think you can imagine which ones those are.) We were instructed to make pro-Sanders troll posts to rile up the user base and then try to goad them into raiding or attacking places like this subreddit. This was probably the only area where we only had mixed success, since that particular subset of the population were more difficult to manipulate than we originally thought.
In any case, the final nail in the coffin for me happened last night. I was on an imageboard trying to rile up the Trump-supporting natives with inflammatory Bernie posting, and the sum of responses I received basically argued that at least Bernie was genuine in his belief, even if they disagreed with his positions, which made him infinitely better than the 100% amoral and power-hungry Hillary.
I had one of those “what are you doing with your life” moments. When even the scum of 4chan think that your candidate is too scummy for their tastes, you need to take a good hard look at your life. Then this morning I read that the National Association of Broadcasters were bankrolling both Clinton and Rubio, and that broke the camel’s back. I emailed my resignation this morning.
I’m going to go all in for Bernie now, because I truly believe that the Democratic Party has lost its way, and that redemption can only come by standing for something right and not by compromising for false promises and fake ideals. I want to apologize to everyone here for my part in this nasty affair, and I hope you will be more aware of attempts to sway you away from supporting the only candidate that can bring us what we need.
What this former Clinton hit-person didn’t mention was how fervently the mainstream media bought into all of the above, and how fervently the Democratic establishment did as well. It’s no coincidence that we saw calls for Bernie to drop out after Super Tuesday; after Arizona; after New York; and the mainstream media and Dem operatives are again scolding Bernie for his “tone,” accusing him of party disloyalty and calling on him to back off his criticism of Clinton
because the complete truth of what he says about this horribly flawed, unlikable candidate is frustrating them beyond belief because he’s risking “party unity” in the fall. His “attacks” on her, they say, could weaken her as a candidate in the general election. Memo to Every-Fucking-Body: We, his supporters, are absolutely not conceding she will be the nominee in the general election, and neither is Bernie Sanders. We will fight to the convention; whatever “party unity” they’re trying to convince us exists is only on behalf of their chosen candidate, not our chosen candidate.
When Clinton higher-ups say, in no uncertain terms, “fuck Bernie,” they effectively solidify the resistance of, oh, about 4 million Bernie supporters and registered voters to never vote for Clinton. So note the above, the pay-to-play operatives of the Clinton camp – but remember one thing: Bernie doesn’t have to pay a million dollars to get people on social media to tout his record and defend him from biased attacks. We do it for free – in fact, we pay him. $27.00.