Two Parody Twitter Accounts That Perfectly Explain U.S. Politics

@GOPTeens and @SalonDotCom are the future of political satire.

National Journal
Emma Roller
Aug. 7, 2014, 1 a.m.

In this era of nev­er-end­ing grid­lock, it may seem like Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats can find no com­mon ground. But there’s at least one thing we can still agree on: It’s fun to an­onym­ously poke fun at each oth­er on the In­ter­net.

Two newly pop­u­lar Twit­ter ac­counts — @GOP­Teens and @Salon­Dot­Com — prove as much.

The first ac­count, @GOP­Teens, does a good job of skew­er­ing the hol­low way politi­cians try to ap­peal to young people. Its tweets — which are ad­orned with a logo of the Re­pub­lic­an Party ele­phant wear­ing avi­at­or shades — are littered with ex­traneous hasht­ags and buzzwords.

“#Teens: Send in a #selfie with your #Birth­Cer­ti­fic­ate to prove how #easy it was to find!” a typ­ic­al tweet reads. An­oth­er makes a pur­pose­fully lame pop cul­ture ref­er­ence: “#Teens: Let’s not #for­get who the ORI­GIN­AL #Guard­i­an­OfTheGalaxy was” — fol­lowed by a Time magazine cov­er fea­tur­ing Ron­ald Re­agan’s Star Wars pro­gram.

The cre­at­or of GOP Teens is Daniel Kibble­smith, 30. He is an as­so­ci­ate ed­it­or at Click­hole — a spinoff site from The Onion that par­od­ies vir­al con­tent web­sites like Up­worthy and BuzzFeed — and has co-writ­ten a hu­mor book, How to Win at Everything. Kibble­smith says he first pur­chased the GOP­ do­main name in Oc­to­ber 2012, but it lay dormant un­til re­cently, when he de­cided to bring the GOP­Teens voice to life.

“It’s this really spe­cif­ic voice of failed youth out­reach fall­ing on its face,” Kibble­smith told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “I pic­ture the per­son be­hind the ac­count be­ing one or more Karl Rove types who are just try­ing any­thing that they can think of — slang or pop cul­ture ref­er­ences, any­thing that they can think of — to try to get kids in­ter­ested in the Re­pub­lic­an Party.”

Most of GOP Teens’ tweets are clearly satire, but oth­ers ap­proach the Un­canny Val­ley of par­ody Twit­ter ac­counts: satire so real­ist­ic that it be­comes al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able from the ob­ject it’s sat­ir­iz­ing. There’s ac­tu­ally a law for this type of par­ody — it’s called Poe’s Law.

One ex­ample of Poe’s Law in ef­fect: Two weeks ago, Gen­er­a­tion Op­por­tun­ity — the Koch-backed group re­spons­ible for the Creepy Uncle Sam ads — hos­ted a “Creepy Carenival” out­side the U.S. Cap­it­ol in an ef­fort to con­vince young people of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s ills.

A tweet from Gen­er­a­tion Op­por­tun­ity’s ac­count pro­moted the event’s ma­gi­cian, “Milllen­ni­al Mike.” An­oth­er tweet, ac­com­pan­ied by a photo of two clowns, reads, “We’re of­fi­cially un­der­way! It’s get­ting”¦..Creepy #Creepy­Care”.

A week later, GOP Teens tweeted, “#Teens: Is #Obama­care really an #ObamaS­CARE?”

The dry­ness of the ac­count has led some people to think GOP Teens is a genu­ine ac­count (even I wasn’t sure if it was a par­ody at first). On Ju­ly 7, Kan­sas Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Sam Brown­back sent this now-de­leted tweet: “Thanks for fol­low­ing me @GOP­teens; You are the fu­ture.” And former CNN host Piers Mor­gan be­moaned one of GOP Teens’ tweets, which jok­ingly asked teens what their fa­vor­ite gun was. Mor­gan retweeted the mes­sage and ad­ded, “The fu­ture….UGH.”

But Kibble­smith says he isn’t try­ing to in­ten­tion­ally mis­lead any­one.

“Some of my read­ers don’t real­ize it’s a par­ody,” he said. “Un­forced er­rors are hil­ari­ous, but I’m not set­ting out to dupe any­body.”

Through his par­ody, Kibble­smith has achieved something few oth­er polit­ic­al Twit­ter ac­counts can boast — he’s gained real, live teen­age fans. He even star­ted mak­ing T-shirts plastered with the GOP Teens logo and dif­fer­ent slo­gans. By Kibble­smith’s ac­count, he’s sold more than 500 of the T-shirts, many to young people, who proudly tweet pho­tos of them­selves wear­ing their shirts to Kibble­smith.

Of course, this sort of tone-deaf out­reach is not lim­ited to Re­pub­lic­ans.

“I think it is ab­so­lutely a bi­par­tis­an thing,” Kibble­smith said. “I think all politi­cians — maybe with the ex­cep­tion of Barack Obama — sound pretty in­sin­cere when they try to get down and rap with the kids. But I gotta ad­mit, it’s a lot easi­er with Re­pub­lic­ans.”

Like failed youth out­reach, satire can be bi­par­tis­an, too. Jordan Bloom, an opin­ion ed­it­or for the con­ser­vat­ive web­site The Daily Caller, cre­ated Salon­Dot­Com — an ac­count that par­od­ies the left-lean­ing web­site Salon — with his room­mate, Robert Mari­ani. Much like how GOP Teens skew­ers how trans­par­ently un­cool the Re­pub­lic­an Party can be, Salon­Dot­Com deftly par­od­ies the sort of cul­tur­al hand-wringing that pro­gress­ive me­dia can fall vic­tim to.

“I used a 10 year-old pro­file pic­ture for on­line dat­ing — and I came face-to-face with age dis­crim­in­a­tion,” reads one tweet. “Is ‘Pomp and Cir­cum­stance’ a song about white priv­ilege?” reads an­oth­er.

Bloom said he was pleased with how eas­ily he could trick users in­to be­liev­ing it was real. (For ref­er­ence to an ac­tu­al Salon story — ahem.)

“That was the great thing — we were fool­ing people on both sides of the spec­trum,” Bloom told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “You would have the lib­er­als that would be ask­ing for links, and then the con­ser­vat­ives that would get out­raged.”

But un­der Twit­ter’s terms of ser­vice, par­ody ac­counts must ex­pli­citly out them­selves as par­ody ac­counts — something Bloom didn’t want to do. After someone re­por­ted the ac­count — Bloom says it was “al­most cer­tainly” a Salon em­ploy­ee — Twit­ter even­tu­ally shut down the ac­count, lead­ing many con­ser­vat­ive users to call on Twit­ter to #FreeSalon­Dot­Com. They got their ac­count back 10 days later.

“This was my first ex­per­i­ence of hav­ing the full weight of the right-wing noise ma­chine on your side,” Bloom said. “That was pretty cool to see.”

Satir­ic­al tweets aren’t ex­actly the new Can­dide, but they do rep­res­ent a new op­por­tun­ity for polit­ic­al satire, al­beit in 140-char­ac­ter bites. After all, this is how we con­sume cul­ture now — one dis­crete chunk of in­form­a­tion at a time — so it’s nat­ur­al for satire to fol­low suit.

“The con­ver­sa­tion about cul­ture is be­ing trun­cated by people who only want to look at a piece of art or mu­sic or a per­son based on the iden­tity polit­ics that that per­son holds,” Bloom said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m try­ing to be a hero or something, but I think there’s some use­ful bubble-burst­ing that ought to go down.”

Poke away.

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