John McCain Wants You to Comment Here!

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 21, 2008 1:52 PM
John McCain's website is encouraging folks to post comments on conservative and liberal sites. 

As Jonathan Martin notes

McCain supporters are asked to send the details of their comment to the campaign, which in turn will verify it and then reward the supporter with "points" (assumedly to accumulate for McCain swag)
This is actually something I've long thought smart campaigns should consider.  After all, comments can sometimes influence the bloggers -- or even change narratives, themselves.  So it stands to reason a campaign would seek to influence the debate not only on the blogs, but in the comments, as well.

The idea to award "points" is a smart idea.  But it also raises ethical questions:  For example, will Townhall be inundated with "trolls," posing as legitimate commenters?   

What is more, sites like RedState have, in the past, required commenters to disclose if they are working on a campaign.  Does this overt effort to influence the narrative and conversations in the blogosphere cross an unspoken line?

... The fact that the McCain campaign is "suggesting" talking points for commenters to use -- might also lead some critics to sugges McCain is attempting to manipulate the public by spreading propoganda.  It's one thing to encourage supporters to engage in the discussion -- it's another thing to give them the talking points.

Granted, campaigns do this every day.  Political campaigns have always "encouraged" supporters to do things like call-in to talk radio shows, etc.  These efforts are usually conducted in a clandestine manner, of course -- while this is a very overt effort by the McCain campaign.  In this regard, we should probably applaud the campaign for transparency.

In short, this is an interesting idea, which raises the question:  Is this smart politics that respects the nascent power of the web -- or a cheap attempt to "game" the blogs? 

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