Smear Campaign Tools Exposed: Sockpuppet Theater

By trying to hide your identity when you leave a comment, you’re trying to influence everyone else’s perception of how credible the article is by pretending to be a disinterested third party who’s just offering a fair critique.
–David Martosko, Director of Research, Center for Consumer Freedom

Poor Richard Berman. It’s hard to drum up support for unpopular causes like destroying wages and benefits for teachers, convincing pregnant women to consume toxic mercury, and downplaying the significance of having loved ones killed by drunk driving.

But of all the atrocities Richard Berman is paid to defend, perhaps the most repugnant is animal cruelty.

So what does the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) do when they can’t find an unethical college graduate or industry shill to pose as an expert and spout junk science? When there’s nobody to take up the cause of brutalizing animals or demonizing their rescuers, HumaneWatch falls back on a particularly dirty tactic: sockpuppets.

In real life, a sockpuppet is a mockery, a figure of inanimate cloth and button eyes that mouths whatever words the wearer says. It is a fictional persona worn over the hand of the puppetmaster.

On the internet, sockpuppets are more sinister. They are fake personalities masquerading as real people, and they are used to manipulate others into thinking there is credible support for an idea. For example, someone seeking to discredit the Humane Society of the United States could pose as a veterinarian, relying on the authority that comes with a vet’s education and experience without actually possessing those qualities. That’s precisely what HumaneWatch chief David Martosko did in order to deceive animal lovers.

But manipulation is just the tip of the iceberg. Martosko also assumed the identity of a fictional activist for much more nefarious purposes. He used this identity to compromise the accounts of bloggers, politicians, authors, and activists who oppose the abuses of CCF’s corporate clients, spying on them, monitoring them, and in at least two instances, attempting to incite violent or criminal comments to use against those individuals.

To David Martosko’s disappointment, the animal welfare community was more principled than CCF’s employees.

And Martosko? He’s now the U.S. Political Editor for a conservative tabloid, The Daily Mail.

Please feel free to save these graphics to your hard drive, link to them directly on this site, or share on social media.

View and share previous weeks’ graphics from our Resources page.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed