We the Tweeple: Twitter and the 2012 Presidential Election

Written by: Allison Hibbs

“I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter election.”

That’s what Dick Costolo, CEO of the social media giant, told attendees at a tech conference in California in late January; although the same words might have been uttered by any avid Twitter user who has followed political conversations on the website during the onslaught of GOP debates or the recent State of the Union address leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. Commentary, discussion, fact-checking and ideological rants have flooded the site during these events, involving participants in an interactive political conversation reminiscent of a no-holds-barred town hall brawl.

In fact, among twitterers, trending conversations have often proven to be far more popular than the actual events themselves, a sentiment repeated often during the debates in particular – and with more than a hint of irony.

Twitter appreciation from tweeps during GOP debate on 1/26/12.

Tweets range from inane to insightful, from snarky insults to eloquently phrased questions or impassioned pleas. Anyone looking to get in on the action simply has to add the right hash-tagged phrase to his or her comment to be included in the thread. Keeping up with comments in the heat of the moment becomes nearly impossible, but one has only to go back to the thread when they have time and they can read up on what was said, follow links to related news stories, check the integrity of comments made by those on stage during the event or simply laugh at the more humorous tweets.

During the CNN Debate hosted by John King, opening comments made by Newt Gingrich blasting King for opening with a question about his personal life were widely ridiculed and reposted by active tweeters. While the audience seemed to appreciate his indignation, the twitterverse was not as kind.

1/19/12 CNN debate/ Begala tweet re: Gingrich

It is fairly common knowledge – at least among those familiar with the social medium – that the use of the Twitter platform was an advantage to the Obama camp during the 2008 election cycle: he received far more mentions than his opponent and a disproportionate number of Twitter users identified themselves as democrats. (This doesn’t take into account the number of tweets regarding Republican vice-presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin, who received a large amount of mentions – most of which were unfavorable.) But Twitter has gained significant numbers over the last four years and Republican politicians have increasingly taken to using the platform for their own messaging and organizational purposes. GOP presidential hopefuls employ staff members to follow the tweets during their appearances to find out which topics they are concerned with and which personality attributes or answers they prefer. There is, unquestionably, much to be learned from immediate feedback and they intend to take it to heart.

From the look of it, however, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do if they want to turn the advantage in their favor. During the President’s State of the Union address on Jan. 24, tweets were significantly less scathing and more topically relevant than those posted during the debates. Twitter users still seem to skew further to the left of the aisle than the general public.

Tweets re: GOP debate vs. SOTU

Nevertheless, Twitter has – if nothing else – had the effect of combating political apathy and has brought the public political debate to a whole new level. Those who are chagrined when barred from political discussion in social forums have now found an outlet through which they can share ideas, facts, emotions and hopes – in the hopes of staying informed, sharing information and influencing election outcomes, presidential or otherwise. A new era in politics has indeed arrived.

Welcome to Election 2012, the Year of Twitter.

Rise Above Famous Street Artist Shepard Fairey Doin Dallas

By: Allison Hibbs

For the first time in 10 years, Shepard Fairey is in Dallas! Invited by the non-profit art forum, Dallas Contemporary, as part of their Citywide Street Project, he is leaving his signature mark on buildings around the city. A graphic artist and old-school skateboarder, Fairey is probably best known in the mainstream for his 2008 poster depicting a stylized version of then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama, along with the single word: Hope.

Among those familiar with the street art movement, however, Fairey – with his Andre the Giant logo featuring the word ‘Obey’ – has long been iconic of the pioneering work that he and others have done to legitimize the subculture as an accepted, if often politically subversive and irreverent, art form. Along with Basquiat in the 80s and later artists such as world-famous anonymous prankster, Bansky, street artists like Fairey have elevated graffiti into a meaningful form of expression, rebellion and catharsis in the United States, across Europe and in Australia.

Movies such as “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary made by the elusive Banksy and featuring work by Fairey, chronicle the progression, techniques and motivations behind this growing movement. (Although many consider the film to be another one of Bansky’s pranks, Fairey and the film’s central character, Thierry Guetta, deny all such accusations.)  Put simply, the goal of these artists is two-fold: to make use of and beautify unused, often unsightly, urban spaces, and to make people stop and think as they go about the usual business of their days. Many dedicated street artists work uncompromisingly (and often under the cover of night) to realize these goals. Of course, they also seem to have a good deal of fun in the process.

