City Hall

Dallas Mayor’s Race Overrun With Anonymous Twitter Accounts

’Four years ago, the last time Dallas elected a mayor, the anonymous online high jinks were limited and mostly amusing. The dumb/brilliant Mayor Mike Rawlings Twitter parody @fauxmayormike and some enterprising cyber-squatting by opponents of then-candidate Casey Thomas livened things up. Wylie H, the website commenter turned social media soothsayer, was around, too, but that wasn't anything new. People with agendas but without the guts to name themselves participated in the process but didn't muddy the waters too much. In 2019, our anonymous friends online are offering a bit more of a mixed bag.

The Accounts:

This time around, there seems to be two big concerns for the half-dozen or so accounts that have popped up in the last couple of months. DeepDiveDallas (@dallas_deep) and DallasMediaOmbudsman (@DallasOmbudsman), as one might expect, are chiefly concerned with how local media is covering the race. Neither one likes the Morning News' coverage, and they don't like our handicapping of the race, either. The Morning News doesn't do enough to retain its talented writers, Jim Schutze is too old, and I'm too inexperienced to trust when it comes to city politics.  All of that's well and good, the Observer often deserves criticism, as does the Morning News, but the idea, apparently is that Dallas would be better off listening to a couple of Twitter accounts with a couple hundred followers each, written by those who seem too invested in some narratives of their own.

DallasMediaOmbudsman really wants people to know, for instance, that Texas state Rep. Eric Johnson's mayoral candidacy is just a stalking horse for a future run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Eddie Bernice Johnson. DeepDiveDallas wants you to think that he or she alone has his or her finger on the true pulse of the race. Tom Joad (@reformdallas) is a fan account for the Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston wing of Dallas city government, which means he generally likes the stuff Schutze writes and reports and doesn't like the stuff the Morning News writes and reports about the mayor's race.  Octopi Dallas (@octopidallas), which joined Twitter a few months after Tom Joad in 2017, appears to have been created simply to serve as the Steinbeck character's blank-verse-tweeting mirror image.  This year's mayoral election also has its own Game of Thrones parody account (@ForTheThroneDal), which promises to get heated when voting and the new season of the HBO show begin.  Only one candidate, former Texas House Rep. Jason Villalba, seems to have merited his or her own parody account so far (@JasonFromTheGOP), and all the account has done is insult Kingston and take aim at Wylie H for, of all things, remaining anonymous.   The best thing that can be said about all these accounts — and there are probably more, please help us out in the comments if you know of any others — is that none of them seem to gaining all that much traction. The point, it seems, is for them to pop up in as many Twitter discussions about this year's election as possible and put their nameless 2 cents in. Maybe we're biased, but the best anonymous Twitter accounts are either actually funny, feature cute pictures of animals or push the boundaries of micro-literature (RIP @Horse_Ebooks). Local politics doesn't really lend itself to any of that, and it shows.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young