Did Jon Huntsman smear Ron Paul with a false flag video? ("Manchurian Candidate", Maddow, RedState, Wonkette, John King, Breitbart)

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[UPDATE below]

The video below is a hilariously over the top smear of Jon Huntsman that appears to have been made by a Ron Paul supporter. Entitled "Jon Huntsman's Values" and in the Youtube account NHLiberty4Paul, it has the subtitle "The Mancurian Candidate: What's He Hiding", asks if he has "American Values: Or Chinese?", features him speaking Mandarin, has photos of him with his adopted Chinese and Indian daughters, and has a drawing of him dressed as Chairman Mao.

Now, if you're reading along with the script written by many political leaders, you'll assume that the video was actually uploaded by a Ron Paul supporter because, well, that's what they are, isn't it? Everyone does remember the Ron Paul newsletters, right?

If you aren't reading along with that script, you might wonder if this is some sort of false flag operation. You might wonder if the Huntsman campaign itself uploaded the video to make Ron Paul supporters look bad and to engender sympathy for Huntsman. While the video could have been uploaded by a Ron Paul supporter, it makes much more sense that someone who isn't a Ron Paul supporter uploaded it. Mainly because that's not generally how they do things. If the video had highlighted how Huntsman is an establishment hack, or had mentioned the New World Order or similar, or had highlighted how Ron Paul is the greatest thing since sliced bread then I might be convinced it came from one of his supporters. While Ron Paul's supporters go over the top, they don't do it like the video.

Even an Andrew Breitbart site that posted the video [1] added this:

UPDATE: We've received suggestions from some readers that this video was created to "troll" Ron Paul supporters and make them look bad. It appears that the YouTube account was created just one day ago. There is no way to know for sure whether this was created sincerely on behalf of Dr. Paul or as a dirty trick against his followers. As always, we will let our readers decide.

Nothing gets past them, even if takes them a while.

So, who did it?

One Ron Paul supporter (assisted by many other supporters on Twitter) is trying to pin this on Huntsman:
theendrun . com/huntsman-complicit-in-false-flag-style-dirty-trick-against-paul
His "proof" rests on an image (below) showing that the first link to the video was at jon2012.com (Huntsman's campaign site). Yet, that means nothing. In fact, someone could have even tried to pin this on Huntsman using a cute trick, see [2]. Since that explanation is long, I've included it at [2]. However, it undercuts the strongest "proof" that site presents, so do make sure and scroll down. Besides that non-proof, he has nothing else that would prove it was Huntsman who did it.

The video could have been made to make both Ron Paul supporters and Huntsman look bad. That would be two different groups of people: the group having a lower opinion of Ron Paul supporters would be those who see the video and don't see posts like this. The group having a lower opinion of Huntsman would be those who follow along with the story and who think it was a smear by the Huntsman camp.

The video could have been made by someone like Martin Eisenstadt of the Harding Institute; see the link. It could have been made by someone like James Kirchick. Until Ron Paul fans get subpoena powers, we'll never know who uploaded the video.

One thing is clear: it's being used to make Ron Paul supporters and Ron Paul himself look bad. And, that's despite what even Breitbart dot tv noticed: the video probably wasn't made by a Ron Paul supporter.

So, who's taking (or just presenting) this video at face value?

* The Huntsman campaign itself, with campaign spokesman Tim Miller saying: "The ad is offensive and the Paul campaign and their supporters should condemn it." The following mainstream media reports all feature the Hunstman campaign strongly condemning the ad. The fact that they're milking it for all it's worth doesn't necessarily mean they're behind it: they could just be taking advantage of an opportunity presented by someone else.

* Holly Ramer of the Associated Press ( peekURL.com/zuXBXjd )

* Shira Schoenberg of the Boston Globe ( peekURL.com/zCyWYza )

* Fox News (partly based on the AP report, peekURL.com/zmWEuRn )

* Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian ( peekURL.com/zzZ5LjZ )

* Ros Krasny of Reuters ( peekURL.com/z5cWRea )

* Salt Lake Tribune ( peekURL.com/zpX6VHg )

* Cindy McCain, wife of John McCain tweeted: "I deeply resent the video made using the adopted daughters of@jonhuntsman @ronpaul shame on you. This has shades of 2000 all over it." ("2000" is a reference to the "black baby" ad against her husband).

* Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle ( peekURL.com/zdHrYBP ). She appends this:

UPDATE: Paul supporters are fighting back Friday evening, saying that “ridiculous, pathetic joke of a video” is a “dirty trick.” And they’re following the digital bread crumbs back to the Huntsman campaign.

The last links to the endrun link above.

* John King of CNN tries to smear Ron Paul with the video at peekURL.com/vTyU9Gq

* Rachel Maddow on her 1/5/12 show (msnbc.msn . com/id/45902943/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show):

Some congratulations in order tonight for, of all people, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Jon Huntsman, it appears, has finally made it... ...Governor Jon Huntsman`s public profile has finally, maybe at least, risen high enough for him to earn a starring role as the villain in a remarkable new anti-Jon Huntsman attack ad. Have you seen this today? I saw this at the website Wonkette... The ad -- now, it does not appear to be an official campaign ad. It appears to have been produced by Ron Paul supporters in New Hampshire... Jon Huntsman is secretly not only the Manchurian candidate but secretly actually Chairman Mao video. That is claimed by a group called NH, New Hampshire, Liberty for Paul... Now, that group does not appear to be formally affiliated with the Ron Paul campaign by any way, shape, or form. And that may not be the most effective ad of all time.

Note, of course, that Maddow doesn't consider the possibility that the ad was produced to smear Ron Paul.

* Breitbart dot tv [1], at least initially; see their update above.

* Leon Wolf of RedState ("You Stay Classy, Ron Paul Supporters", redstate . com/leon_h_wolf/2012/01/05/you-stay-classy-ron-paul-supporters):

So Jon Huntsman can speak Mandarin and also he adopted a little Chinese girl who was abandoned in a market. Providing us with yet more evidence that they are mostly liberal Democrats who are mad that Obama has governed too far to the right, Ron Paul supporters decided this was a good reason to produce a video putting Huntsman in a Mao hat and jacket, complete with what is I guess supposed to be a Chinese version of blackface... Clearly Paul’s supporters are smarting a bit from finishing well behind a guy with no money and no campaign organization in Iowa, which was their one and only chance to win a state, and are letting their true colors show. The sooner we are shed of the media treating these people as our allies, the better.

A few people in comments question whether the video is real, but most follow along with the anti-Ron Paul script.

* Liz Colville of Wonkette, referenced by Maddow above ("Paultards Hate Huntsman for Knowing Chinese, Adopting Foreigners", wonkette . com/459568/paultards-attack-huntsman-for-knowing-chinese-having-foreign-daughters):

The New Hampshire contingent of Paultards is stooping to core-of-the-earth lows today with a new ad featuring Napster-era audio quality, proof alone that the ad was definitely not made by Paul’s official moneybags campaign, but the freaks on the fringe of the fringe, who are still learning how to use a computer. In the ad, these cinematic visionaries show candidate Huntsman speaking in Mandarin and ask, “American values? Or Chinese?” and then insult Huntsman’s Indian- and Chinese-born adopted daughters. Oh boy...

That's followed by 177 comments, and I only saw one top-level comment that questioned whether the video was made by a Ron Paul supporter. All the others that I saw simply followed the script: endless PC/us-vs-the-unwashed oneupmanship via cutesy, content-free "jokes".

* Buzzfeed (Paul Supporters Launch Insane Attack On “Manchurian Candidate” Jon Huntsman, buzzfeed . com/buzzfeedpolitics/paul-supporters-launch-insane-attack-on-manchuria):

The video from Ron Paul's backers in New Hampshire - nad not the official campaign - features the former U.S. Ambassador to China speaking Chinese, and asks, "American values? Or Chinese?" It also attacks him for having adopted two of his children.

For an unexpected change of pace, one site not known for being Ron Paul fans doesn't follow the script. Jim Newell of the usually-odious Gawker asks "Who’s Behind This Stupid Jon Huntsman ‘Manchurian Candidate’ Video?" (gawker . com/5873491/whos-behind-this-stupid-jon-huntsman-manchurian-candidate-video).

