Oh, Noes! I’ve Been Twitter-Scammed!

I’ve been pulled over by the police only one time in my driving career, 16 or so years ago. I was in my Ford Aerostar; my youngest daughter was behind me in her car seat, screaming because she’d lost her toy. I was driving southbound on Interstate 405 in stop and go traffic between Bellevue and Renton, Washington, when I noticed flashing lights in my rear-view mirror.

I was mystified as to the reason I was being pulled over, but made my way to the shoulder and stopped. While the Trooper got out of his car. I twisted around to pick up my daughter’s toy and, in the process, came about halfway out of my seat. When I turned back around, I was confronted with a State Trooper standing at my window, gun drawn. Let me tell you, that’s an experience you never want to live through.

Of course, when the State Trooper saw me reaching around behind me, he had no way of knowing that I was picking up a toy; he had to assume I was reaching for a gun. For my part, it never occurred to me that reaching for a toy could be mistaken for reaching for a gun because, well, I would never draw a gun on a police officer.

I’m sure you wondering what this has to do with being Twitter-scammed, so I’ll get to the point.

Eleven days ago, I noticed a new follower on Twitter, InTheStimulus. It was an intriguing username so I clicked through to check out the profile. There were a handful of tweets there, and it looked as though the intention was to highlight examples of wasteful spending in the ARRA legislation. Looked interesting, so I tweeted:

“I recommend @InTheStimulus for all those who want to know where their hard-earned dollars are going to be spent.”

With that tweet, InTheStimulus faded from my memory until one of my Twitter friends DMd me yesterday to let me know that I’d been “featured” on the DailyKos. As it turns out, InTheStimulus was a dummy account for one of the “investigative reporters” frequenting the DailyKos and the tweets, rather than being actual examples from the ARRA legislation, were fabricated.

Of course with perfect hindsight, I can see that it was foolish to recommend InTheStimulus without investigating further than my casual once over but to be honest, just like my experience with the State Trooper, it never occurred to me that someone would deliberately post false information because, well, I would never deliberately post false information.

This is quite the story over at the DailyKos. They’re getting a real kick out of all the gullible conservatives who fell for their clever ruse. That’s not really my concern; I’ve raised 3 teenagers and I’m used to this sort of juvenile derision.

But InTheStimulus goes on to make an excellent point:

“…be careful of what you read and believe on Twitter. I think some of the leeway granted to InTheStimulus is based on the soundbite nature of the site; people can get away with no citations, which is less likely than with a conventional blog.”

So I’d actually like to congratulate InTheStimulus on an excellent social science experiment and thank him (her?) for an excellent reminder that, while my intentions may be honest, not everyone’s are.

(For those of you who may be wondering, I was pulled over for having expired license tabs; no citation resulted. I think the Trooper felt the drawn gun had been punishment enough.)

An Update from Bamos at Daily Kos:

Wow, I wasn’t expecting this to get noticed again. The InTheStimulus account doesn’t exist any more. After this diary, some conservatives noticed it and spread around the word that it was a hoax. This is a surprisingly level-headed response by one of my followers.

I did change the username, delete all the old posts, and start again with the same followers list with TheAngryRighty – personally, I’m amazed you can do something like that. I haven’t touched it in a couple weeks, though.

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51 Comments

Filed under DailyKos, Twitter

51 responses to “Oh, Noes! I’ve Been Twitter-Scammed!

  1. I can’t help suspecting that if the shoe were on the other foot the KOS folks would be crying about dirty tricks.

  2. dbear

    Isn’t it amazing how it’s only the ones actually promulgating false information are usually also the only ones warning you about “not believing everything you hear”?

    News stations used to pull this stunt every now and then where they’d leave a billfold with a couple hundred dollars in it lying on the ground or in a store. They were always so amazed that the billfold was ALWAYS returned.

    The truth is that, with the exception of a handful of skank troublemakers, people are honest and well-intentioned.

  3. Jim

    I suppose it is a (welcome) reminder to check sources, even when the facts fit your presumptions. I wonder if Daily Kos would agree that their perspective has assumptions which influence their perception of information, and the reliability of those information sources. For instance, does Daily Kos tend to believe (and publish) the rhetoric of P. Obama more than P. Bush?

