At about 9 a.m. Monday morning, someone checking the official White House Facebook page would have noticed something peculiar. A single message began showing up on the fan page over and over again, at one point once every minute. Each time it came from a different user and included a small flame icon along with it.
“This week’s anniversary marks 8 years of war in Afghanistan, and I’m remembering those who have died,” the message states. “Bullets don’t win hearts and minds. We need a better plan for Afghanistan, end the war.”
The messages stem from a “friendly” takeover of the White House fan page launched by the peace advocacy group Peace Action West to mark the eight year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Boasting a membership of over 50,000, it advocates for a “smarter foreign policy” that includes putting more resources into economic development and humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.
“It’s a vigil, and the reason we chose a vigil is because a lot of our members support Obama,” Communications Director Reva Patwardhan told me in a phone interview. “A lot of progressives support Obama, and we actually think that of all the people who could possibly be president he’s the most likely to do the right thing. But he’s going to need a lot of public support in order to push him in that direction, and the fact is that he’s actually considering an array of options for what he’s going to do in Afghanistan. The commander in Afghanistan, General [Stanley] McChrystal, has asked for 45,000 more troops. There’s a huge amount of pressure to give him that. We’re asking [Obama] not to give in to that pressure.”
The group created a Facebook Connect page allowing its supporters to streamline their efforts into one efficient system, though some of the people posting on the fan pages steer from the beaten path with their own custom messages. Patwardhan said they’ve been using their massive email list to promote the cause, but it since has taken off through word of mouth on both Facebook and Twitter, and several other organizations are pitching in their support.
The eighth anniversary is this Wednesday and she said their vigil will last at least until then, possibly longer.
File this under “People Who Think They Are Helping Roman Polanski Really Aren’t”: At least one pro-Polanski online activist has blocked at least one Facebook user critical of Polanski from posting anything to do with Polanski to her Facebook page. Bi-zarre.
Keli Goff, who last week wrote a piece for Mediaite critical of Polanski and his Hollywood supporters called “Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hollywood Liberals? Two Words: Roman Polanski,” had posted a similar piece at HuffPo and had posted it to her Facebook page last Wednesday. On Friday, she sent me a confused email asking me if I had tried posting Polanski articles to Facebook. She was trying to post the following and having no luck:
Chris Rock weighs in on Polanski. Hilarity ensues: http://tiny.cc/hdmKr
I tried posting it to my page and it worked fine. I tried posting another Polanski link to my page; it also worked. Keli, meanwhile, tried to post a news article reporting that California governor Arnold Schwarzennegger had refused to pardon Polanski — no dice.
She has since then been unable to post material about Polanski on her Facebook page — legitimate, non-abusive material — and when she tries, she gets the following message:
Keli has no idea who would have reported her to Facebook as abusive; she has received no communication on the matter from Facebook or anyone. In the interim, Keli tells me she has requested an answer from Facebook’s spokesperson Barry Schnitt but has received no response, and is also waiting to hear back from someone in their DC office after friends with contacts there reported her issue. I also tried posting a Polanski page to her wall, and it worked; however, she’s still unable to.
Could this be a fluke? Maybe — but doubtful, since it appears that Polanski-themed spamming is going around. Over at Patterico’s Pontifications, Patrick Frey has numerous posts detailing how he was spammed by an associate producer for the pro-Polanski film, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Patterico had identified the associate producer, Michelle Sullivan, through an intricate trail of online breadcrumbs, and she admitted to having left numerous angry anonymous comments in support of Polanski on posts written by Patterico. Patterico also tied her to comments on Polanski-related articles at the Daily Beast.
So: We know that there is at least one, perhaps more pro-Polanski person or persons targeting people who are critical of the embattled director online. And, I guess, we also know that Facebook will suspend your posting privileges without contacting you. Oh, we also know this: Trying to block Facebook articles about Roman Polanski will probably really, really help his public image. Sheesh.
Ayone else out there have similar experiences with Polanski-related material? Let us know in the comments.
It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with competition and we get our kicks from big movement on the Power Grid. Recently sickness has been responsible for much of the movement in the rankings, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta — who recently announced he had swine flu — jumped from #12 to #4 in the rankings among TV pundits, with his Google buzz peaking at #1. The third search result? “I went to Afghanistan and all I got was H1N1.”
