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8 New Plagiarist Fraudsters for Unity08 Identify Themselves

Last week, Unity08 sent out an e-mail to its followers. The corporation which says it will crush the power of lobbyists yet is actually led by lobbyists asked the members of its e-mail listserv “that you write, type, or cut/paste the following letter to the editor of your local newspaper.” Here’s the text of that letter Unity08 wrote itself, then asked its listserv subscribers to cut, paste and send to newspapers:

— Letter begins here —

Dear Editor,

America will be in trouble if it doesn’t act quickly on the crucial issues before us — the economy, education, energy dependence, the environment, health care, immigration, terrorism, and more. I am a member of a movement called Unity08 that will bring our politics back to common ground and elect leadership to the White House that will actually lead.

Politics as we know it — politics as usual — is over. Unity08 will provide access to information, discussion, and decision-making tools that will change politics forever. And, just in time. 8 of every 10 Americans think Washington is so polarized that it is paralyzed. The 2008 election is a moment of truth.

Unity08’s new approach will:

1. Enable Americans to rank our most crucial issues.
2. Force the candidates to address those crucial issues.
3. In June, empower all Americans to choose a bipartisan ticket in a secure vote online.
4. In November, elect the Unity08 Ticket to our nation’s highest office.

Unity08 combines our oldest values and our newest technology to reactivate the American community. And then, America can be a proud country again, worthy of inspiring both our children and the world.

As a member of Unity08, I invite you to learn more about our movement at Unity08.com. Please feel free to direct any questions to me or to info@unity08.com.

For change,

— Letter ends here —

Don’t forget to personally sign your letters!

Yes indeed, “Don’t forget to personally sign your letters!” Unity08 explicitly encouraged its followers to take a letter they didn’t write, copy it, and send it newspapers with their personal signatures, claiming to have written it themselves. That’s plagiarism. That’s fraud. That’s lying. Some kinda ethics, huh?

Before the weekend, two people had followed Unity08’s advice, copied Unity08’s PR letter word for word, and sent it in with their name falsely claiming authorship. Over the weekend, eight more did the same:

  1. Daniel Vail of Park Hill sent the copied letter to the Muskogee Phoenix, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  2. Roger L. Wever of Deming, NM sent the copied letter to The Deming Headlight, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  3. James Brown of Colorado Springs sent the copied letter to The Denver Post, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  4. Kathryn Little sent the copied letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where it was published with her name as author. The only part of the letter which was hers was one sentence, which she changed from Unity08’s original “The 2008 election is a moment of truth.” to “And many, including me, feel that the 2008 election should be a moment of truth.” Every other word of her letter was copied directly from Unity08’s PR release.
  5. Alex Soave of Fellesmere, FL sent the copied letter to the Treasure Coast Palm, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  6. David Scharfan of Florham Park, NJ sent the copied letter to the Morris County Daily Record, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  7. Doug Rosa of St. George, UT sent the copied letter to the St. George Spectrum, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.
  8. Michael Capro of Wall, NJ sent the copied letter to the Asbury Park Press, where it was published with his name as author. But he wrote not one word of it.

The people running Unity08 are not stupid. They know that if they send letters to the editor of all these newspapers signed by themselves as executive officers of the Unity08 corporation, the newspapers will be less likely to publish the letters because they won’t be local and the readers of the paper will be less likely to believe the content of the letters because it will look self-serving. They need some useful dupes to lie for them and make it falsely appear as if a local everyday Jane or Joe thunk the whole thing up, sat down at the dining room table in a baseball cap, and wrote the thing him- or herself.

Herd of Sheep saying Baaaaa

Congratulations to each of these citizens for cooperating with Unity08’s effort to turn America’s political discourse into a shepherding contest.

11 comments to 8 New Plagiarist Fraudsters for Unity08 Identify Themselves

  • Iroquois

    I’ve noticed that some of the publications that publish the spam letters have space for comments. If I had time I’d be tempted to register and post a little comment with a link back to the spamming instructions, or maybe even dash off an email to their letters department. Some of the smaller publications that print the thing to fill up space after a letter about pets getting run over I can understand, but how can some of the larger publications be so stupid to accept that for publication?

