December 4th, 2009

Tom Salmon, Anonymous Spin, And The Lurid Specter of “Ninja Teabagging”

by Philip Baruth

Not to bust anyone’s bubble, but it’s common practice for political campaigns and parties to try to manage the comment section beneath any online story key to their current objectives. Presidential campaigns have folks devoted to the practice full-time, on the down-low. When this sort of astroturfing is done well, it passes unnoticed; when it’s done ham-handedly, it makes you wince.

Now, yesterday was Auditor Tom Salmon’s day in court for DUI, a story that Salmon has been laboring mightily to manage for the last several weeks. Any telling spin in the comment section of the Free Press? You be the judge.

Following the report of Salmon’s conviction, and the details of the court’s judgment, we come immediately to a comment by “jbtrevor,” who finds Salmon’s conduct in court worthy of high praise:

Admirable, someone who has taken responsibility for his actions and suffered the consequences.

Not to mention saved the tax-payers money by not “fighting” his charge.

Thanks, Tom

Now, look, there’s no way to know that this particular comment was written by Salmon’s people or the Vermont GOP’s people, for that matter. Just no way. Period.

On the other hand, claiming the first spot in the comment section is classic spin-shop behavior, for obvious reasons: anyone reading the story to the end can’t help but absorb the first comment in the string as well. (The Free Press software moves each new comment into the top slot, so to find this one you’ll have to scroll down a bit. You’d also have to expect more spin as the comment string pushes “jbtrevor’s” first effort down the rabbit hole.)

And let’s face it, this particular bit of spin reeks of spin. Admirable? Saving the taxpayers money? Thanks, Tom? Let’s not forget that “Thanks, Jim” was the Democrats’ way of rallying behind Jim Jeffords when he switched parties; clearly “jbtrevor” is making an allusion, and at least tacitly encouraging Republicans to rally round Salmon.

And who knows, maybe “jbtrevor” is just some average working guy out there, Republican in his leanings but just honestly impressed with Salmon’s approach to the DUI charge. Just a stand-up guy who happened to be the first to read the Free Press story, and wanted to send a message of support. Like Joe the Plumber, but with a license.

But of course, maybe not. If you Google “jbtrevor,” you find that s/he also authored the definition of “Ninja Bagging” for the Urban Dictionary. What is “ninja bagging”? Writes “jbtrevor”:

1. Ninja Bagging

When your significant other is asleep on the couch and or bed, you approach with the utmost stealth, t-bag them, photograph the event and escape without detection. “Johnny sent me a photo of him ninja bagging his old lady last night!”

You get the unattractive picture. And if you don’t, you’ll need to look up “teabagging” on your own time.

Okay, so maybe the “jbtrevor” from the Free Press comments section isn’t the same “jbtrevor” who penned the teabagging entry in the Urban Dictionary. But you have to admit: an extremely odd coincidence, given the GOP’s current obsession with the term.

If nothing else, some interesting material to ponder over the duller moments of the holidays. So thanks, Tom.