“CrazyKhazei” and fake names on the internet

I suspect there’s been dirty tricks in politics since there has been politics. Nixon’s resignation as president of the United States really grew out of dirty tricks on steroids. So the internet is not the cause of modern political shenanigans, but it has helped the “art form”, if you want to call it that, to evolve. But electronically delivered dirty tricks are still a novelty and when one is discovered, the autopsy is fascinating.

Such is the case with the “CrazyKhazei” Twitter episode. For those unfamiliar, here’s the story thus far: some time ago, a Twitter account named “CrazyKhazei” began making outrageous tweets mocking Democratic US Senate candidate Alan Khazei. If the owner of a Twitter account chooses not to use his true identity, then it’s awfully tough to pierce that veil of anonymity so no one knew who was behind CrazyKhazei. But earlier this week, a CrazyKhazei tweet appeared not on that Twitter account, but on the account of Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to both US Senator Scott Brown and presidential candidate Mitt Romney (both Republicans, as you all know). It was clear that Fehrnstrom was the author of CrazyKhazei and that he had mixed up which account he was posting to and consequently outed himself. If you’re interested in reading more about this, check out David Bernstein’s “Talking Politics” blog at the Boston Phoenix or Blue Mass Group which is covering this in depth.

Ironically, today brings an accusation of something somewhat similar in Lowell politics. Jack Mitchell at Left in Lowell has a lengthy post in which he alleges that two electronically vociferous supporters of city council candidate John MacDonald aren’t who they purport to be. Jack provides quantities of circumstantial evidence but also offers the MacDonald campaign a donation of $200 for the privilege of meeting these two internet boosters.

Leaving the Lowell allegations aside for now since they’re still in the accusation phase – presumed innocent until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt might be a good standard to apply here as well as in the courtroom – the question remains as to the impact of the Fehrnstrom-CrazyKhazei revelations on the Scott Brown and Mitt Romney campaigns. Assuming this is the extent of the dirty tricks, I don’t see anything that requires Fehrnstrom’s resignation although I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both campaigns cut ties to him. For the rest of his career, Fehrnstrom will be damaged goods. Any time he has something to say in the media – and his history to date is that he is often in the media, usually being critical of an opponent of one of his customers – his impact and his credibility will be diluted by this episode.

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