    • paulag1955

      Good question. It’s almost laughable, really, to see the KosKids mocking conservatives for being blinded by hatred of Obama after spending the last 8 years deep in the clutches of Bush derangement syndrome.

  4. Yeah, but I watched this stuff happen on both sides during the election. It’s also indicative of the fact that we can’t be surprised by anything the Democrats do or say. It’s also significant to note that instead of acknowledging the history of crazy spending that allowed us to believe the fabricated Twitter feed, they resort to name calling (i.e. conservative stupidity). When you sound like a bunch of school kids on the playground, why wouldn’t we believe you just spent millions on shamwows? If you act like children, you’re treated that way.

    I like how you handled it. It was refreshing to see conservatives who are currently the underdog take the high road and thank the bullies for helping us understand their true nature. Makes me even more proud to be a Republican.

  5. I’m sure we all expected that this was happening and I commend you for writing about it. The hypocrisy of the left never ceases to amaze me. They demonize conservatives as fascists and then use the same tactics as fascist, communist and other totalitarian/authoritarian states have used through history to “manage” their opposition.

    What they don’t realize is that a sting operation only works in catching people who are doing bad things. If conservatives speak their minds honestly, with conviction, mindful of being reasonable and backing up what we say with facts and evidence, we have nothing to fear.

  6. Pingback: Is your conservative Twitter pal a Daily Kos mole? | Unequal Time

  7. Great response… :)

    While it’s frustrating that we were duped by something like this, you’re right. We need to do a better job citing sources and checking up on anything we use.

  8. trickyvikki

    I find what they are doing to be dispicable and awful. You have a really great attitude about it, though. If one of the Conservatives had done that, we would have never heard the end of it.

  9. Lesson learned, never trust a lib. Truthfully, if someone posts something purported to be info and there’s no link to personally verify, it’s worthless.
    We probably all have a troll or two following us, and before they get to smug with themselves over there, they are no doubt being followed by trolls themselves.
    People believe what they want to believe, evidence be damned. See how they voted for Obama? And in going through a few posts at Kos, I recognize a few posts that I think are conservatives gaming them. Heard a few were thinking about going over there and doing that, but I blew it off.
    Oh well, look for links and follow them for verification, don’t open email attachments, and don’t walk alone at night.
    Oh, and don’t run with scissors.

  10. While I love Eric’s comment and your as always delightful post, Paula, there is a real lesson for us here about the nature of people and the naivete of many of us.

    Being naive is a mark of innocence and the days of our innocence as a people and as a nation is sadly over. Way over! There is desperate wickedness moving amongst us and we best be alert and sharp. We need to understand that lying is an art form these days.

    Some common sense for fellow life travelers:

    Trust but verify routinely
    People lie and people tell the truth (trick is to know difference!)
    Wickedness prefers darkness
    Harmony and unity with evil is well evil
    Truth will set you free
    Freedom is not free
    Owe no man anything except love

    Blessings all!

  11. You are a great story teller! Love reading this.

    • paulag1955

      Wow, you’re so nice; thanks for saying so and thanks for taking the time to visit my blog!

  12. Thank you for this info. I often wonder how many of my “followers” are fake and are trying one scam or another.

    Great story, too!

  13. Paula, I believe you’ve been pwnd, as the kids say.

  14. phinn

    The point of the original article (if you read the first paragraph) was to experiment with how misinformation makes it into the public consciousness, specifically how several congressmen had listed misleading or blatantly wrong “examples” of stimulus spending in speeches on the house and senate floor. The author was demonstrating how easy it is to spread those kinds of lies to people who are willing to believe.

  15. otto

    If someone did this to me, I would be kicking myself for not requesting sourcing.

    Never believe something on talk radio, the internet, or from a friend until you’ve sourced it yourself. Preferably, all the way back to the original document.

    I’m glad you were able to see that there is a real lesson to learn.

  16. Locker

    I think the major point of the initial twitter experiment was to demonstrate how easy it is to lead conservatives because of the “follower mentality” that seems to be so prevalent in that neck of the woods. Personally I think it’s the Christian authority structure that reinforces that “follower mentality” but that is just personal opinion.

