Da Legal Stuff...

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Now, with that out of the way...Let's Web Talk.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Parties Use Undercover Bloggers to Spread Propaganda

Here are some excerpts from an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen. The story says a lot about how certain internet Blogs are intentionally used by political parties to manipulate the public.

The article identifies a Tory blog but this tactic is becoming more and more popular with all parties. As a matter of fact, the tactics spoken of in this article will probably ring a few bells for anyone who has visited at least one local NL political blog lately. Can you guess which one?

It's something you might want to keep in mind when visiting your favorite political blogs in future.

Outspoken blogger received Tory contract
Opinionated Conservative paid up to $20,000 for consulting work

Glen McGregor,
The Ottawa CitizenPublished: Monday, October 01, 2007

The Harper government gave a contract for communications consulting on Parliament Hill, worth up to $20,000, to an outspoken Conservative Internet blogger.

Privy Council Office records show Joan Tintor, author of a popular weblog or "blog," in June received the one-year contract for "communications professional services not elsewhere specified."

...She was contracted to provide writing and other communications work on an as-needed basis to the office of government House leader Peter Van Loan.

..."She has helped us out with various things," Mr. White said.

...Ms. Tintor did not return an e-mail requesting comment and, when reached by telephone, she said she would have to call back. She did not.

Her strongly opinionated blog focuses on provincial and federal politics...

Unlike most journalists who work in the mainstream media -- the "MSM" in blogger parlance -- bloggers are not constrained by ethics rules that would keep them from taking contracts from the government they write about.

...But news of Ms. Tintor's contract comes at a time when the relationship between partisan bloggers and political parties is under increased scrutiny.

Some Liberal strategists grumble that the Tories use sympathetic bloggers to provide political spin that the party cannot or will not, by circulating information that may be misleading, with little accountability. (Myles' comment - I'm sure the Liberal party would never do such a thing LOL)

In his new book, Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, party strategist Tom Flanagan notes the Tories' innovative use of blogs in the 2006 election campaign.
He cites in particular two members of the Blogging Tories, Steve Jank and Stephen Taylor, who write highly partisan blogs on federal politics.

Mr. Flanagan writes that campaign manager Doug Finley "appointed people to monitor the blogosphere and to get out stories that were not quite ready for the mainstream media."
These bloggers "amplify and diversify our message," he wrote.

(Note: I'm sure there will be accusations about this site by some folks out there. I can assure everyone that I have never, and will never, knowingly work as a shill for any political party, no matter the price. It's too bad others are all too willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder.)


Stephen said...

I wonder if Ed Hollett, WJM, Simon Lono (whoops), Sue Kelland Dyer, Geoff Meeker would ever be involved in any kind of business like this, on someone's payroll but claiming impartiality?

Patriot said...

I'd have no idea about that. It's something you might be best served to ask them about directly.

BNB said...

Among a bunch of foolishness about forked tails and asbestos suits, veiled threats of libel and insults, at least two in that list have said they are not paid for their blogging.

One thing that did come out of a discussion about bias in blogging was a whole bit about having to be registered as a Lobbyist if you are paid for being in the persuasion business.

I can't find Joan Tintor in the Canadian Lobbyist registration system though. Not sure if she's registered provincially or not. But according to the lesson from my learned colleagues she must be registered somewhere?!

Anonymous said...

Two words:

So what?

Discount the rhetoric and confirm the statements of the bloggers as being fact. I find most political blogs to be a great source of information that I had not known to exist or as an aid in connecting circumstances or matters that I would not have readily been able to do myself. The standard of any claims made on any medium is that it be verifiable. Anything that you cannot verify is best taken with a grain of salt. Who pays these people to do their research and write is of little consequence to my provided that they do not use tax revenues to do so. Tax dollars are used to fund political communications in this province. Supporters and workers for all parties regularly call into talk shows putting desired spin on any topic beneficial to their causes. Public opinion polls such as the "question of the day" on VOCM are regularly mainpulated. Comments sections in newspapers are used to provide feedback (spin) on political stories published in the media. With anonymous comments being made (such as mine) who's to say what is sincere and what is politics, paid or otherwise? We all know that these games are played, so who cares? Do you believe this to be the case with any of our local bloggers? If so, please provide a reference, otherwise, you're just blowing smoke and, to qoute our premier's office, engaging in innuendo.
What's good for the goose....

Lorrie said...

I can't believe the anon response of "So what?"

It's always good advice to confirm what you find on any blog, newpaper article or whatever but simply saying, so what, about these underhanded tactics used by political parties to use propaganda aganst voters is a sad comment on the state of democracy.

