Reminder: Don’t Feed The Trolls

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.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Campaign training 101 – you do not reach for other peoples' phones, or persons, or anything else that is not yours. Compare and contrast to the Polis "incident", where he was in fact protecting his own property…

  2. unnamed says:

    I wonder how that provocateur feels about Stapleton's nearly hit and run DUI.

  3. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    I wonder what would happen if those attending were warned about the possibility of trackers and given some suggestions.

    Not confronting is certainly solid advice. Definitely not grabbing a phone (unless you are a celebrity … celebrities can grab anything, according to the *resident).

    No matter what the question, answer with your reason for backing the candidate.

    Fall back to some oldies but goodies:  "Hi, Mom" or a sign with your favorite Bible verse. A sign with a logo & website of a nonprofit organization you know of that can use more exposure.

    Any other favorites?

  4. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    Speaking of trolls (the kind that lurk at the local diner after their fefes are hurt by historic election losses).

    SOME WALKER STAPLETON SUPPORTERS DON’T WANT YOU TO TIP

    “No tipping in Denver Restaurants Campaign. I am floating this idea because most waiters are millennials who voted for Polis or did not vote. Also Denver is a liberal bastion,” the post by member Michael OHare states.

    “If Polis is elected, we don’t tip. We write on the receipt. ‘Sorry, Polis hiked my taxes so your tip went to pay for wind turbines, universal healthcare, pre k, and sanctuary cities. I am sure you don’t mind. Have a nice day.’”

    I'll have to find a way to trick the system to give you the url address as Alva's magic box kicks this comment out when it's embedded.  

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