    As others have said, it would behoove people across the board, regardless of affiliation to think for themselves. Do not believe something just because like the person who said it or personally wish it to be true and always check for multiple sources before passing judgment.

    This won’t just protect you from misinformation but from scams and other tricks that play on victim gullibility.

    I would also like to pass on my admiration for “Paula” in your measured response in this situation. You took responsibility for your own actions and even were able to laugh at yourself. Well done.

    – Locker – A true and registered independent.

    • paulag1955

      It’s interesting that you would attribute this to the Christian authority structure. The vast majority of Evangelical Christians attend independent churches that do not have a strict authority structure. Baptist congregations, for example are entirely independent. They hire and fire their own pastors, choose their own ministries and pay their own bills. Churches with a more defined hierarchy, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian, for example, tend to be more liberal.

      Aside from the obvious lesson, one of the things that’s most striking to me in all of this is the complete lack of understanding of conservatives and their beliefs. The idea that conservatives are a homogenous body with everyone having the same position on every issue is laughable. There are some core issues that define conservatism, but outside of those, there’s a remarkable diversity of opinion.

  17. Tom

    Paula,

    I am a stinky Dem, but I think I like you.

    Keep up the good work.

    Tom

    • paulag1955

      It’s okay, Tom. Living in the Seattle area, I have many friends who are stinky Dems and we get along just fine.

  18. I think there’s a larger point here, for everyone involved: confirmation bias is a real phenomenon with real-world consequences. People will more readily believe statements that match their preconceived worldviews, and they will reject statements that don’t. It doesn’t matter whether the person in question is conservative, liberal, religious, secular, authoritarian, libertarian, whatever. When you–in the broadest sense of “any arbitrary person”–hear information that reinforces a previously-held idea or supports a prior conclusion, the tendency is to accept it a priori, regardless of its truth. When you hear information that contradicts a previously-held idea or discredits a prior conclusion, the tendency is to reject it, even if that means discrediting the speaker.

    I don’t see this as good or bad for either conservatives or liberals; rather, this is an artifact of how the human brain is wired and how we process information. However, as an exercise left up to the reader, consider the response left by Erick Broadway: “lesson learned: never trust a liberal.” Is the actual lesson that liberals can’t be trusted, or did this serve as a reinforcement of his previously held belief that liberals are untrustworthy? If the person running the experiment had been a political conservative and had used this as a teaching method to educate fellow conservatives on the folly of blindly repeating everything they hear and making the movement look bad, would the conclusion drawn have been the same?

    In short, it sounds like a large number of commenters here are looking for reasons to justify their dislike or distrust of “liberals,” and have decided that this experiment is an excellent example. Instead, all it’s done is demonstrated people’s willingness to reinforce their own views using whatever tools are available.

    To go one better, ask yourself this: am I posting to point out for your benefit this error of logic, or am I merely using it to reinforce my idea that conservatives are weak on reason? Was your response to this comment genuine, or was it your brain’s automatic attempt to stop you from having to challenge a previously held belief? How much control do you really have over how you think?

    And… if even you aren’t as rational as you think you are, how can you ever hope to build a country on a political system that assumes that people don’t behave like this?

  19. Mike

    I’m another stinky Dem (from Cheney) but just wanted to suggest that seeing a state trooper at my window with a drawn weapon is an experience that I would rather like to live through, considering the alternative. :)

  20. tom

    Hey,Hey Paula:Another stinky Dem here. Good response.The twitterer? was having some fun but you got the point.My Dad always used to say don’t believe what you hear and only half of what you see. There is enough in the world to divide us without believing anything that fits our preconceptions. I think the guy’s point was if you believe congress critters who spread the false stuff,you’ll believe me.He was right.

  21. EdC

    The point of all this, of course, is that “conservatives” will and do believe everything they hear. Their lack of critical faculties, and the disastrous policies that their leaders have been able to follow as a result, are the reasons that the GOP is in such terrible shape today.

    No honest, intelligent person could dispute this.

