If you’ve been following the Ellie Light matter, this may be interesting. If you haven’t: over the last week many bloggers and political observers have wondered why one pro- Obama letter appeared on so many opinion pages, with the same author - Ellie Light - identified as a local resident. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer was the first paper to note the Light Brigade.) Looked like textbook astroturfing, if a rather small and finely targeted example. Controversies like these make for amusing sport, as everyone sleuths and decodes and theorizes until they have an epiphany: it was Cheney and Nixon on the grassy knoll! Well. The other day I got a letter from Ellie Light. I’m guessing everyone did. She gave her phone number, and said “feel free to call me.”
So I did. Phone rings. Phone picks up. I ask if this is the famous Ellie Light.
“It’s me, it’s me, I’m the one who gave the bad addresses, the full of hubris woman.”
Did she say she was from the cities where the letter ran? I said or strongly implied it,” Ms. Light said. “They’d say, ‘we only print stuff from local residents, you’re from Sheboygan?,’ and I wouldn’t say no.”
She expressed regret: “I hate the idea that I’m causing newspapers grief, that this sort-of plays into the idea that papers are a liberal tool.”
Others have called as well, but she suspects coming clean won’t put the controversy to bed.
Do I think she’s real? Sure. A little googling on the phone number and some property records suggests she’s an actual human, as opposed to a political operative or a cyborg sent back from the fall of 2010 to change an election. Here’s her explanation for her behavior, sent in a previous letter.
Alright, then. Take a deep breath and accept that you've all been a bit silly. Let's imagine a much more plausible scenario. Frustrated Obama-supporter writes letter to some blogs, asking why are we so harsh on our new President? Ben Stein picks up my letter, and even pays me a backhanded compliment in the process (check out the chronology of submissions. They match this). Star-struck girl sees letter in print, accompanied by angry comments from dozens of frothing Tea-partiers. She decides that perhaps she's quite brilliant after all, and sends her letter around to a few more papers. Voila! The letters are printed, and Ellie's friends (my friends), all remark that they never get their letters published, and what's so special about Ellie's letters. So Ellie, feeling smug and superior, indulges in a bit more self-validation, and submits her letter again…. and again! Then one fateful day, Ms. Eaton from the Cleveland Plain Dealer does her Google search, and a conspiracy theory is born!
I think she means Ben Smith of Politico, not Ben Stein the conservative columnist and Ferris Bueller star. In any case, controversy-wise, "there’s no there there," as Gertrude Stein said of a city in California.
Wait a minute. Ellie Light lives in California. (She says.) And she said Ben STEIN quoted her.
Maybe this goes deeper than we know. Maybe she’s really Alice B. Toklas.
UPDATE: Oh, I give up now. Ben Smith updates, and points to this Gawker piece. I officially do not care anymore. Except I'll say this: I matched the area code from the phone "Ellie" gave me to real estate records in the area, and came up with an Eleanor Light, which led me to believe - in my silly, trusting way! - that there was a reasonable connection between the person who sent all the letters, including the original one, and an actual human named Eleanor Light. I even saw the house on Google. Now this Texas stuff.
I will say this: the Gawker quotes sound nothing like the person to whom I spoke. The more I think of it, the more I discount the Texas stuff. Someone's having fun, that's for certain.