What do Joe Arpaio, Tiffany Shedd, David Garcia, Martha McSally and Kelli Ward have in common? For short: social media mishaps.
Social media is powerful, and never has its power been as evident as it is during the 2018 Primary Election cycle. Because social media is an increasingly important part of political campaigns, the people in charge of social media and messaging are becoming increasingly important players on the campaign scene.
President Trump is a great example of someone who uses his Twitter Account to get around the media and get directly to the American people. So social media – done well – can be a powerful force for good. Done. Well.
Case Studies of Clowns and Cretins
Recently, we have had several examples of what happens when social media is done badly:
David Garcia:The social media director for Democratic front runner for governor, David Garcia, who was recently discovered to have authored numerous highly offensive tweets before starting work on the Garcia campaign. These tweets contained F bombs and we’re directed at the state and people of Arizona. Obviously someone on the Garcia campaign dropped the ball and didn’t bother to screen the social media work of the person they were hiring to run social media. That is an indictment on the management skills of whoever is running that race. But that does not get this social media director off the hook. That person knew what they had already put out, and they knew the power and reach of social media. It is amazing that they did not imagine it would be an issue, or that they did not try to at least delete the offending posts before accepting a job on a campaign for governor. It will come as no surprise that the offending staffer offered their resignation and it was accepted. But now Garcia has to spend valuable campaign time answering questions on whether or not he thinks as little of the people of Arizona as his social media director did. That is not helping your candidate to win!
Joe Arpaio: Dustin Stockton is supposed to be helping run the US Senate campaign of Sheriff Joe. It appears it is impossible for Stockton to get fired no matter what he puts out, because he continually lunches vicious tweets and F bombs at voters and potential constituents of the sheriff. It is inconceivable that a serious political campaign would have one of its main spokesman launch profane assaults on voters, but this is a campaign that appears to be completely uninterested in winning. And since much of the profanity is geared towards Doctor Kelly Ward and her supporters, it has so far met with approval from the sheriff. Although he does claim to be relatively unaware of what is being put out in his name, so we can’t know for sure. The media however, has largely ignored these outbursts, although I suspect it won’t be for much longer given what transpired on the Garcia campaign. If a Democrat campaign has a problem, you know the media is going to be looking for a Republican campaign with a similar problem so they can refocus coverage away from the Democrat.
For their bizarre antics, the former sheriff and his political posse earned the distinction of being named the Conservative Circus Clowns of the Week by popular conservative radio show host James T. Harris.
Tiffany Shedd: There has been a lot of press coverage the last couple of days over the vicious attacks launched by Wendy Rogers against her rival Steve Smith. There is actually a third candidate in that race by the name of Tiffany Shedd, whose establishment flack, Barrett Marson, decided to involve Tiffany’s campaign in the whole scrum. Sad. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you have opponents that are beating up on each other, you should stay out of it and root for both of them to succeed. But Marson, or the Shedd campaign itself, had a different strategy, because they decided to start repeating all of the sensational charges that Wendy Rogers was making, even as Republican party officials and law-enforcement groups were calling on Rogers to drop out of the race for having disgraced herself with the charges.
Rogers has essentially been claiming that the Christian-based modeling agency that Steve Smith works with, which helps kids and adults find modeling jobs in and print ads and TV commercials and those sorts of things, is somehow connected to human trafficking, prostitution, and really ugly things. Because they work with both adults and kids, Rogers tried to claim that Smith’s business targeted “underage” girls, in an effort to try to make it seem sordid or illegal. So the spokesperson for Tiffany Shedd tried to repeat these charges and made several tweets that frankly are just really disturbing.
That’s gross Mr. Marson. We, the general public, don’t typically think of adults or measurements when we’re looking at teenage girls. If you are trying to get work as a model you put your measurements on your page along with your shoe size and things like that. It makes sense. If I’m selling plus size clothes and need a model, I need to know the model’s size.
When Steve Smith’s campaign called him out for what they considered to be a pervy comment, Marson doubled down:
Let’s ignore why he’s hanging out in the teen section and assume it was work related. Maybe he was doing research.
