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Mudslinging 2.0

Online impersonators bedevil mayoral race

December 2, 2009, 12:00 am

At this writing, the true identity of fake Santa Fe mayoral candidate “Devil Coss” remains a mystery. But SFR is prepared to unmask the prankster behind his opponent, “Asinine Kepler.”

Never heard of them? Then you’re probably not among the 1 in 157 Santa Feans using Twitter, the online social networking site that allows for free and instant communication with super-short text messages, or “tweets.”

This story of political impersonation begins with Former City Manager Asenath Kepler’s first post on Sept. 3 at 8:14 am: “Kepler for Mayor Campaign headquarters is officially open!”

Not to be outdone, Mayor David Coss joined Twitter on Oct. 19, declaring, at 10:39 pm, “I am on Twitter!” His next message thanked “the more than 300 people who attended my Re-Election Campaign Kick-Off Party yesterday!”

Who cares? Good question. As of Nov. 30, Coss had only 33 Twitter followers, trailing Kepler by 12. Twitter is not exactly the most effective form of voter outreach ever to hit Santa Fe.

So far, Barack Obama has been the most successful American politician when it comes to understanding and exploiting the internet. But when most candidates go online, the result is as boring as Coss and Kepler’s first tweets.
Like much of the mainstream media, politicians know they need to take advantage of the web, but they’re not sure exactly how.

It’s that mismatch between ambitions and outcomes that inspired 32-year-old Jaime Dean, a St. Michael’s High School graduate, 2006 Don Diego De Vargas and founder of a few small tech companies. Dean was irked by the “soapbox approach” to social media in the Santa Fe mayoral race. He responded in fine American style—with satire.

On Nov. 18, Dean created a fake Twitter account under the name Asinine Kepler called ass4mayor. In the space for biographical details, he wrote, “I see myself as a Local version of Sandra Bullock.” Asinine’s first post? “Hello, Santa Fe! Let’s see if I can figure this out!”

Soon followed by this: “I don’t get it.”

And then: “Hello??? Can anyone see this?”

Dean-as-Kepler quickly gathered a small following of New Mexico media people, and Asinine began tweeting like a semi-literate teenager: “this is cool. I can already feel that my constitchuents [sic] like me embracing the ‘New Media’ -- thanks for all your support, guys. luv ya! xox.”

By Nov. 20, an unknown Kepler fan caught on to the prank and set up an account with the name “Devil Coss” called kissmyass4mayor. Devil wrote to Asinine: “good thing I’m not working on anyone’s campaign. But David Coss would be ashamed to know you’re working on his!”

Dean says he has no connection to the Coss campaign, but will vote for him. He has a theory regarding who’s behind “Devil Coss,” but SFR could not confirm its author by press time.

Dean’s Asinine account was temporarily suspended after someone reported him as an imposter. He convinced Twitter to restore the account on grounds that it was an obvious parody, allowed by the site’s terms of service.

The real Mayor Coss tells SFR he wishes the “Asinine” author would take the page down. “I don’t think we need to be attacking people anonymously, sarcastically. I just don’t think it contributes to the campaign,” Coss says.

As for Kepler, she’s confident Devil Coss isn’t authored by a campaign staffer. “People have supporters on both sides…It’s not anybody on my committee. I know that for sure,” she tells SFR.

Kepler says she finds the Twitter parodies entertaining. “I’m new to social networking because I come from a generation that didn’t really do a lot of that,” she says. “It’s a great tool, but it’s also a tool for mischief, you know what I’m saying?”

The third mayoral candidate, City Councilor Miguel Chavez, is not on Twitter. But unlike Coss and Kepler, he lists his home and cell phone numbers on his website for all to see.


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