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

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

National Journal
Add to Briefcase
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 GOP­Teens.com 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.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.