Are you saying Anon that you don't see anything wrong with a political party spreading spin, misinformation or outright lies through someone who is presenting those words as if they are just one person's opinion? You are really saying fraud is fine.

If that's what you're saying I pity you and you will eventually get the kind of backstabbing, underhanded, crooked and perverse government you deserve.

Stephen said...

Like anything else facts can be used in any way for any argument. Where someone's desire is to sway people's minds to the goals of a specific interest it should be qualified. There's nothing wrong with being paid to spout the viewpoint of any employer but certainly it should be done so openly.

Wince said...

Lorrie said...

backstabbing, underhanded, crooked and perverse government

You have just described every government in the history of the world.

Anonymous said...

Lorrie, I said "So what" as a consequence of being jaded of any sources of information. Backstabbing, underhanded, crooked and perverse governments have been using shills long before the internet became widely available. Those shills include editors, station owners, reporters, and other members of the mainstream media, who often slant stories in ways that do not always adhere to the so-called "ethical standards" that these "professionals" claim to live by. Media often forwards positions that are advantageous to their entity and present anything but unbiased opinion on public matters. I see no reason to single out bloggers for increased scrutiny, rather treat them all as being motivated by something.
The point of "so what" is to remind people to question the validity of any opinion that is not supported by fact, and keep digging from all sources available to ensure that you are as educated as reasonably possible before formulating your opinion.
If we all held to the practice of researching and confirming information instead of parroting popular rhetoric we would collectively be better armed to make an informed opinon when it matters - on election day. You can save your pity for the sheep who blindly follow a leader or party (or someone's opinion of) without informing themselves on the issues first. From the statements that I've seen or heard on the radio, that accounts for a large percentage of the NL electorate, regardless of party affiliation.

BNB said...

Good points Lorrie.

Anon - taxpayers pay - that's the point. If you are a business trying to affect policy you are supposed to register as a lobbyist, but if you are a political party trying to sway public opinion under the guise of "communications" any spin is acceptable?! Not in my book. Not on the taxpayers dime.

For Harper's PCs in Myles' article to say they have hired Joan Tintor for communications and then act dumb to the fact that she has a prominent Conservative Blog?!

I'm fully aware this is nothing new, that doesn't make it acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Any investement broker or analyst who makes a public statement about a publicly traded company must reveal if they (or the company they work for) owns any of that stock.

This is done to protect investor's money.

I guess our investment in our future and political leadership isn't as valuable as far as politicial parties are concerned.

If it is then why aren't people who are directly affiliated with parties or are paid by them, expected to make that connection known.

Table Mountains said...

attention political parties,i will blog for a decent wage.

Anonymous said...

bnb, I can only conclude from the article that the blogger, a known supporter of the governing party, was hired to perform communications work on the taxpayers dime. I have not seen proof that she is being compensated for her blogging.
Patronage is rampant in all governments, including provincial ones. I personally find is disgusting that there is enough flexibility in procurement regulations to allow government to reward their supporters with tax generated money. There's no coincidence that you can get a very accurate list of who's doing business with government by looking at campaign donations. The entire system needs reform. If you are going to tar political bloggers with the patronage brush, fair enough, but do not hold them to a standard above others with similar influence.
The article on it's own is a statement that internet web logs are exploited by politicians to influence voters. Politicians are known to exploit whatever means available to improve their chances of winning. That's what their job description is: win the election.
Patriot implies in his preamble (rhetoric) that the circumstances of the article are similar to those using blogs as a medium in this province, but does not mention specifics. From this fact I can infer that he has a beef with another blogger and is trying to discredit them or draw attention to their income source. Unfortunately, he does not identify who the individual is that writes the "at least one local NL blog". That indicates to me that he does not or is unwilling to supply proof of his inference, but is willing to make the statement regardless.
That is something that I will keep in mind when visiting my favourite political blogs in the future, including this one.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:58 p.m. - I agree with your points regarding disclosure 100%. The arguement is that investment professionals are supposed to be impartial in their advice and are held to a professional standard of disclosure.
Any blogger that represents themselves as impartial should also be subject to the same standards. Partisan blogs can hardly be accused of being impartial now, can they? I expect biased content from them and treat it accordingly. Fact is fact and rhetoric is rhetoric. Always consider the source, regardless if they're paid - or not.

Lorrie said...

Get off it Anon (if that is indeed your normal blogging persona, ha ha).

