an Ellie Light list

by twit

The Ellie Light phenomenon was first reported by Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, by way of the Drudge Report:

“It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything,” said a letter from alleged Philadelphian Ellie Light, that was published in the Jan. 19 edition of The Philadelphia Daily News.A letter from Light in the Jan. 20 edition of the San Francisco Examiner concluded with an identical sentence, but with an address for Light all the way across the country in Daly City, California.

Variations of Light’s letter ran in Ohio’s Mansfield News Journal on Jan. 13, with Light claiming an address in Mansfield; in New Mexico’s Ruidoso News on Jan. 12, claiming an address in Three Rivers; in South Carolina’s The Sun News on Jan. 18, claiming an address in Myrtle Beach; and in the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia on Jan. 15, claiming an address in Waynesboro. Her publications list includes other papers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Michigan, IowaPennsylvania and California, all claiming separate addresses.

and then there were more.  and more.  and more.  and then I found a new one (and another) (and another).  I checked and organized links from the Cleveland Plain Dealer articles and the Paterrico posts (including the comments) to look at all this and get a sense of the unfolding story.

so it appears to begin, much like everything else, on the Internet…

Internet

January 7, 2010. Politico. no address.

January 7, 2010. Buzzflash. no address.

and then it ended up in all kinds of newspapers:

Alabama

January 23, 2010. Huntsville Times. Huntsville, 35811 address.

Arkansas

January 22, 2009. Courier News. no address.

California

January 10, 2010. quoted by a Daily Breeze columnist.

January 11, 2010. The Gilroy Dispatch. San Felipe address.

January 12, 2010. The Californian. Salinas address.

January 12, 2010. Good Times. Santa Cruz address.

January 14, 2010. Vallejo Times Herald. Vallejo address.

January 15, 2010. Los Banos Enterprise. Gustine address.

January 18, 2010. The Sacramento Bee. Myrtle Beach address, link to Myrtle Beach Sun.

January 20, 2010. The Willits News. Willits address.

January 20, 2010. San Fransisco Examiner. Daly City address.

January 20, 2010. San Luis Obispo Tribune. San Luis Obispo address.

January 21, 2010. Morgan Hill Times. San Felipe address.

January 21, 2010. Sierra Star. Ahwahnee address.

January 22, 2010. The Union. Grass Valley address.

Connecticut

January 13, 2010. The Danbury News Times / Greenwich Time / CT Post / The Stamford Advocate. Greenwich address, signed by a partially hyperlinked “Ellie Jeanne Light,” which leads to a Yahoo results page.

January 13, 2010. Westport News [google cache]. Bridgeport address.

Florida

January 14, 2010. West Volusia Beacon. Barberville address.

Georgia

January 9, 2010. Statesboro Herald. no address.

January 13, 2010. Gainsville Times. Gainsville address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.

January 13, 2010. Barrow County News. Winder address.

Idaho

January 21, 2010. CDA Press. Post Falls address.

Illinois

January 19, 2010. Journal Star. Peoria address.

Iowa

January 12, 2010. Newton Daily News. Kellogg address.

Kentucky

January 18, 2010. Lexington Herald-Leader.  Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.

Maine

January 14, 2010. The Free Press. Rockland address.

January 21, 2010. Bangor Daily News / Maineville. Bangor address.

Maryland

January 9, 2010. Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel. no address.

January 13, 2010. The Daily Times / Delmarvanow.com. Fruitland address.

January 19, 2010. Capital. Annapolis address.

Massachusetts

January 9, 2010. North Adams Transcript. Williamstown address.

January 12, 2010. The Berkshire Eagle. West Dover address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.

Michigan

January 17, 2010. Midland Daily News. Midland address.

New Hampshire

January 14, 2010. Portsmouth Herald / Seacoast online. Portsmouth address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light, dated January 11.

New Mexico

January 12, 2010. Ruidoso News. Three Rivers address.

January 25, 2010. Las Cruces Sun-News.  Bayard address.

North Carolina

January 18, 2010. News Observer. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.

North Dakota

Sometime after January 13, 2010. Benson County News. The editorial quotes an email from Ellie Light.

Ohio

January 13, 2010. Hudson Hub Times. Streetsboro address.

January 13, 2010. Mansfield News Journal. Mansfield address.

January 17, 2010. Chillicothe Gazette. Chillicothe address.

January 20, 2010. The Gateway News. Streetsboro address.

Oregon

January 13, 2010. The Source Weekly [google cache]. no address.

January 15, 2010. The News-Review. Winston address.

Pennsylvania

January 12, 2010. Daily American. Somerset address.

January 14, 2010. Philly.com.  Chestnut Hill address.

January 19, 2010. The Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia address.

January 23, 2010. Lebanon Daily News. Cornwall address.

Rhode Island

January 7, 2010. RI Future. quoting the Politico letter.

South Carolina

January 18, 2010. McClatchy / The Myrtle Beach Sun. Myrtle Beach address.

South Dakota

January 24, 2010. Argus Leader. Sioux Falls address, signed Ellie J. Light.

Tennessee

January 17, 2010. Shelbyville Times-Gazette. Tullahoma address.

Texas

January 16, 2010. Waco Tribune-Herald. Waco address.

Utah

January 12, 2010. The Spectrum. Washington City address.

January 14, 2010. The Park Record. Wanship address.

Vermont

January 12, 2010. Bennington Banner. West Dover address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.

January 23, 2010.  The Montpelier Bridge (via the Green Mountain Daily).  Montpelier address.

Virginia

January 15, 2010. News Leader. Waynesboro address.

Washington

undated, apparently this week, 2010. The Reflector. Vancouver address.

January 18, 2010. Bellingham Herald.  Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.

