Reddit users forced Paul Ryan to defend his stance on SOPA on Thursday after their users started a website campaigning against him, but once it was revealed he's never supported the bill an internal debate among the up-voting chorus has emerged over whether they chose the right target or not. Reddit's campaign went so far as to get itself a website and a Twitter account, while their candidate of choice and Paul's opposition in 2012, Rob Zerben, spent his Thursday doing a question and answer session with the users of the website.
After a flak for Ryan confirmed that he was looking at the bill, and hadn't made a decision on it at all, commenters at Reddit started doubting that Ryan was best possible target for their ire. A lot of the comments ridiculed Redditors for embracing a campaign against a candidate who had very little to with SOPA, but others were pleased to see a politician with power respond to the muckraking the Reddit users caused in the first place. "Reddit kinda screwed the pooch on this one. Burning the wrong guys house down. Should have picked out that was OPENLY for it. Nice call reddit," said one user. "It's a shame that Reddit can't unite to fix the system. Instead they go off on half truths and as a result when it starts pulling 'real' media coverage, it looks amateur hour," chimed another. One user defending the choice to attack Ryan instead of one of the 32 known supporters of the bill said he's chosen not because he supports the bill, but because his opponent opposes it. "Right but he's one of the few that is up for re-election, whereas the 32 known sponsors are not. We selected a target who has an opponent who does Oppose SOPA, and who is up for election," they wrote. And it's this
Meanwhile, plans for a Reddit PAC are forging ahead on other sections of the website following yesterday's activity, and the International Business Times are looking at the attention that Zerban has received as a new model for candidates to gain notoriety within the social channels of the Internet. Compared to Obama's 2008 online strategy, this one is different:
The new dynamic is simple (and the opposite of Obama's): allow an organic backlash against social, political and economic ills to develop. Avoid a figurehead to rally around. Avoid partisanship. See if a chorus of outrage can induce change at the top.
But the hive-like online community can be easily riled, quick to make up its mind. In the new normal, being first (or lucky) sometimes trumps all other issues. Just look at Rob Zerban.
Despite the success of the campaign and the attention it received (Zerban's AMA was the top post on Reddit last night), a Reddit moderator who spoke to IBS said the amount of support drummed up for Zerban was unsettling, as it focused their efforts against Ryan instead of against SOPA. He explained that Zerban is only here as an alternative: "Our interest in Rob Zerban is solely this: If Paul Ryan is not ready to agree with us on these issues, we're ready to help him find a new job."
UPDATE: The folks over at Pull Paul Ryan have issued a response to this article and a clarification as to why they chose Paul Ryan