But pictures that Marson found to be perverted are of the most delightful and normal looking pretty young teenage girl you can imagine. In one picture she just wearing jeans shorts and a long sleeve shirt, in two of the pictures, that are just upper body shots she wearing a sweater or shirt and jacket, and in the last picture she’s wearing long dark looking jeans with a white T-shirt and a Jean jacket. This is just a regular looking kid, dressed like a regular kid. You might see pictures like this in a JC Penney catalog.
And this is where social media done badly can bite you in a very bad way. There is nothing remotely sexual or sensual these pictures, although for some reason Marson thinks they are very sexual or sensual. To the point where he thinks their presence on a modeling agency’s website is not just normal portfolio or studio shots, but is perverted. One must ask why is Shedd’s campaign team letting him drag his candidate into the middle of such a sordid thing?
In her piece in the Arizona Republic: Why is it OK for Wendy Rogers to make sex trafficking allegations so casually, Téa Francesca Price explains just irresponsible it is for Rogers to make her claims about Smith. Price writes:
Politics is a nasty business.
Campaign rhetoric is constantly digging for a new low, and in a time where “going viral” is a goal, it’s little surprise that statements become more outrageous.
Case in point is Arizona’s Congressional District 1, where Republican candidate Wendy Rogers made unfounded claims that rival Steve Smith had worked with a modeling agency that had links to sex trafficking.
Smith is now denouncing Rogers, calling for her to drop out of the race and issue an apology to the business dragged into this mess.
Treating the issue of sex trafficking so nonchalantly as to use it as a verbal attack in a political race is unacceptable.
Allegations about such links need to be factual, because trafficking is an ongoing, horrendous activity afflicting not just this country, but the entire world.
If you’re going to draw attention to an issue, do it for the right reasons. Such language needs to stop being used as fodder for political mudslinging, because it undermines the severity of a very real problem.
Rogers appears to remain undaunted and continues to pull others into her ugly smear campaign.
Martha McSally: In March, Rep. Martha McSally fumbled social media when it appeared the she commented on a video on her Facebook page thanking herself for her service.
According to Law & Crime, McSally posted a video to Facebook, the caption read:
“58,318. That’s how many lives were taken between 1957 and 1975 due to wounds inflicted in the Vietnam war, and that’s how many names are inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in DC.”
“619 of those names belong to Arizonans who were killed in the war. 107 of those names belong to individuals from Tucson. Today I’m LIVE from the #WallthatHeals, a replica that’s visiting Oro Valley.”
McSally’s Facebook page then commented on the video, saying: “Great video quality! Thank you for your service!”
Then last month, McSally set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill when she claimed that she had written the language which required a fly-off between the F-35 and the A-10. While the untrue claim riled up Hill insiders others familiar with situation, the much of the media either ignored it or parroted it.
— James T Harris (@JamesTHarris) July 13, 2018
Kelli Ward: Dr. Kelli Ward made the mistake of reacting to the Arizona Republic’s endorsement of her opponent in the Arizona Senate race, Congresswoman Martha McSally. Conservatives vote in Republican primaries and generally do not read the Arizona Republic, or if they do, they dismiss the material – especially endorsements – out of hand.
Ward launched into a Twitter screed about the endorsement she had to have known she was never going to get. In response, liberal columnist Laurie Roberts, and reporters who Ward had attacked but who didn’t even have a vote on the editorial board, attacked Ward mercilessly. The whole episode was a blip on the screen, but a blip nevertheless.
Social Media Done Horribly Wrong Raises Questions
In every one of these cases we have awful examples of what happens when social media is done horribly wrong. Each scenario raises important questions.
What sort of price these campaigns pay for allowing people like this to speak for them?
Will the public hold the campaigns accountable for how their staffers are behaving and what they are saying? And if not, why not?
Why is it okay to verbally abuse someone online when it is not in person? Shouldn’t personal and ugly attacks online be more egregious that they would be if done in person?
Will civility return as long as Twitter and Facebook remain the only online public squares? When will conservatives figure out that they are feeding the same beasts that are trying to destroy them?