There are two lessons we can take from behind-the-scenes accounts of Rob Ford’s campaign that were published last weekend: first, strangers who suddenly warm up to you on Twitter should be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism, and if you’re in possession of a potentially game-changing audio file (that features the leading candidate promising to score you drugs), you should be extra vigilant; and, second, anything written about our new mayor by a certain “friendly” Toronto Sun columnist will be about as objective as campaign brochure copy.
The accounts are heavy on revelations, including a damning bit about Smitherman’s campaign team using a provincial Liberal voters’ list that Ford’s intel said would be voting for him and not Smitherman. But the most intriguing item involves a member of Ford’s campaign who created a Twitter pseudonym, “@QueensQuayKaren‚” — posing as a George Smitherman supporter (appropriately twibboned)‚ ”who likes politics, my cat Mittens, and a good book” — in a bid to deceive another Tweeter. It had come to the Ford campaign’s attention that the target, Dieter Doneit-Henderson, had surreptitiously recorded a conversation wherein Ford promised a frantic Doneit-Henderson he would “fucking try to find” OxyContin for him, to alleviate the pain of his fibromyalgia. Worried that a media outlet might release this recording a week before the election, the Ford camp charged Fraser Macdonald, their 24-year old deputy communications director, with the task of retrieving the recording by any means necessary.Thus Macdonald contrived the fake twitter account: @QueensQuayKaren. Using this account Macdonald slowly earned Doneit-Henderson’s trust through both public tweets of support for Smitherman and private messages sent to him over the network. Finally, after continued prodding from “Karen,” Doneit-Henderson sent Macdonald the audio file. Yet, even with the recording in their posession, they still had to figure out how to handle the release of it. While Twitter had proved useful in deceiving a single naive individual, the campaign needed something that could manipulate on a larger scale; enter the Toronto Sun and columnist Sue-Ann Levy. “…the team decided to get out in front of the story and leak the recording to a friendly columnist at a local tabloid. A June 17 front-page headline blared that he’d been set up.” Thus Levy contrived a Ford-friendly spin: “For Ford feels ‘set up’ by drug tape.” Following publication of the Sun piece, Ford held a press conference and spun the story in his favour. Though his job was complete, Macdonald continued to tweet from the account. Here are a few of the more charming examples:
He even chimed in on QuAIA and Pride Toronto (note: Rob Ford did not participate in the parade):For the entire list of the fake tweets, check out this Torontoist post or CTV Toronto – http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20101030/fake-twitter-101030/20101030/?hub=TorontoNewHome and http://torontoist.com/2010/10/rob_fords_team_created_a_fake_twitter_account_and_this_is_it.php