In the wake of chaos caused by Wall Street in 2007, Banksy pieces started showing up around New York City depicting his iconic rat (an anagram for ‘art’), which showed the artist’s obvious distain for the moral bankruptcy of those who were the architects of the financial disaster.

Obama poster notwithstanding, much of Fairey’s work tends to be less overtly political – necessitating individual thought and introspection – although several are obvious admonishments against war and global warming. Lately, he has even come out in support of the nationwide movement known as Occupy with an image of Guy Fawkes that plays off of his ’08 Hope poster. What, according to Fairey, began as a fun project to entertain college friends has evolved into an art form aimed at shaking people out of their passive acceptance of societal norms.

Working with the local street art collective, Sour Grapes, Fairey had completed four murals as of Feb. 3 in two locations in West Dallas. Dallas Contemporary has indicated that he will do at least eight more before he leaves, at least one of which is to be located in the area known as Deep Ellum. Three of the murals are located at 331 and 340 Singleton Blvd., near I-30 and I-35E in West Dallas. Another adorns the side of Dallas Contemporary, at 161 Glass Street, where Fairey has also been invited to guest DJ at a sold-out  “neon-inspired dance party” on the night of Saturday, Feb. 4. If these murals have a theme, he told the Dallas Observer, “It’s peace and harmony.” The woman in two of the murals, he says, is his wife.

A bus tour been organized for Saturday, Feb. 11, which is to include stops at the murals and a studio visit with Sour Grapes, as well as visits to exhibits at Dallas Contemporary featuring Rob Pruitt, David Jablonowski and Failure. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online.

Is Ron Paul Prepared for Heavy Vetting?

Ron Paul's special report on racial terrorism

Newsletter-gate

 

 

Written by: Holly Troupe

Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s vault to the front of the Iowa Polls on Monday was promptly overshadowed by the re-emergence of offensive political newsletters written under his banner. The newsletters, which were first circulated in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, were first-person accounts that contained attacks on African Americans and the Gay community. While Paul has said ghostwriters were the true authors of the pamphlets and claimed not to have read them, his statements through the years have not been totally consistent.

The inflammatory newsletters are not a new discovery. They surfaced during Paul’s congressional run in 1996, again in 2001 and again during his presidential campaign in 2008. Although news outlets published incendiary excerpts from the newsletters during his 2008 bid, Paul had never been a frontrunner in those elections, and the content of the newsletters was not loudly decried. Now that a Ron Paul victory in the Iowa caucus doesn’t seem that far-fetched, things are very different. News organizations, bloggers and political opposition are having a closer look not only at the missives themselves, but at the subsequent interviews given by Paul.

The Ron Paul Investment Letter, The Ron Paul Survival Report and The Ron Paul Political Report were published and distributed through Ron Paul & Associates. These letters contained musings on the state of the economy, Libertarian philosophy, monetary events and Washington policies. The “Political Report,” and the “Survival Report” contained some of the most virulent commentary, including:

  • [On African Americans] “Many more [White Americans] are going to have difficulty avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists – and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.”
  • [On African Americans] “As children [Black males] are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.”
  • [On African Americans during the L.A. riots] “Order was only restored in L. A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. The ‘poor’ lined up at the post office to get their handouts (since there were no deliveries) –and then complained about the slow service.”
  • [On AIDS] “Those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get a blood transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay, as was Kimberly Bergalis [an AIDS patient alleged to have been infected with the virus during a dental procedure].”

 

The provocative nature of the newsletters was addressed back in 1996 in an article for the Dallas Morning News. At that time he denied racist motives though he made no denial of authorship and did not appear to take exception to the contents. When asked about the statement in a 1992 edition of The Ron Paul Political Report: “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be,” Paul is reported to have said in response, “If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them.” The publications were found by the Dallas Morning News to have been referenced in an Internet directory titled “Radicalists and Freedom-Fighters” by a Neo-Nazi organization in Canada called The Heritage Front. Paul said he had no knowledge of his newsletters’ inclusion.

