The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports from yesterday’s Bernie Sanders GOTV rally at CU Boulder, where reportedly Republicans with cameras were everywhere hoping to catch some item of embarrassment value to Democrats, from the candidates down to the level of individual rallygoers:
A top staffer for Colorado gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis got into a confrontation with a right-wing activist at a Bernie Sanders campaign event Wednesday.
Jovanni Valle, aka “Jovi Val,” was asking two women at the University of Colorado rally why they support Polis and video-recording them with his smartphone. The recording, posted to Valle’s Facebook page, shows one of the women saying Polis is a feminist and Valle responding: “I thought assaulting a woman is not something a feminist would really do.”
For those who don’t know, Jovanni Valle is a well-known New York-based conservative “Youtube activist” whose specialty appears to be goading unsuspecting Democrats into saying and doing, and there’s no nice way to say this, stupid things on camera. At one point or another Valle was in fact assaulted “for wearing his MAGA hat,” making him a modest celebrity among the Breitbart-loving “alt-knight” set.
In this case, Mr. Valle was trolling for reactions to a widely-discredited smear campaign against Democratic candidate Jared Polis, springing a particularly incendiary version of the false story on people after they express their support for Polis. It’s all done for lowbrow shock value, and the fact that the accusation ranks among 2018’s most thoroughly debunked is obviously very irritating to Polis’ staff and supporters.
At that point, Mara Sheldon, Polis’ campaign communications manager, steps in to say his accusations about Polis aren’t true. The video picture goes dark briefly but a Denver Post photographer caught the moment as Sheldon grabbed for Valle’s phone.
But with that, this self-described internet “troll” gets exactly what he wants. Now the story isn’t about a right-wing usual suspect trolling co-eds with lurid slander against Polis, it’s about a Polis staffer “grabbing” for the guy’s phone! It is a more or less universal rule in tech-ubiquitous politics that you never intervene with a “tracker” or even in most cases a camera-equipped troll, because the resulting interaction is worse than whatever was being recorded before. And if you must confront someone, TV interview rules apply: hands at your side, calm and delivered straight at the camera.
Fortunately for Team Polis, this particular individual is enough of a known provocateur and the incident mild enough that the story won’t get any real traction. But it’s a useful lesson as the 2018 campaign heads down the home stretch. The only way to deal with this kind of thing, which is certainly not ever going away in modern politics, is to not give them the “gotcha” moment they came to your rally to film.