UPDATE: Somewhat unbelievably, the Ron Paul campaign hired a consulting firm (CanDo dot com) to look into who uploaded the video (Politico, peekURL.com/z3nVJeT ). Per the study (PDF peekURL.com/zY4YuvX ):

We thoroughly searched the Jon2012.com site using Google for any reference to this link. None existed. Furthermore, we noted that the comment function of the Jon2012.com site does not allow for hyperlinks, which would be required for YouTube to record the referring domain as Jon2012.com. Since no direct link to the video exists on Jon2012.com, how could YouTube show Jon2012.com as the referring site? Our best guess is that someone used a server on the Jon2012.com domain (such as webmail) to read an email that contained the link to the video. It is also likely that the first mobile views at that same time originated from links in emails. Clicking on a link from a webmail system on Jon2012.com would provide the needed headers for YouTube to record the link.

Their "study" is highly flawed for various reasons, and the primary one is that they didn't notice the Twitter aggregation page at [2] below. While it certainly could be possible for things to work as they describe, the far more likely explanation is that the single hit originated as described at [2]: either through Huntsman's aggregation page or possibly if it came up as a related video on a video that the Huntsman campaign did embed in their site.

Their "study" also ignores the fact that referrers can be faked. I've gotten hits at this site from lots and lots of spammers. None of those hits are from actual human clicks, and a link to this site never appeared on those sites. It was all faked (I won't explain why, search 'referrer spam" if you want to know). I've also gotten referrers from sites that would never link to me and would never embed any sort of Twitter widget. For example, if I see a referrer from "vatican.va", I know it's not a real click and I know it's not referrer spam. What happened is someone used a browser plugin that sends a fake referrer either as a joke or as a way to be more anonymous on the internet. Youtube assuredly has measures in place to deal with people who send fake referrers or fake traffic, but at the same time when a web site receives a request for a page there's no way (aside from loading the page) to find out whether it actually contains a link or embedded video.

I have a lot of experience with web development, I've run several websites for well over a decade (including the Youtube-playing peekurl.com ), and I've also discussed getting traffic and links from Youtube at this site going back years (here, here, here, and here among others). I've also gotten hundreds of thousands of views to my videos in three Youtube accounts. So, I think I've got a handle on how it all works, although I'm sure there are people out there who know more. CanDo isn't one of them.

UPDATE 2: In response to a comment:
1. Any uploader can tag a Youtube video with any tags they want (probably spam terms aren't allowed of course). I could tag one or all of my videos with "jon2012girls", and that would mean as much as the video in question's tags: nothing. Youtube doesn't say that only some people can use certain tags.

2. Huntsman's site is hosted by a company called ipHouse. Other than that, I don't know how their networking is set up. They could do everything through ipHouse under the jon2012 domain, or they could split things up: use another company for mass emails, another company for internal emails, another setup for their private network, etc. etc.

3. Blaming this on Huntsman is stupid and an example of low integrity since it's all just speculation. Ron Paul fans would be wise to instead concentrate on how the media (defined very broadly) has dealt with this issue. Of course, based on my experience with them, "Ron Paul fans" and "wise" don't mix too well.

[1] breitbart . tv/paul-supporters-unauthorized-attack-on-huntsmann/

[2] Regarding the picture showing the "first" link coming from jon2012.com, that's not in any way proof.

First, Youtube statistics are notoriously unreliable: traffic that's sent them never shows up in such listings, view counts go up or down depending on which way the wind blows, and so on.

Second, as Huntsman's spokesman points out, the page jon2012.com/take-action/tweets consolidates all tweets mentioning "@JonHuntsman". Someone could have tweeted a link to the video and then someone else clicked the link on that page. Doing so would result in the single hit shown in the graphic.

If the video had been embedded in Huntsman's site, then there certainly would have been more than one hit coming from his site. Other possible ways the video could have gotten a hit from Huntsman's site would include the video being presented in "Related videos" after a campaign video plays, and then someone clicking on that in Youtube's video player. Someone who wanted to frame Huntsman could have even planned this beforehand: tweeting a link to the video, waiting for it to appear on Huntsman's page, and then clicking the link in order to generate a hit that would show in that graphic.

Note that I get hits from sites in similar ways to how the single hit from jon2012.com was assuredly generated. For instance, adbusters dot org has a Twitter widget showing tweets with the tag "#OWS", and I've gotten hits from that without adbusters itself ever linking to me. I've gotten similar hits from the Huffington Post and other sites' blocks that show related content on other sites. The strongest "proof" theendrun presents is that single hit from jon2012.com, and that's not proof at all.