    • paulag1955

      I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that some liberals will also believe some fairly bizarre facts, including, for example, that Trig Palin was, in fact, Bristol Palin’s baby, physiology be damned. I actually consider myself to be both honest and intelligent and I dispute the fact that the far right is any more likely to believe everything they hear than the far left, meaning there are fringe groups at both ends of the political spectrum. In the case of this Twitter scam, I honestly believe that many of the people who fell into the trap could be more fairly categorized as trusting rather than stupid and some of the comments they made were clearly sarcastic, a fact you would be able to see if your weren’t so blinded by your preconceived notion that conservatives are stupid.

  22. Mark Borok

    “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

    I was going to preface that with, “In the words of Mark Twain”, but just in case I looked it up and found out that this quote, while popularly attributed to him, has never been authenticated as being by Twain. Kind of ironic, if you think about it.

    I find that, with the amount of information I am exposed to daily, it is impossible to keep track of where every fact originated and whether it was sourced or not. On account of which, I start almost every sentence with “I’ve heard that…” or “I’ve read that…” or “apparently…”

    But what gets me is those who will believe something that no sane person would believe, such as the notion that a politician would publicly express an extremely unpopular view which, even if he really held it, it would be in his own interests to conceal. Like the brouhaha over John Kerry’s failed joke that appeared to insult the military.

  23. I really like your response to this. A liberal friend sent me the link to the Daily Kos article, and I followed Kos’s update to you.

    Another person would have responded with a flame-war, name-calling, and other juvenile antics. I applaud your attitude and apparent good nature.

    Too often I see arguments between self-proclaimed liberals and self-proclaimed conservatives deteriorate into ugly personal attacks. If they could actually debate the issues, they would both find that the name-calling flames are completely unnecessary.

    I don’t style myself either liberal or conservative. Had I been a tweeting kind of person (I have an account, but have yet to fathom the attraction to the medium) I would have been inclined to follow InTheStimulus myself – to learn more about what the stimulus was all about, not to engage in knee-jerk screams of outrage at wastefulness.

  24. Moses

    Childish indeed! :)

  25. Sam Smith

    Hi Paula–
    Found your site via Bamos’ update on Daily Kos, where I’m a regular reader and sometimes commenter. I just wanted to thank you for your humor, good sportsmanship, and fair-mindedness over the whole affair. I can’t say I see the same spirit in some of the other comments here, but then many of your readers would say the same thing about the average discussion on Kos’s site. But the overall spirit of recognizing merit in opposing arguments, laughing at oneself on occasion, and learning from experience is something our politics—whether left or right—could use more of. Thanks for doing your part to promote it.

  26. Voig Nederlander

    I think whether you are Left or Right (and I happen to be Left), you see a good lesson in this. This calling out of so-called fact is something occurring even in mainstream media, whether it be FOX or NY Times or CNN or the Post. Commentary, disaffected rage and fact have blended into some kind of vile soup, and too many of us drink it down without a second thought.

    If this were intended just to be mean, I understand people being angry about it. But I think there was a bigger purpose here, that being to show that people have largely stopped thinking for themselves. Had this same thing been done in the reverse (Did you know George Bush diverted $40 million is Iraq war funds to the Methodist Church?) just as many Democrats would have been inclined to believe it without double checking.

    We are, all of us, lazy and easily led around. We all need to do a better job of thinking for ourselves.

  27. Hi Paula,

    Just wanted to add another to the pile of accolades for responding so even-handedly to this. My political beliefs are fairly liberal, but I have a stronger belief in the fact that most people are just trying to do the right thing, no matter what their political leaning. Thanks for reinforcing that.

    I did want to make one point in response to your comment: “The idea that conservatives are a homogenous body with everyone having the same position on every issue is laughable. There are some core issues that define conservatism, but outside of those, there’s a remarkable diversity of opinion.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. But judging from the comments, many of your conservative commenters seem to have the exact same misconception about liberals.

    “we can’t be surprised by anything the Democrats do or say”

    “The hypocrisy of the left never ceases to amaze me.”

    “Lesson learned, never trust a lib.”

    Can we get past this sort of demonizing? And I’m talking about both sides here. Most of us probably know some really good, decent people who happen to hold political beliefs at the opposite side of the spectrum from ours. Can we get to the point where we recognize that this isn’t the exception, but the rule?

