#AttackWatch trending on Twitter, but not in a good way

Tina Nguyen Contributor
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In an aggressive move against the 2012 election’s GOP talking points Wednesday, President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign launched — a website for Obama supporters to submit rumors and attacks by any of his detractors, from GOP presidential candidates to next-door neighbors.

But an early social-media backlash against the project may not have been the sort of online buzz the president’s campaign was hoping for.

AttackWatch takes a decidedly different tack from the Obama campaign’s 2008 rumor-tracking site, That earlier effort was dignified and lofty, emblazoned with eagles and a pledge from Obama to refrain from using religion and patriotism as “wedges” and “bludgeons,”

By contrast, AttackWatch is stark and serious, reminiscent of an attack ad: bold, red and white text on a simple black background, and images of Glenn Beck and Rick Perry in static-filled black and white. And a side-bar menu keeps track of political attacks on the president, with an option to submit “rumors” for consideration and action.

As with most social media efforts from the Obama campaign, the website came with a ready-made Twitter hashtag, #AttackWatch, which the Obama For America 2012 campaign began promoting via Twitter late on Tuesday. The project’s twin goals are to crowdsource opposition research and leverage social media to track unfair criticism of the president.

#AttackWatch is now a Trending Topic in the Washington, D.C. area — but not for the reasons its creators had hoped. (RELATED: Obama for America launches website to shoot down GOP attacks)

Tea partiers, or at least people who share sympathies with them, have used #attackwatch to joke — and at times, vent — about their dissatisfaction with the Obama administration.

A separate group has turned #AttackWatch into a punchline for mundane observations and funny non-sequiturs, using it to “report” everything from rude neighbors to NFL teams. Few if any have actually used #AttackWatch so far in the way the Obama campaign intended.

Right-wing pundits took a particular glee in appropriating the hashtag, with Jonah Goldberg, Michelle Malkin, and Tim Carney firing off sarcastic tweets by the minute. “Some RWNJ [Right Wing Nut Job] said Obama set up a website to track all criticism of him. But I know you’re not that creepy,” tweeted Carney.

Even nonpartisan novelty accounts jumped on the bandwagon: @depresseddarth, a Twitter feed imagining the Star Wars villain Darth Vader on Xanax, tweeted that “Obama launched a program to track attack threats. We had a similar program on the Death Star, but that didn’t stop Luke.”

The Obama team has been heralded for its revolutionary use of Twitter in conducting voter and constituent outreach. But by going on offense with #AttackWatch, Obama — carrying a 33 percent approval rating according to a Bloomberg poll released today — inadvertently gave the public a campaign-approved outlet to mock him in 140 characters or less.

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Tina Nguyen