News & Politics

GOP Tool Spreads False Rumors and Panic About Hurricane Sandy Just to be a Jerk

The definition of obnoxious: a right-wing Twitter troll making up lies about the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

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As widespread worries over Hurricane Sandy spread among New York City residents, one obnoxious right-wing Twitter user took the opportunity to spread unsubstantiated rumours about the impact of the storm. Some of the Twitter messages went viral--and news organizations picked them up.

BuzzFeed Politics’ Tumblr has collected many of the tweets from @ComfortablySmug, the Twitter account name that spread the rumours. @ComfortablySmug, according to his Twitter bio, is interested in “Finance, Gin, Politics, Books, Food, Fine Clothing, Meeting Strangers #Mitt2012.” Some of the rumours he spread include: “confirmed flooding” of the New York Stock Exchange; Con Edison shutting down all the power in New York; and Governor Cuomo being trapped in Manhattan. None of the tweets were true. And one message--that subways would be shut for the remainder of the week--went viral. That message, also, wasn’t true. Another message, that the New York Stock Exchange was flooded, was picked up by CNN.

But “two of his tweets garnered more than 500 retweets. One drew a rebuke from ConEd’s official Twitter account,” BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski writes.

While Kaczynski didn’t identify the user, Wonkette claims to have found out who he is: “Shashank Tripathi, who naturally is some kind of low-level staffer or volunteer at a NYC Republican Victory Center, and was spotted holding a campaign sign in November 2010.”

Wonkette writer Josh Fruhlinger asks: “Why would Tripathi post plausible but false things about a major disaster in a city where he lives, in the middle of said disaster, when lots of people are reading Twitter and freaking out about it? Nobody knows!”

Fruhlinger adds that “when Mitt Romney is earning so many Pinocchios for lying about Chrysler, at least we know it’s because he wants to be president. Tripathi would seem to have no such concrete benefits to gain. Maybe it’s because trolling people on Twitter is fun!”

At least Tripathi is getting good practice for a future career in Republican politics. Lying to people seems to be a prerequisite.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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