We're not just talking about blogs here, let's get down to it. There is one blogger who has worked as a media relations person for a former government, is a member of the Liberal party and (don't know if he is paid or not for what he does but staying in good favor with his party may one day lead to another job for him so that's worth something) yet he makes political comments and does interviews in national news papers / magazines without divulging those FACTS to the readers.

I don't know if this is who Miles is talking about or not but if I had to pick one that is underhanded and sleazy in his approach that would be the one I'd go for.

Sorry Miles, I don't mean to put words in your mouth.

Patriot said...

Don't worry Lorrie, you didn't put any words in my mouth. For the anon, I didn't give a name because anyone reading political blogs on a regular basis around NL already knows which ones I'm talking about.

The article just points out that the practice is far more prevelent than many readers may have thought. Buyer beware is the message if you want it in simple terms.

Anonymous said...

Lorrie, while I do not know the full work history of the liberal slanted bloggers, I do take their rhetoric as political posturing. That said, I've also discovered a lot of verifiable information that I would not have otherwise known about by reading their posts. I will continue to visit their blogs (including Hollet's) as long as their content is of interest and contains some originality. The same applies to all blogs that I read, regardless of the writers' afilliation (or lack of). It may surprise you that I read the Globe and Mail and National Post on a regular basis as well - at least what I can access at no charge (online, during flights etc.).
I'd be much choosier if I had to pay :)

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Sue Kelland Dyer has received a contract from either of the parties, if you read her blog, you will have noted that she is critical of all the parties involved in the Newfoundland and Labrador spectrum.

Patriot, I doubt that you are either, since I do believe that you have been critical of pretty much all of them as well.

Sue said...

I can continue to say - I am not paid to blog. What is curious is that bloggers are being held to a higher standard than paid politicians who buy art booze perfume and men buying women's clothes. I wonder if we could get the same attitude toward those charged with criminal offenses involving public money? Best I can tell - while local bloggers are being questioned - even after they have answered the question - people charged and named as a result of the AG probe are running around campaigning.
I do understand the post - and it is important that people who are paid lobbyists identify their affiliation.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me started on politicians and their spending habits with OUR money. I watched watched with astonishment as Wally Noel rationalized his purchases with OUR money. If that isn't bad enough, how about Rideout's remarks, in so many words saying he will return money when he retires from politics (or 60,000 kms which ever comes first: SARCASM in brackets).

As far as bloggers go, especially those who appear to be biased towards a political party, I take their offerings with a grain of salt, of which one of the "axis of liberal bloggers" is running as we speak. As Bas would say..."ya pays your money and ya takes your choice", oh well.

BNB said...

Sue, I understand your point and you are correct. I for one have held a high standard for bloggers. I can say in all honesty that I respect the word of you, Myles and a few others far above those of our political leaders. And I hold my own standards to be high as well. This isn't fair to you, Myles and some others but in all honesty I know that when I read nlpost, web talk etc. I am reading an honest well informed opinion that comes from the heart and is unfiltered by political stripe and bias.

I have been critical but it is for that reason.

I don't expect too much from many political types, but you are correct that this is where my/our attention should be directed.

Anonymous said...

again with the accusations of secret payments. cant people simply have strong political views without being paid? cant you? patriot and many posters here seem to believe that nobody could hold liberal politica views sincerely, they would have to be paid to express them. wake up. even people who dont think like you can be sincere and honest in their beliefs.

and besides - right now the liberal party in nl is so down in the polls that they probably cant afford to pay anyone to do anything for them. if nothing else, be convinced by the marketplace!

Patriot said...

Great input folks. By the way Sue, I for one don't believe for a minute that you fall into the category of blogger highlighted in this commentary. I realize your past political connections but based on your blog entries I suspect many bridges have been burned on your part for the sake of getting the truth out.

To the Anon who said, "...patriot and many posters here seem to believe that nobody could hold liberal politica views sincerely"

I'd appreicate it it you didn't put words in my mouth or thoughts in my head. In my regular blog entries I have noted problems from all political spheres and in this particular article I did not single out any specific blogger or political bent.

It is you who put the words in my mouth that I was referring to some Liberal blogger. Perhaps you should consider why you feel that way, or should I say, why you think I do.

BNB said...

You took the words out of my mouth (or off my keyboard) Patriot. Why is this anon stuck on "Liberal Political views" when the article and discussion is clearly about having a political stripe/bias in general?

And about having strong political views without being paid - more power to them. I would suggest though that if there is a bias that prevents them from presenting a counter-arguement because they are in so deep in one political persuasion or another that their freedom of speech is blocked.

