There are two lessons we can take from
behind-the-scenes accounts of Rob Ford's campaign that were published last weekend: first, strangers who suddenly warm up to you on Twitter should
be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism (and if you're
in possession of a potentially game-changing audio file that features the leading
candidate promising to score you drugs, you should be extra vigilant); and, second, anything written about our
new mayor by a certain "friendly" Toronto Sun columnist will be about as objective as campaign brochure copy.
The accounts are heavy on revelations, including a
damning bit about Smitherman's campaign team using a provincial Liberal voters' list that Ford’s intel said would be voting for him and not Smitherman.
But the most intriguing item involves a member of Ford’s campaign creating a
Twitter pseudonym, “@QueensQuayKaren‚” — posing as a George Smitherman supporter
(appropriately twibboned)‚ ”who likes politics, my cat Mittens, and a good book" — in a bid to deceive another Tweeter. It had come to the Ford campaign's attention that the target, Dieter Doneit-Henderson, had surreptitiously recorded a
conversation wherein Ford promised a frantic
Doneit-Henderson he would "fucking try to find" OxyContin for him, to
alleviate the pain of his fibromyalgia (listen to the recording on Xtra.ca here). Worried that a media outlet
might release this recording a week before the election, the Ford camp charged
Fraser Macdonald, their 24-year old deputy communications director, with the task
of retrieving the recording by any means necessary.
Thus Macdonald contrived the fake twitter account: @QueensQuayKaren. Using this
account, Macdonald slowly earned Doneit-Henderson's trust, through public
tweets of support for Smitherman and private messages sent to Doneit-Henderson over
the network. Finally, after continued prodding from “Karen,”
Doneit-Henderson sent Macdonald the audio file.
But even with the recording in their possession, they still
had to figure out how to handle the release of it. While Twitter had proved useful in deceiving a single, naive individual, the campaign needed a way to
manipulate on a larger scale; enter the Toronto Sun and columnist Sue-Ann
"...the team decided to get out in front of the story and leak the recording to a friendly columnist at a local tabloid.
A June 17 front-page headline blared that he'd been set up."
Thus, Levy contrived a Ford-friendly spin: “Ford feels 'set up' by drug tape.” Following publication of the Sun piece, Ford held a press conference and spun the story in his favour.
Though his job was complete, Macdonald
continued to tweet
from the account. Here are a few of the more charming examples:
He even chimed in on QuAIA and Pride Toronto (note: Rob Ford did not participate in the parade):
For the entire list of the fake tweets, check out this Torontoist post.