Further evidence on why Dan Patrick’s tweet of Galatians was not an intentionally hateful act

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Good morning Austin:
Life is odd. it is filled with coincidences and mistakes, except to the conspiracy minded, for whom there are no coincidences and mistakes.
Last Sunday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s office tweeted its weekly Sunday Bible verse.
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Posted in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter at a gay night club in Orlando, it prompted a firestorm of tweeted outrage for whom it was  a horrible, sanctimonious expression of contempt for the victims, who, in death, had apparently reaped what they had sown.
But this read of what had happened seemed extraordinarily unlikely to me. It required one to believe that Dan Patrick – and not, as John Boehner would have it, Ted Cruz – was “Lucifer in the flesh.”
Only really.
As I reported on the tweet Sunday, it seemed to me that a more compelling, credible and rational reading of the facts was it was simply a terrible coincidence of timing, that the tweet was scheduled in advance, that Patrick – who was away on vacation on some foreign island –  only found out about what had been tweeted and the unfortunate juxtaposition with events in Florida, when I texted him Sunday morning.
Overnight Sunday, I wrote a First Reading, laying out why I thought that was the case and I why I thought the condemnation of Patrick was over the line.
That was met with some skepticism and anger and further questions.

I wondered. Could I be wrong? Did I misjudge this?

I didn’t think so, but I got in in touch with Allen Blakemore, the lieutenant governor’s political right hand, who I had talked to as events were unfolding on Sunday. Yesterday he offered to sit down and go through the sequence of events that led to the tweet. . The Statesman’s Gardner Selby, editor of Politifact Texas, who had also sent questions to Blakemore, joined us.

 

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The first question was whether there was any documentary evidence proving the tweet had been pre-scheduled.

Blakemore said no. The social media team – Patrick’s social media consultant is Austin’s Harris Media – schedules the tweets through its own Twitter account and not through some third party.

“Unfortunately, once something is gone, it’s gone, it’s launched,” Blakemore said. There is no residual record to show that it had been pre-scheduled.

Could Twitter provide some forensic evidence that it had been pre-scheduled?

“We have asked, and it’s gone, once it goes, it goes,” Blakemore said.

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After our interview with Blakemore, Gardner ran this by Apryl Pilolli, manager of social analytics for the Cox Media Group, of which the Statesman is a part. By email, Pilolli replied that yes, “through the Twitter ads platform you can schedule tweets to go out. They can go out organically or you can pay for them to be promoted. Read more here https://blog.twitter.com/2013/now-available-scheduled-tweets.

“I am testing right now to see if there is a record of the scheduled tweet after it has been published. I will let you know after it goes out at 7:30 p.m. ”

From the link that Pilolli sent:

Now available: Scheduled Tweets

Monday, October 14, 2013 | By Christine Lee (@chrstnelee), Product Manager, Twitter Ads team  [16:27 UTC]  Starting today, all marketers using Twitter’s Ad Products can schedule organic or Promoted Tweets for specific dates and times up to a year in advance. These can be coordinated to go live with new or existing Promoted Tweet campaigns to enable you to plan your real-time campaigns at your convenience.

With scheduled Tweets, you can publish content at any time without having staff on-call to Tweet on evenings, weekends, holidays, or other inconvenient times. Advertisers also gain the flexibility to plan content in advance for events like premieres and product releases.

Scheduled Tweets are available to Twitter Ads users in all supported languages.

After her test, Pilloli wrote back, “Hey Gardner, I just confirmed that after the tweet goes out there is no way to tell that it was scheduled in advance.”
But, even without any documentary evidence of when the tweet went out, Blakemore did have evidence of the tweet being created in advance. He showed us copies of emails exchanged between members of the social media team about the selection and illustration of the Galatians tweet, beginning at 1:58 a.m. Thursday, June 9, and ending with the scheduling of the tweet at 4:12 p.m. Thursday.
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And where did the social media team come up with the selection from Galatians?
“All of this comes through a program called Verse of the Day,” Blakemore said. “The social media team goes to Verse of the Day.”

Verse of the Day.

“That’s where they come from.”

In other words, Patrick’s social media team is looking for a Bible verse to schedule for Sunday June 12, and there on June 7, the Verse of the Day is Galatians 6:7.

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Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

We’re not going to fool God. While we might put up a facade for others, God knows our hearts. So, if we spend our wealth, time, and interest in other things and give God the crumbs, we need to know that we are not going to reap a bounteous spiritual harvest.

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There were other suspicions. I have been sent Patrick’s Galatians tweet with a 5 a.m. time stamp. This did seem to odd to me, though I didn’t know what to make of it.