It's like if I wanted to buy a Ford. I'll respect the opinion of an owner over the salesman. That's just me.

..but Sue is right - time to direct our attentions to those who are looking for our vote.

bjorn said...

It's not all bloggers being held to a higher standard.

patriot, bnb and a few others hold some bloggers to a standard even they can't and won't meet. It seems to be personal.

People who are open about their identity, their background and their their comments get all the snide comments and the hints, but nobody will name names. It's little whispers and back-biting.

Then you get all these anonymous people coming in and making their digs and no one knows who they are, who they work for or anythign else.

Sue, you are up front, but of the rest of these guys I laugh.

If patriot is so big on bloggers and revealing their details let him start by telling us who he works for, his full name, what political parties he has worked for and all the rest.

Patriot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patriot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patriot said...

Hi folks, the previous two comments were my own. I decided to delete them because one must always try to be civilized and on reading them again I realized I could do better.

Anyway, Wow Bjorn, you really are off base on this one. My profile is available online and states most of what you say I don't divulge. Haven't you ever heard anyone posting here call me by name?

Apparently not, so:

My name is Myles Higgins

I live in Portugal Cove

I work in IT as a systems analyst (not for government) the company involved is (to be blunt) nobody's business.

I have no affiliation with any political party.

I recieve no compensation or other "perks" for what goes on my blog.

None of that information is new to anyone who has spent any time here or who has read my commentaries in the Canada Free Press, at the Canadian Democratic Movement, in local papers or anywhere else.

By the way, I'll leave it to BNB to defend himself if he decides to do so, since I know for a fact he would have no problem in doing it. Others, like Sue are free to do the same if they wish.

Finally you also said, "you get all these anonymous people coming in and making their digs and no one knows who they are"\

That's quite a comment coming from someone who signed his name as Bjorn, who has not made his presence felt here before and who is really just as anonymous as any contributor who doesn't sign on with a profile.

Maybe you better start over and try to get things a little more in line before jumping into the deep end of the pool.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I wonder if Bjorn is a psudynom for one of the other blog site proprietors?

Bjorn's popints come across as a carbon copy of those by a fella who has been here before complaining about anon posters and blogger identities.

Things that make you go HMMMMMM.

Anonymous said...

It seems that a local blogger who operates from a daily newspaper in the province is on VOCM's case to identify callers to the three call in programs hosted by that station. This particular blogger and his like minded contemporaries seem to be knashing at the same thing, trying to force people to make their names known.

One of the call in show hosts for VOCM (Randy Simms) gave what I believe to be an excellent reasoning for not requiring callers giving their names. Evidentally the blogger in this instance did not agree. This appears to be a common theme amongst a handfull of individual bloggers who are hell bent on insisting that folks give their names before offering an opinion, why is that I wonder?

Stephen said...

I can continue to say - I am not paid to blog.

What ARE you paid to do Sue? Do you ever do work for any political parties or politicians? If so shouldn't you be transparent about this?

Sue said...

and who are you?

Stephen said...

and who are you?

I've never been employed by any political party or politician if that's what you want to know. How about you Sue? Have you ever worked for a politician or a party? If so when?

Anonymous said...

Come on Stephen, let's be fair.

I'm sure Sue can defend herself and it's not a secret to anyone that she used to works as a policy analyst for Roger Grimes.

Even so, if you read her postings she doesn't mind crapping on the Liberals any more than she minds crapping on the PC's or anyone else who she believes is in the wrong.

If she were on anyone's payroll I doubt she'd be letting it fly in all directions like that.

Sue said...

Let's be fair - who are you Stephen?
First and last name and where you work.

Anonymous said...

Apparantly, Telegram blogger Meeker is trying to coax VOCM's call in show host to require callers to identify themselves. I read Bill Rowe's take on Meeker's request in the weekend edition of the Telegram. I guess Meeker and his buddy's will have no support for their request from the host's of VOCM's call in shows, and I applaud them for staying with the staus quo.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that the "Mutual Ass Kissers" (E. Hollett and WJM)are getting their points across on the Telegram Blog.

Is it just me or is it strikingly odd that all the responding posts over there in Meekerland (the bastion of free speech) are in agreement with Meeker on all topics? I guess my post would have seen the light of day if only I had gotten in line and agreed with Meeker, whups guess not.

Anonymous said...

It's worth your while to pop over to the Liberal Shill blog (you know which one I mean). The guy's going cracked over there today. He can't have a finger nail left.


I guess he's wondering how long it's going to be before he gets another fat paycheck on the taxpayers dime.