West Virginia

January 17, 2010. Weirton Daily Times. Follansbee address.

Wisconsin

January 13, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Door County Advocate / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Algoma address.

January 17, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Howards Grove address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.

January 21, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Oshkosh address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.

and

India

“1 week ago.” India Times. From the Staunton Daily News and the News Review, with links to both.

Thailand

January 17, 2010. Bangkok Post. no address.

and

National

January 18, 2010. McClatchy. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.

January 22, 2010. The Washington Times. Long Beach CA address.

January 22, 2010. USAToday. Long Beach CA address.

So Ellie, are you locked in the punch?  are you goofing on Eisenstadt? Or maybe you are a disgruntled small town newspaper editor who wanted to release a radioactive dye into the ways newspapers work these days?

update: “Mark Spivey” has also been identified as a prolific letter-writer.  and it looks like there’s a lot more where that came from.

update: “Ellie Light” responds further to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

She says she prefers submitting her letters to smaller papers, “specifically because I think rationality needs a broader audience.”

update: Ann Althouse has the same question that I do:

Wouldn’t a skilled astroturfer be much smarter, varying the letter and changing the writer’s name? It’s like “she” wanted to get caught… so who’s behind this?

update: Paterrico offers an at least partial explanation for how so many similar-sounding letters from people other than “Ellie Light” may have ended up being sent to newspapers.  According to Paterrico, “helpful” talking points were outlined by Organizing For America and offered up with a list of links to various newspapers and a highlighted request to not use the text verbatim.  Also included: an apparently unrelenting optimism that people using the online service would not just copy and paste the talking points into their letters.

update:  Newspapers respond:

January 25, 2010. North County Times.  Was the NCT a Ellie Light-style target?

January 25, 2010. Green Bay Press Gazette.  To our readers: About that letter from Ellie Light.

January 25, 2010. Chillicothe Gazette.  The Saga of “Ellie Light.”

January 25, 2010.  LA Times.  Frantic Obama Supporter puts new spin on old medium.

January 26, 2010.  Sheboygan Press.  Editorial: We were duped and we apologize.

update:  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the “Ellie Light” mystery may finally be solved.  And:

The name “Ellie Light” appeared with letters that ran in newspapers in multiple states, including California — where state law makes it a misdemeanor to sign and send “any letter addressed to a newspaper with the name of a person other than himself.”

Prosecutions under that law, however, are unheard of, said John Emig, a journalism professor at California State University at Bakersfield. Emig said that in his experience as a community newspaper editor, just citing the law “was quite effective in dealing with people sending letters in other people’s names.”

update: and in related news, via Slashdot:

“If you’re online in South Australia and want to comment about the upcoming state election, be prepared to hand over your real name and postcode first — because this month it becomes illegal to do so anonymously (even under a pseudonym). Media organizations must keep your details on file for six months and face ‘fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.’ This abomination was passed with the support of both major parties (Labour and Liberal), and to quote its sponsor, Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, ‘There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else.’ Apparently incapable of targeting a few impostors without resorting to ‘nuke it from orbit’ legislative tactics, Atkinson has forgotten that protecting anonymity is important to the democratic process; hopefully both major parties will get a reminder come the polls on March 20.”

Anonymous speech is vital to the democratic process.  What “Ellie Light” did seems different than simply using a pseudonym – there wasn’t a claim of anonymity, there was a false claim of being a member of the community within the circulation of the paper publishing the letter.

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9 Responses to an Ellie Light list

  1. Rose says:

    I’d be looking at “Organizing for America” and ‘whitehouse.gov’ and all their little front groups.

  2. even taking into account that the stereotypical supervillian’s scheme is always foiled by their own overreach, it seems too easy to have gotten caught doing this.

    why do something that would look like ridiculous astroturfing when it inevitably was exposed? I think the Internet is too small a place for something like this to not come to light. How would it help the Obama administration to go to all the effort of organizing something that would inevitably be found out?

  3. csd says:

    Oops, they got caught shilling for Barry. With a grade of B+ you would not think they would need additional cheerleaders. Show them the Nobel…that will impress the voters.

  4. Karen says:

    She’s actually been even busier in Wisconsin than your list shows. The Sheboygan Press printed her letter on the 13th (Ellie Light of Algoma), the 17th (Ellie Jeanne Light of Howards Grove), and on the 21st (Ellie Jeanne Light of Oshkosh) — all the exact same letter! Is it too much to ask that they notice they’re printing the same letter by the same person?! They must have really been moved by her persuasive prose. Unreal!

  5. Thank you very much for the tip, I have added the links and I will check if there are additional links from the other papers.

  6. The Marshfield News Herald has multiple links for Ellie Light, and the January 21, 2010 letter now includes this:

    A correction on this letter will appear in the Jan. 26 edition of the Oshkosh Northwestern. Ellie Light does not reside in Oshkosh. When she was contacted by telephone by the Northwestern to verify her letter to the editor, she provided false information. Her phone number is from a California area code outside Los Angeles.

    http://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010100120188

    update: I have added the links to the other Wisconsin papers. Some of the January 21 letters also carry the same editor’s note about the correction that they are running on January 26.

  7. Pingback: define “astroturf” « The Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi

  8. Ellie Light says:

    This is not true. It is all a vast right-wing conspiracy.

    Obama is the messiah and has come to save us all from those evil corporations and Christians. He will release the “terrorists” after making them like us and we will be safe. He will throw Rush Limbaugh and vicious right wing racist haters into FEMA camps where they belong and where they can torment us enlightened folks no more.

    People need to learn to shut up and let Obama do his job. He knows what is good for you, just let him do it.

  9. Pingback: Ellie Light responds: Prolific pro-Obama letter writer talks | News, Articles And Informations About the Latest Trends

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