    • paulag1955

      I agree with your point. I think the majority of people on both sides probably do realize that, but the subset that takes the time to comment on blogs…maybe not so much. Looking at the comments on Bamos’ post over at Kos, you see almost unanimous agreement that conservatives are rather less than intelligent sheep who are merely looking to be led and bleating out whatever they’re told. (To be fair, one person did mention that some of the conservative tweets appeared to be sarcastic.)

      This is why it is so important to try to keep the inflammatory rhetoric to a minimum. If conservatives and liberals could just accept that people of good will and normal intelligence can have different opinions on various issues, we could then have civil discussions on important issues, rather than name calling matches. I suspect we would probably all be surprised to see that there really is some common ground!

    • paulag1955

      “Can we get to the point where we recognize that this isn’t the exception, but the rule?”

      It would be great, wouldn’t it, and it’s unfortunate that we’re not there. Bamos says “This is a surprisingly level-headed response by one of my followers.” Nice to be called level-headed and I hope that I am at 53 years old, but really, what’s so surprising about it? There’s nothing particularly special about me. I’m not any nicer, smarter, or more reasonable than most other conservatives I know. Both sides need to stop basing their judgments on the lowest common denominator.

  28. Voig Nederlander

    Well said, Paula. Here’s hoping that common ground is found sooner rather than later.

  29. I followed the false account, but that’s all I did. I’m very conservative, but ashamed of many fellow conservatives who seem to focus on hatred and name-calling.

    • paulag1955

      I won’t say I’m ashamed of them because I don’t feel responsible for them…but I do occasionally see things that make me cringe!

  30. T Lynn

    IOW,

    Its too bad that there are some who have nothing better to do than to make fun of others. I would much rather be made fun of once in awhile than be childish, bitter and hateful. I’m glad you did not automatically assume that InTheStimulus was up to something and I hope we, as conservatives, don’t become so jaded that we lose our joy in the wonderful life we do have.

    I say, let them have their fun and just ignore them as they are not worth the time spent on them.

    God Bless

  31. Wow! The blog post was great and then the comments grabbed me. So many thought-provoking points were brought up and with such eloquence. All things I’ve pondered and was excited to see shared.

    “I dispute the fact that the far right is any more likely to believe everything they hear than the far left, meaning there are fringe groups at both ends of the political spectrum. In the case of this Twitter scam, I honestly believe that many of the people who fell into the trap could be more fairly categorized as trusting rather than stupid and some of the comments they made were clearly sarcastic, a fact you would be able to see if your weren’t so blinded by your preconceived notion that conservatives are stupid.”

    and even better,

    “If conservatives and liberals could just accept that people of good will and normal intelligence can have different opinions on various issues, we could then have civil discussions on important issues, rather than name calling matches. I suspect we would probably all be surprised to see that there really is some common ground!”

    Great writing, Paula.

  32. Dave L

    I meant to congratulate on a thoughtful, even-handed post, but since many others have beaten me to the punch, I’ll respond to your anecdote at the top of the file:

    “When I turned back around, I was confronted with a State Trooper standing at my window, gun drawn. Let me tell you, that’s an experience you never want to live through.”

    I don’t know, maybe this is just one of those men vs. women things, or liberals vs. conservatives, but I can tell you that I, personally, would very much want to live all the way through this kind of experience.

    • paulag1955

      Yes, of course! And on re-reading, I see that I left myself wide open to that! I probably should have said it’s something you never want to experience. Either way, it was awful!

  33. R. Moore

    Found you through the Kos page through a forum. Giant flaming California liberal. And academic-type. The academic type makes me really appreciate your post. I spent so much time research and researching and looking for bias and trying to identify my own bias that I go a little batty when people don’t take things with a grain of salt. I don’t have a “news source” because I don’t trust any of them to be wholly free from bias. It’s too dang hard!

    I dislike the dislike between political groups. I dislike dislike amongst almost any groups, though. We’re all human. And (mostly) we all believe what we believe because we feel it will help some greater cause, that it is the right thing to do. There is always some common ground.

  34. Pingback: Daily Kos Embraces and Extends Public Gullibility. | Time Doctor Dot Org

  35. Thats a great story Paula. Twitter can be a bit of a minefield though when you are trying to support people by following them. But like any aspect of our lives good nature seems to only lead to the wrong kind of people trying to take advantage. But don’t change! Take care. Alan

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