Jonathan Coulton did, indeed, get threatened by the Democratic party of New York state.

This is… interesting.

I think the Democrats just threatened me:

— Jonathan Coulton (@jonathancoulton) October 30, 2014

Quick background on this: Jonathan Coulton is a songwriter and performer who is popular in the science fiction and fantasy community, particularly the section of it that goes to conventions. He does a lot of stuff that’s gaming- and geek-themed, and he’s one of the people who makes his living via using the (air quotes) ‘Internet’ pretty much exclusively. And if you’re wondering why any of that matters, let me put it this way: a nontrivial percentage of the people in your IT department can sing along to RE: Your Brains*.

And Mr. Coulton just told over a hundred thousand people that the Democrats threatened him.

First, let’s get this out of the way: it’s not a hoax. First off, Jonathan Coulton is neither a Republican nor a conservative. His privilege, and a potent argument against him participating in a hoax that might make the Democratic party of New York look bad. As to whether the letter came from the Democrats… it did. Lastly? Oh, yeah, this happens all the time.

The irony here is that the letter that Jonathan Coulton received is simultaneously an embodiment (as a few people have already noted) of the strategies found in The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, and a refutation of them. The embodiment part is obvious: as reviews (and even a casual look at the book itself) noted, this exact strategy had previously been used to great effect (2010 Democrats in Colorado-SEN, for those who were wondering). All the hallmarks: ugly-looking letter, deliberately manipulative language, blunt instructions, and an overall tone that firmly projects You will do as we expect, Mister Coulton. This letter does not represent a flaw in the system, in other words (and as I like to say). It is the system.

But what happened here also represents the problem with this technique: it pretty much assumes that you’re never going to do it to somebody with, say, over one hundred and fourteen followers on Twitter. The strategy, in fact, does not take into account Twitter at all. Quick reminder: while Twitter existed in 2010, at the time of the election it apparently only barely adopted the design architecture that would allow it to embed pictures and …read more    

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