In another case, the sickness was a financial malady responsible for the moving and the shaking, as New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin skyrocketed from the #37 Print/Online Reporter to #5 thanks to the forthcoming release of his verbosely titled book Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves. The latest issue of Vanity Fair includes an excerpt from the work, as well as a Q&A, in addition to the buzz Sorkin has received from his other recent financial coverage in the Times of shamed businessman Guy Hands, a salacious take entitled “A Financier Peels Back the Curtain.” As a result, he’s setting Google ablaze.
Elsewhere, Lorne Michaels benefitted from SNL’s return (enjoy the classics here!), jumping from #4 to #2 among TV Executives, while TV reporter Ann Curry leaped nine spots, from #20 to #11 after a highly publicized interview with disputed Iranian President Ahmadinejad as well as likely gaining some followers after a public report about an emergency landing on her Twitter account. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg crept up the media mogul top 5, to the fourth slot, after announcing that the social networked topped 300 million users and is now profitable. Meanwhile, madness in Washington took the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to #1 from #3 in the Print/Online Reporters category.
A handful of huge jumps included Armen Keteyian, from #50 to #12 among TV Reporters after an Emmy win for investigative journalism. Similarly, the start of the NFL season meanted a #43 to #13 jump for TV reporter Michael Smith, while the ever pleasant Ann Coulter elbowed her way to the top’s outer edges — from #20 to #8 when it comes to TV Pundits.
Check out the entire set of rankings here.
Martha Stewart opened up her studio audience seats to live-bloggers yesterday in an impressive release of control for the notoriously cautious television talk show circuit. Where audience members are normally forced off the grid during tapings, Martha’s show staff asked us all to bring and use our laptops, smartphones and cameras. As Martha herself posted on Twitter, Facebook and her blog, the show was to be “all about social networking.” The result? Somewhat disappointing and not very social, but a smart move nonetheless.
Informed and prepared, Martha Stewart led a series of fast-paced interviews with a handful of social networking heavyweights including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Everybody including Martha seemed excited by the concept of live audience involvement but it was hard not to feel like we were odd visitors in an experiment they weren’t quite ready to handle.
With 125 users trying to access the wireless network – 126 including Martha – it was slow or inaccessible to many of us. When we were all asked to disconnect so Martha could get a signal, live-blogging activities were quickly downgraded to the occasional smartphone tweet. In all, the experiment generated 452 searchable tweets and retweets using the announced hashtag #theTECHshow and another 99 using the more intuitive identifier #Martha. These are underwhelming numbers from a tech-equipped audience of social influencers like Julia Roy, who has 31,392 followers on Twitter, Idolator editor Maura Johnston and viral-web monitor Urlesque, but it’s all good. The Martha show gets a little extra shot of publicity, and the blogosphere gets some extra attention. And both are excited to be recognized by the other. By allowing us to take and post behind-the-scenes photos we all feel more involved and closer to the show. This was a smart move with zero risk, all reward despite the execution troubles.
The deeper question is why Martha’s advisors – and why the television industry in general – doesn’t integrate social media more frequently into the shows. Allowing people to stay connected and share their experiences directly from their audience seats shouldn’t be a one-time experiment. Successful television shows have always known the importance of social connections and word-of-mouth, yet somehow they’re almost all viewing the internet as a threat rather than a powerful opportunity.
What could the Martha show have done differently yesterday? Rather than treat social networking as a separate technology discussion, they could have prepped the tech guests to discuss how their products and sites enhance the domestic arts. Martha probably wouldn’t bring the head of GE Appliances on the show just to discuss the latest cooktop elements, and she wouldn’t go in-depth on the features of a glue gun without tying it into why her viewers should care. Similarly, Biz Stone should not have mentioned Twitter’s retweet functionality without tying it into how it can benefit the audience. Chris Hughes could have spent less time on Facebook’s privacy options, more time bringing it home to why Martha’s demographic cares. Yahoo’s Heather Cabot added more of a Martha vibe during her photo editing segment but for the most part the links between technology features and how the home viewer can benefit, specifically around the domestic arts, were rarely drawn.
Martha and her staff are to be applauded for their efforts but when the show airs tomorrow, Friday October 2nd, viewers at home will likely wonder what it all has to do with them.
Andrew Cherwenka is VP Biz Dev at Trapeze.com, an interactive marketing agency with offices in New York and Toronto. Find him on Twitter at @cherwenka.
Photo captions by Joe Coscarelli