Parody accounts are nothing new to Twitter, but they are making their way into offical campaigns. Mitt Romney launched parodies of Joe Biden and Debbie Wasserman Schultz last April, with the purpose of attacking President Obama using their quotes from 2008. Today, Romney’s campaign made a little stir by creating a parody for Bill Clinton, again using recent quotes to attack Obama. These accounts average 192 followers, which doesn’t suggest much success. The fundamental problem is they use parodies of one person to attack another, whereas these accounts should be leveraged to mock the person they represent. Mitt Romney’s campaign has not admitted to creating any parody of President Obama himself.
Successful parody accounts are caricatures of those they impersonate. The whole idea of a caricature is that you know who the person is right away. Certain features are exaggerated just enough that it’s funny yet still resembles the person. I manage a parody account under the name Mitt Rmoney. Almost every day somebody “discovers” this jumble of Romney’s name, even leading to a popular photoshop that kind of says it all.
This account clearly plays to Romney’s reputation as an out-of-touch rich guy. The name, handle, profile image, biography, and even location reinforce the central joke. The biography also plays off Romney’s selective amnesia. Romney learned during his campaign with Ted Kennedy that denying an accusation brings more media scrutiny, while simply pretending to forget renders further inquiry ineffective. Notice how easily Romney escaped questions about terrorizing a gay classmate by failing to recall the incident, while Elizabeth Warren continues to flounder over questions about her Native American ancestry. Once you point it out, people begin to notice Romney’s convenient inability to remember anything that people don’t like, which makes this line of attack particularly effective. Through imitation, this parody account reveals a true feature about the person it represents.
Small exaggerations based on an existing narrative are particularly effective, whereas more extreme mockery can be easily dismissed. This is particularly true of tweets, where a parody account can mimic the person it represents in real time. @MlTTR0MNEY has always impressed me with it’s grasp of this concept, often tricking me into thinking the real Mitt Romney said something absurd by only changing a few words. The tweets below illustrate this clearly.
Thank you FL! While we celebrate this victory, we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating the middle class. #Mitt2012
— Willard Mitt Romney (@MlTTR0MNEY) February 1, 2012
Thank you FL! While we celebrate this victory, we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama. #Mitt2012
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 1, 2012