Ron Paul wins over social media, builds expansive, loyal voter base on the web
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 21:01
Let's not have any preconceived ideas about how cool your Eagle News opinion section editor is: I spend the majority of my free time on the Internet amusing myself by watching Youtube videos and reading message boards.
Months ago, when the GOP primary race began, mentions of the candidates naturally began appearing on social networks.
Since the Internet isn't particularly kind to those with ultra-conservative viewpoints, there were many shots against candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.
The latter's "Strong" ad, which was posted on Youtube and has Perry announcing "there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or play in school," currently has 746,029 dislikes (compared to 25,663 likes), and comments were disabled after massive backlash against him.
Then the wild card took hold. Yes, Ron Paul. The 76-year-old conservative-leaning, constitution-loving libertarian has apparently won the hearts of the social media crowd.
Various organizations, including Pew Research Center and Sociagility, have shown that Paul has been leading the scoreboards in social media. Pew Research additionally found that the majority (55 percent) of mentions of him on Twitter were positive.
The Washington Post's "@mentionmachine" clocked 285,147 mentions of Paul in the past week, compared to 246,434 mentions of Mitt Romney and 128,579 of President Obama.
The "Paul-ites," as some have deemed them, aren't just supporting him—they're aggressively defending him.
Anti-Ron Paul Youtube videos have disproportionately negative "like" bars when compared to other videos by the same user.
Anti-Ron Paul posts on websites have countless people defending him, even when users usually agree with other posts on that given website. These people come out of the woodwork to support him.
President Obama, who played the social media game successfully in 2008, seems to have lost favor to Paul, although maybe that's because everyone's currently preoccupied with the GOP primary.
It was last week, though, that really got me thinking about Paul's influence over the web. A video I was watching on Youtube was preceded by a 12-minute long advertisement promoting Paul, but what was creepy was the introduction to it. A bunch of Newt Gingrich's quotes and news report clips about him were played over jarring sound effects and eerie music.
It was meant to illustrate how Gingrich has shown "serial hypocrisy," and then the ad began talking about why Paul was a reliable candidate.
Maybe I'm not used to political ads, but it was over-the-top in its presentation, as if its aim was to hypnotize and brainwash.
Paul's call to fame is his libertarian ethic and other key points, including keeping us out of wars, opposing the war on drugs and opposing legislation such as the Patriot Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), all initiatives that sound pretty appealing.
Internet denizens have embraced Paul via social media because his ideals play directly into the sort of landscape the Internet is. The Internet is fairly unregulated (at least the United States), and people would fight tooth and nail to prevent it from becoming more regulated. Particularly, online folks flock to Paul's opposition to SOPA because SOPA is seen as one of the most potentially damaging bills to Internet freedom.
Often, when discussing Paul's faults, online commentators will defend him by saying that his faults aren't outweighed by the overwhelming commitment to freedom he espouses. For a voter base that so passionately defends freedom on the Internet, it's clear why Paul is successful in promoting himself through social media.
If Paul wins the primary, it will be a hell of a show down between the man who previously used social media and energized the younger voters (Obama) and the rising libertarian star.