But, I’ve learned, time stamps are in the eyes of the beholder. So, for example, a person on the West Coast viewing a tweet that was sent out at 7 a.m. Central Time would see – and be able to do a screen grab – of a time stamp indicating it was sent out at 5 a.m.

I don’t think there is any there there.

Skeptics also point to the fact that there was a second Patrick Bible tweet on Sunday, posted at 7:30 a.m.

Doesn’t that second, bland tweet suggest that it might have been the pre-scheduled tweet and Galatians was posted by Patrick from his island lair in a sinister, spur-of-the-moment reaction to the unfolding horror in Orlando?
Well, there is another explanation.
It is the practice of Patrick’s office to post the same Bible verse on Twitter as on its Facebook page each Sunday.
If you look back to Sunday June 5, that same verse and image from Psalm 37:39 that appeared in the June 12 tweet, appeared on Patrick’s June 5 Facebook page.
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Now, why would that be?
Working back to figure this out, Blakemore discovered that, “The Psalm 37:39  tweet was the regularly scheduled post for June 5. It was inadvertently scheduled for June 12.”
Human error. The person charged with scheduling the June 5 tweet scheduled it to go out on June 12 instead, by mistake.
And indeed, if you look back at June 5, the previous Sunday, you find that Patrick didn’t tweet any  Bible verse that Sunday. In fact, it appears he tweeted nothing that day. His tweet stream goes directly from a tweet about the unpopularity of Obama’s transgender bathroom policy on June 4 to a tweet of remembrance for D-Day on June 6.
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Then, lo and behold, this past Sunday, the Psalm tweet popped up at 7:30 because that was when it was mistakenly scheduled to pop up.
“It was still in the queue and just went,” Blakemore said.

conspiracy

The other big and bitter complaint from Patrick’s critics was that it took about four hours to take the Galatians tweet down after it was posted.

As previously mentioned, Patrick was on an island and didn’t know until later in the morning what was going on, or even what Bible verse had been posted.

Blakemore was in church when the tweet blew up. He said when he first heard about the tragedy in Florida, his first thought was not that he better go check what Bible verse they had tweeted that week. In fact, in a breach of the usual protocol, the verse from Galatians had not been sent to him for his approval on Thursday. It took him a little while to figure out what was going on and rouse someone from the social media team to take it down.

“Galatians was posted as scheduled. and later deleted at my direction,” Blakemore said.

But, Blakemore said, “All of that is a distraction. The only thing that matters in my opinion is was Galatians tweeted in light of, with knowledge of,  with forethought of the tragedy in Orlando. That’s the only thing that matters.”

“I think all these things are distractions,” Blakemore said. “I think the crux of it, as I’ve said  – and it’s really back to the original question – did we send this out being mean and hateful about the tragedy in Orlando? No, it was in the pipeline. It was designed days before. It was all set, scheduled.”

And, Blakemore said, had he been sent the Galatians tweet for review before it was scheduled to run, he doubts he would have approved it, simply because it was more negative than the scripture they usually tweet since Patrick began posting the Sunday verses during his campaign for lieutenant governor.

“I think if you would go back and look at our entire body of all scripture posts for all time, they are designed to be positive and uplifting in their character and content and so I would like to think that I wouldn’t have approved that,” Blakemore said.

As for Patrick, Blakemore said he sometimes checks out the verse in advance but this time, he was away on vacation and had not. The first he knew about it was when I texted him on Sunday morning.

Will any of this persuade skeptics that Patrick’s tweet last Sunday was not an intentionally hateful act and a personification of his very essence?

Probably not.

In fact, I’m sure that I have, here, planted the seeds of countless other conspiracy theories.

In the end, Patrick would probably do well to produce his birth certificate.

For those for whom Patrick is a villain, this episode will remain embedded in their minds as vivid evidence of his villainy.

As for those at Bonnaroo, final judgement has already been rendered.

It was the tweet heard ’round the country after Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s official Twitter account posted a Bible verse many believe to be in response the Orlando mass shooting. The shooting, which targeted the gay nightclub Pulse in Florida, has been deemed the worst in American history.

Patrick defended himself Sunday, saying the tweet was a regularly scheduled Sunday thing. But Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir didn’t buy it.

During the Dead and Company’s set at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival Sunday, Weir set aside time to condemn Patrick for his tweet.

“Tell you what, I want to ask a question,” Weir said. “Is there a difference between that mindset and the mindset of the folks in the Taliban or ISIS?”

“The hatred and intolerance is the same. They may pull it out of different books but it’s the same [expletive] thing,” Weir said.

 

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