Monday, 24 November 2014

Whitehouse.gov: Obama Administration's Campaign Advocacy Website

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President Barack Obama has clearly not forgotten his training as a community organizer. The official White House website (www.whitehouse.gov), which one would expect to be used to keep citizens aware of information related to the function of the Executive Branch of their government, looks much more like a platform for community activism.

A case in point is the page on taking action on the immigration issue (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/immigration/immigration-action). It lists videos, interviews, testimonials, and of course those trademark stories that helped put Barack Obama in the White House by tugging at the heart strings while helping to suspend critical thinking. These stories are listed in a section entitled "The Voices of Immigration in America." These stories include one about one of the "American "Dreamers." The caption next to this story reads, "There are no stories that bring home the hope and optimism of immigration reform more than the stories of 'Dreamers.' They are productive members of society, brought here as young children, who grew up in our communities and became American in every way but on paper."

Of course, one would expect the White House website to include the president's speeches and other statements supporting his policies. But is it appropriate for the website to also include advocacy for the president's positions from sources outside the White House? And when such information is spot-lighted, does this make the website less a depository of executive branch information and more of a campaign/advocacy website?

Under the heading “Stand with the President to Fix a Broken System,” the immigration-action page surely does the latter by imploring visitors: "Add your name to show you care about fixing our broken immigration system, and we'll keep you posted with updates about how you can fight to keep the momentum going." Visitors are also asked to "spread the word" via Twitter and Facebook.

As if it weren't enough that the president is essentially hijacking an official government website to drive his immigration agenda, his loose grasp of the truth is evident. A sidebar on the page simultaneously lists the number of those the president's "reform" would help as "nearly 5 million" and "over 4 million," causing one to wonder if they are just pulling these numbers out of thin air. The old adage comes to mind, "figures don't lie; but liars do figure." The section on "A History of Taking Action" lists quotes from the past 10 presidents regarding immigration, with no distinction made between legal and illegal immigration.

The health-reform page (www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform) includes the same types of videos, interviews, testimonials, and stories advocating the president's position on healthcare. It also includes a “Spread the Word” section with links to “Learn and share the impacts of Medicaid expansion” and to “Share health care infographics and videos.”

The administration is using Internet not only to mobolize support for the president's policies but also to create the appearance of popular support for those policies. A November 16 Washington Times article reported that 60 percent of the 226,838 comments on the Facebook page for ObamaCare from September 2012 to early October 2014 are the work of less than 100 "unique profiles." This Facebook page has 772,000 Likes, which means that the equivalent of only a little more than one commenter out of every 10,000 Likes is driving the discussion.

The numbers are even worse if you factor in that many of these "unique profiles" are not "unique people." In at least one case, several profiles were operated by one woman who posted an average of 59 comments per day. This could mean that the majority of comments that help create a perception of widespread support for ObamaCare's are being posted by far fewer than 100 people.

There are several online services that offer plans to create a false following on Twitter to make either a person or a position seem more widely accepted. They create fake Twitter accounts and follow the accounts of their paying clients. The Daily Mail reported last year that 53 percent of President Obama's (then) 26.9 million Twitter followers are fake. That means that 19.5 million accounts that follow his tweets are pure fabrications with no real people associated with them. That number is more than twice the size of his "active followers," which is only 20 percent. The balance of followers is made up of real people who began following him, but have since abandoned their Twitter accounts — a number still larger than those actively following him.

The White House has not commented on these discrepancies. So much for the administration's purported transparency.

Unfortunately, these tactics are effective. In a world where perception is increasingly considered reality, and a large number of people derive that perception from social media, Obama's administration has much to gain by using fraudulent tactics to manipulate the public's perception on issues such as ObamaCare and immigration "reform." It's clear that Americans who hold to the principles of limited government and individual liberty must redouble their efforts to expose the dishonesty and manipulation of this administration.

Graphics: screen-grab from Whitehouse.gov

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