UK broadsheet The Guardian has called a day on its US presidential election letter writing campaign, declaring Operation Clark County a success, but reporting substantial flaming and a hacking attack. So it does look a bit like they decided the campaign was more trouble that it was worth.
The scheme matched non-Americans with independent voters in a marginal US county in the key election state of Ohio. Letters writers from the UK, and later others countries, were urged to send air-mails to undecided voters in Clark County.
According to The Guardian, more than 4,000 people were matched with Clark County voters through the site in the first day after the campaign kicked off on 13 October. By the end, or as readers' editor Ian Mayes says, " in the few days that the site operated before it was hacked into and disabled", 14,000 people had offered to write to the US voters.
The site provided information for supporters of both John Kerry and Dubya but The Guardian made no secret of the fact it sympathies are rooted firmly in the Democrat camp. The idea that a liberal-leaning UK paper was trying to "influence" US voters was hard to take for some in the US. If letters from Brits weren't bad enough Operation Clark County even allowed the French (those "cheese-eating surrender-monkeys") to send messages.
A backlash, fuelled by right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Republican net activists, began. Guardian hacks were targeted by rightwing spammers. Some received more than 700 messages, according to Ian Katz, editor of The Guardian supplement, one read:
KEEP YOUR FUCKIN' LIMEY HANDS OFF OUR ELECTION. HEY, SHITHEADS, REMEMBER THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR? REMEMBER THE WAR OF 1812? WE DIDN'T WANT YOU, OR YOUR POLITICS HERE, THAT'S WHY WE KICKED YOUR ASSES OUT. FOR THE 47% OF YOU WHO DON'T WANT PRESIDENT BUSH, I SAY THIS ... TOUGH SHIT! PROUD AMERICAN VOTING FOR BUSH!
We'd like to report that The Guardian was prepared to stick to its guns in the face of such intimidation except that the paper has decided that its experiment in international lobbying had run its course and decided to pull the plug. ®