Paul went on to further diminish his involvement with the newsletters. In a 2001 article in The Texas Monthly, he gave an interview saying that he never wrote the words in the newsletters. “I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly,” he said. “But [campaign aides] said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.’” In 2008 when interviewed by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Paul said he never wrote the messages on the pamphlets, and didn’t even see them at the time. “I was in a medical practice, I travelled a lot, I was doing speeches around the country, so very frequently I never did see these.” Paul also emphasized his Libertarian philosophy. “Libertarians are incapable of being racists because racism is a collectivist idea,” he said. “What I defend is the principle of Libertarianism, where we never see people who belong to a group and the individual is defended and protected because they are important [as individuals], not because of their color of skin, but of their character.”

During an interview Wednesday with CNN reporter Gloria Borger, Paul became increasingly flustered when the reporter repeatedly pressed the subject of the statements in the newsletters. “It’s been going on 20 years since people have been pestering me about this,” he said. “When are you going to wear yourself out?” He then added, “The answer is: I didn’t write them. I didn’t read them at the time, and I disavow them. And that is the answer.” After further persistent questioning by Borger, Paul removed his microphone and walked out.

Eric Dondero, Paul’s former Senior Aide and Personal Assistant, says that Paul wasn’t as hands-off as he previously claimed. “He did read them, every line of them, off his fax machine at his Clute office before they were published,” Dondero said in a blog post to The American Spectator. “He would typically sign them at the bottom of the last page giving his okay, and re-fax them to Jean [Editor Jean McCiver] to go to the printer.” Dondero, however, is not without detractors. The publisher and editor of LibertarianRepublican.net, has been accused of deliberately sabotaging Ron Paul’s presidential efforts, and is the object of derision on the Facebook page “Eric Dondero is Slime.” Paul has called him “A disgruntled former employee who was fired.”

For the time being, Paul’s opponents have not remarked upon the newsletters, choosing instead to attack his foreign policy platform. Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who ranked fifth place in the Iowa Polls, has called Paul’s policy on Iran “dangerous.” “It’s imperative that our next commander in chief appreciates the level of dangerous activity that we have in the world today,” Bachmann said in an interview for CBS News on Monday. “Ron Paul would wait until the United States had a city that was taken out by a nuclear weapon. I won’t.” Senator Rick Santorum echoed these sentiments, saying, “I think both Michele Bachmann and I did a pretty good job of showing how dangerous Ron Paul would be as a nominee for our party.” He described Paul as “far to the left” of President Obama on the issue of National Security.

When asked about Michele Bachmann on the December 16 episode of “The Tonight Show,” Paul told host Jay Leno, “She doesn’t like Muslims. She hates Muslims. She wants to get rid of ‘em.”

Anti-Sectarian Rally in Beirut Expresses Hope For Non-Sectarian Lebanon

All they are saying is give peace a non-sectarian chance

Several thousand people gathered in the streets of Beirut on Sunday to protest; however, in a country where religion and politics are closely related, it was rather odd to discover a lack of religious symbols, or sectarian political banners, on display at the political event. Nevertheless, The Secular Pride March presented no crosses, crescents or portraits of martyrs or saints. Instead they carried roses, and the red and white cedar flag of the republic in protest against a religious domination over Lebanese civil and political life. And as some weren’t sure they could support what the participants wanted, it wasn’t difficult for spectators to comprehend their message: “What’s your sect? None of your business!”

The cedar flag of the republic in protest

Currently, Lebanon is more religiously diverse than any other middle eastern country, however, nearly all civil aspects of life are controlled by religious authorities, instead of the state. This manifests as the prohibition of Mixed-sect marriage, a domination of private religious schools over the education system, jobs rationing in accordance with sectarian quotas, and a requirement that all political candidates be categorized by a list that is enforced by sectarian political parties.

Confessionalism has fostered an environment of religious conflict – rather than preventing it; therefore, as Lebanon attempts to progress as a non-sectarian society, rallies like these are a desperate attempt by the minuscule minority, to usher in a revolution.