  • Joseph

    Okay, notwithstanding the fact that it’s not “lying” if the people actually believe what they are copying word for word, that leaves plagarism and fraud. Fraud may exist, but only if the papers that publish the letters are too lazy to actually look around to figure out that they are form letters. It’s a very poor attempt at intentional fraud, since it’s rather public that it was a form letter.

    I just have one question, since this is the (3rd?) post about how people are sheep, and I’d think we could discuss something more interesting:

    1. How do you suggest that Unity08 effectively advertise to recruit people to its cause?

    Please note that I’m not asking about what’s wrong with Unity08, but if Unity08 were to be supporting what it espouses, what would be an “acceptable” advertisement/marketing tactic in order to recruit more people (which is currently around a mesasly 100,000 according to their website?)

  • Right

    Just for any of you out there who don’t speak PRese, “not ‘lying'” is the precise semantic equivalent of “lying.”

  • bobby man

    hi im bobby man…
    ok i dont like spam…
    or random people puttong random posts on stuff…
    though i cant think of anyone who would do that…
    =)

  • Anonymous

    I have just one question: How can I effectively advertise to recruit people to send their money to me?

    Get used to the sheep thing, Joseph. I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it.

    The new artwork is a nice touch. Kind of reminds me of the final episode of The Prisoner, where everyone is trying to tell who is under Number One’s mask.

  • Jim

    Lying: telling the newspapers and its readers you wrote a letter you didn’t write.

    Unity08 has already advertised itself through USAToday, NPR, the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Bill O’Reilly, CSPAN, the National Press Club, the Hill, the Colbert Report, CNN, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. If Unity08 hasn’t caught on after all that, that’s telling you something. If Unity08 has to ask its few actual followers to lie to and plagiarize in newspapers, that’s telling you something.

  • Joseph

    Lying: Knowingly being deceptive or misleading.

    Okay, maybe I just have a weird view of lying, but I typically assume to lie you have to knowingly be deceptive. While Unity08 may be getting people to “lie for them”, the people sending the letters are probably not lying as they arent intentionally trying to deceive anyone. They are just copying and pasting something they agree with to help out a cause they support.

    As for what’s legitimate advertising for Unity08, the TV programs and magazines, ad nauseum are fine. It’s just that you have a problem with cookie-cutter e-mail campaigns? If i’m interpreting your answer right…I’d say that’s fair.

  • Zerwick

    I don’t think the actual “form letter” issue is where the problem comes in — I mean, organizations issue letters and contracts from templates all the time. However, I’m not impressed with the way the Unity08 template has been used as a Letter to the Editor; it comes off as too canned and irrelevant to the publication at hand. Additionally you get situations like these:

    http://momblog.gainesville.com/default.asp?item=668444

    Where the letter turns up as a comment in a wholly irrelevant blog (it’s about a mother-to-be’s hospital trip…I could intellectualize a connection between the subject matter and Unity08 but I’m not sure I want to).

    I doubt Unity08 the organization is behind this kind of spamming; however, this shows that putting a template in the hands of the public (plagiarism or not) is not the answer. To field Joseph’s question from above, Unity08 could ask people to write their own letters and I doubt Jim would have a problem. But how many people would actually write, and would anyone who did represent Unity08 in the manner they want to be portrayed? There’s the rub. Just speculating from an ad perspective…

  • Iroquois

    Too funny. I can just imagine Robert Guggenheim pasting Unity08 stuff at 1:39 in the morning. You can’t say that type of creativity is sheeplike.

  • Ralph

    Wow, Joseph finally gets it.

    He has a weird view of lying.

    That’s what we’ve been trying to tell him all along!

    All professions have their occupational hazards, Joseph. Even the PR industry.

    Wonder if you can get worker’s comp if your moral compass has been injured on the job?

  • Joseph

    If “Knowingly being deceptive or misleading” isn’t an accurate view of lying, then it’s a shame we’ve been talking about the wrong thing. I guess I need to change my definition of lying to “Copy and pasting letters to the editor and sending them to an editor”.

    The post about the mother’s pregnancy….that really does prove the point. I guess copy and pasted form letters can look pretty stupid.

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