Sunday, August 29, 2004

Secret Identity of TJCrawdad Revealed

Mr. Menefee has done his technogeek expose thing again. TJCrawdad, the anonymous "Lafayette Resident" who produces the Let the People vote Blog, is revealed as Tom Cantrell of Tyler, Texas, the Cox executive that distingushed himself by managing to insult the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, and defending push polls. You should go straight to the horse's mouth and read about Master Menefee's exploit yourself —how he did it is half, well 25%, of the fun—but I can't resist the temptation to give you a little more of the back story here.

You will recall that Doug has exposed these guys once before when he looked up the location and domain name owner of the original "let the people vote" website. First he mentioned, in the course of discussing why going to a vote wasn't fair to Lafayette or LUS that the Let the People Vote website was a Cox initiative. Challenged by an email to prove that it was Cox and not a concerned citizen Doug simply published the whois data showing that Cox in Tyler, Texas owned the domain and that accounts receivable had paid for it. Simple. Devastating.

Cox mostly didn't deal with that and what little reaction they had was to say that it was all an oversight; that they never meant to deceive. But the original version of the site made it very clear that the you were supposed to believe that it was out of Lafayette. That site, its credibility shot, was never well developed and today remains a three page website that exists solely to channel email to the city council. But it still isn't labled a Cox site and still contains phrases like "as we say in Acadiana" that certainly mislead the reader—and certainly is intended to do so. A deceptive site which remains up even after it is exposed reveals the true depth of its owners committment to anything resembling the democratic process....and their unrepentant contempt for those the site hopes to influence.

Then the Let the People Vote blog appeared. It too is set up to make the reader think that TJCrawdad, the site owner, is a Lafayette resident. Just take a glance a the profile where the owner's location is clearly stated. It was this blog, and not the by then discredited Cox site that was advertised for hours at a time on cox cable channel 14 in alternation with an ad for the Cox "Academic" Broadband Forum.

But Tom Cantrell aka TJCrawdad is not a resident of Lafayette. He lives in and presumeably blogs from Tyler, Texas.

It will be interesting to see how Cox responds to this. The last time they got caught out they did a little Texas shuffle and went right back to trying to deceive people—if they had simply forgotten to let the readers know who was sponsoring the message, being notified of their error should have lead to labeling the site a Cox site. But the site is unbranded even today. But in the case of the blog it is not a "mere" sin of ommission. Saying you are from Lafayette is an outright lie. Can they ignore that as well?

These sorts of deceptive practices are ultimately counterproductive, a fact Mike has written on in his recent Fact Check article: Blowing the Whistle Over Bristol (scroll down to the summary).

Cox would be well-advised to reconsider its tactics. People don't like being lied to. And once it is demonstrated that you are perfectly willing to deceive people to gain advantage you lose even people who might otherwise support you. The easiest way for powerhouses like Cox and BellSouth to lose the public relations war in Lafayette is to convince the people of the city that they cannot be trusted. They seem hell-bent on doing so.


Advocate said...

Wow! A whole page! Cool!


John said...

You're welcome, anytime. :-) John

Advocate said...

Don't you think this whole thing would be better if everyone lightened up a bit?

Advocate said...

BTW, I'm not a VP. Funny how that stuff spreads.