Monday, July 24, 2006

Sock Puppetry, Glenn Greenwald, and the Gunning Fog Index

We all know what a sock puppet is in internet-speak, don't we? If I were to post a comment on a blog, sign it "Anonymous" or "Truth-teller", instead of "Bluto", and write that The Dread Pundit Bluto is the most magnificent intellect ever to grace the cyberworld; I would be using a sock puppet (and lying, of course...well, probably lying, but who really knows?).

The use of sock puppets is quite properly disdained by most regular internet users. It indicates a level of personal dishonesty that borders on the pathological and hampers debate and discussion. Ethical bloggers and internet commenters just don't use sock puppets when discussing serious issues.

Liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald has been accused of using sock puppets to bolster his stature at several conservative blogs. Greenwald denies using sock puppets here:
Not frequently, I leave comments at blogs which criticize or respond to something I have written. I always, in every single instance, use my own name when doing so. I have never left a single comment at any other blog using any name other than my own, at least not since I began blogging.
The Gunning Fog Index is a method of gauging readability used primarily by the adult literacy advocacy community. Writers can use the Index to construct copy appropriate to different reading levels. The Gunning Fog Index is, perhaps, the only way to mathematically quantify writing style. The Index is a formula using the variables of sentence length/construction and vocabulary to yield a numerical result that can be compared to other writing samples.

A person trying to pretend he is someone else may attempt to use different words and deliberate misspellings in his writing, but few people have even heard of the Gunning Fog Index, let alone how to write with the intent of scoring higher or lower on it.

I've applied the Gunning Fog Index to comments, allegedly from three different people, collected at Patterico's Pontifications, all defending Greenwald. The casual reader will note similarities of style. The Gunning Fog Index quantifies these similarities.

Comment from "Ellison" at Ace of Spades:
Greenwald only has a New York Times Best Selling Book on the Bush Administration and its abuses of power. And he has one of the most-read blogs on the Interent, after 9 months of blogging. And Senators read from his blog at Senate hearings and his posts lead to front-page news stories in major newspapers.

Why would anyone think what he has to say matters? It's not like anyone listens to him. It's not like he's Ace, or Jeff Goldstein, or Patterico, or Sister Toldjah or Glenn Reynolds, or someone who really matters.

Great advice, you super-important bloggers should only to each other and about each other. Don't bother with anyone in the Left because if you ignore them, they'll just go away.
Gunning Fog score: 8.48

Comment from "Sam Matthews" at Riehl World View:
Greenwald's book has been on the N.Y. Times Best Seller List for 6 weeks now or more. He is a graduate of a top 5 law school and worked at the most prestigious law firm in the country. In 9 months, he's managed to become one of the most cited and heavily-trafficked bloggers on the internets. His posts have led to front page news articles and are read by U.S. Senators during Senate hearings.

You-by your own account are a marketing and sales manager. And your favorite movie is Something About Mary.

Can't you just admit that you(and Patterico and Reynolds & Goldstein and the rest of your bitter insult-spewing irrelevant losers) are drowning in jealousy? It isn't pretty to watch. But it sure is obvious.
Gunning Fog score: 8.60

Comment from "Wilson" at protein wisdom:
Lets see, a New York Times bestselling book on executive authority. Breaks a story on his blog about wiretapping that leads to front-page stories on most major newspapers in the country. Russ Feingold reads from his blog during the Censure hearings.

Maybe that has something to do with why. Any conservative bloggers with credentials like that? All compiled in 9 months or however long its been since he started blogging?

Jeffy’s funny poems are great and everything, and im sure your anonymous lawyer friends are really smart and all, but hard to say they compare to those things.
Gunning Fog score: 9.28

These Gunning Fog scores cover a range of less than one full point. Random comments from different writers should yield a range of 3 points or greater, based on differing writing styles.

Taken by themselves, the similar Gunning Fog scores could be coincidental, but bloggers have tracked all three purportedly different people to Glenn Greenwald's IP address. Thus, the Gunning Fog Index scores are a corroborating indication that all three comments were written by the same person, if not Greenwald himself, then perhaps his domestic partner.