A few days ago Daily KOS posted an article about sock puppeting and the US Government’s new practice of creating multiple online personas for the purpose of manufacturing what appears to be a crowd. The point here, in the writer’s words, “is to create the illusion of consensus” in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Early-stage social networks do it to create the illusion of a larger community, marketing companies do it to create the illusion of hype, and Diggers do it to drive up their scores - but the idea of governments doing it is more nefarious. The public must believe that consensus-based resolution can be trusted. In many countries, when consensus fails, we’re not talking about NPR writing campaigns and yoga retreat paradigm shifts. We’re talking about regimes crumbling! The threat of martial law! City skylines ablaze! Consensus is in many cases what holds together a just and civil society.

Although China’s 50 Cent Party is often accused of aggressively trolling critical bloggers and journalists, the idea of the US government soliciting for Persona Management Software (even in foreign theaters) seems worse. America the nation/brand is a bit self-righteousness in its belief in democracy. If one of the fundamental tenets of democracy is “majority rule” then how can a fake majority be a good thing?

Think about Twitter or Facebook counters sitting next to an article. We’ve got no idea if the numbers on those counters are accurate or if they represent real people, but the higher the number the less social barrier there is for secondary readers to share a story. In other words, the illusion of consensus quite often incites real consensus.

So the idea of political sock puppetry can be incredibly effective, but it’s also incredibly destructive to a decision-making process. What’s more, I’m pretty darn sure it’s illegal under the US’ own Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In summary, it stinks. While it’s not surprising that political wins can be fueled by the illusion of consensus, it’s appalling to see the call for persona contractors so brazenly posted in plain view.