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Origin of the “sock puppet” (Kirsten Gillibrand=Senator Sock Puppet)

“Sock puppet” has come into wide use recently.

Rush Limbaugh called Martha Coakley a “sock puppet” for Harry Reid. Today’s New York Post calls NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand a “senatorial sock puppet.”

If anyone is doing television commercials against Democrat party loyalists Chuck Schumer and Gillibrand, the use of a visual “sock puppet” should come in very handy!

I (your penniless etymologist) did the usual fine job on the history of the “sock puppet,” adding the term to my Political Glossary. The original item dates to the 1940s; the political use dates to at least 2000.

Entry from January 26, 2010
Sock Puppet
A “sock puppet” is a puppet made from a sock. This form of “sock puppet” has existed since at least the 1940s, popularized in the 1950s by Shari Lewis (1933-1998) and her sock puppet named “Lamb Chop.”

Another “sock puppet” (or “sockpuppet”) is an online identity used for false purposes. This “sock puppet” name came into wide use in 1996.

“Puppet” has long had a political use, with some power “pulling the strings.” A “puppet regime” is a government controlled by another force, such as Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union. “Sock puppet” appears to have come into political use in 2000. Vice President Al Gore was called a sock puppet; President George W. Bush was called a sock puppet of Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2009-2010, unelected New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was sometimes derided as “senator sock puppet” (who always votes with the Democrat party leadership).

Wikipedia: Sock puppet
A sock puppet is a puppet made from a sock (or similar garment). When the manipulator fits a hand into the closed end of the sock, the puppet can be seemingly made to “talk”. The puppet’s mouth is formed by the region between the sock’s heel and toe, with the puppeteer’s thumb forming a jaw. At a minimum the shape of the hand will instantly form the shape of a mouth, but sometimes the mouth is padded by putting in a fairly hard piece of felt (often with a tongue glued inside).

The sock is stretched out fully so that it is long enough to cover the puppeteer’s wrist and part of the arm. Often, but not always, the puppeteer will hide behind a stand and raise up his or her hand above the stand so that only the puppet is visible. Many sock puppeteers, however, stand in full view along with their puppets and will hold conversations with their own sock puppets, using ventriloquism.

Wikipedia: Sockpuppet (Internet)
A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an online community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about himself or herself, pretending to be a different person, like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet.

In current usage, the perception of the term has been extended beyond second identities of people who already post in a forum to include other uses of misleading online identities. For example, a NY Times article claims that “sock-puppeting” is defined as “the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company.”

The key difference between a sockpuppet and a regular pseudonym (sometimes termed an “alt” which is short for alternate, as in alternate identity) is the pretense that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer or acting under their control for their benefit.

The earliest known usage of the term was on July 9, 1993 by Dana Rollins in a posting to bit.listserv.fnord-l, but the term was not in common usage in USENET groups until 1996.

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary
Main Entry: sock puppet
Function: noun
Date: 1959
1 : a hand puppet made with a sock
2 : a false online identity used for deceptive purposes

(Oxford English Dictionary)
sock puppet n. orig. U.S. a simple puppet made from a sock that is fitted over and moved by the hand and fingers; (also fig.) a person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion.
1959 Gettysburg (Pa.) Times 24 Sept. 12 (advt.) Shari Lewis *Sock Puppet Reg. $1.39.
1969 N.Y. Times Mag. 6 July 17/2 Merle B. Karnes of the University of Illinois trained the mothers of 15 disadvantaged 3-year-olds to make inexpensive educational materials—sock puppets, lotto and matching games.
1997 E. HAND Glimmering III. xiv. 289 There were boxes of strange hand-made toys, cars and boats and rocket ships carved from Popsicle sticks, sock puppets that moved Jack to tears.
2000 U.S. News & World Rep. 27 Mar. 22/1 Jennifer Brand, a 24-year-old student who backed President Clinton in 1996, called Gore ‘a sock puppet’ and Bush ‘a wimp’.

Google Books
10 April 1943, The Billboard, pg. 13, col. 3:
Frank Paris, as always, has a sock puppet turn, each doll performing on the regular stage.

Google Books
Easy Puppets:
Making and using hand puppets
By Gertrude Pels and Albert Pels
New York, NY: Crowell
1951
Pg. 42:
AN OLD SOCK PUPPET

Google Groups: alt.politics.clinton
Newsgroups: alt.society.liberalism, talk.politics.misc, alt.politics.clinton, alt.fan.rush-limbaugh
From: z…@snowcrest.net (Zepp)
Date: 2000/01/29
Subject: Re: State of the Union—Healthcare

I did notice that Hastart was being very accomodating, particularly in his remarks after the speech. Sock puppet that he is, I suspect his political instincts are good. He want’s to survive the coming catastrophe the GOP faces and be there to rebuild.

Google Groups: alt.politics.greens
Newsgroups: alt.politics.greens, talk.politics.misc, soc.culture.usa
From: Steve Krulick
Date: 2000/08/22
Subject: Re: Nader/Abortion/Woman’s Decison

Gore is a bought-and-paid-for sock puppet of the corporate UNIPARTY, with fluid principles and empty rhetoric. Gore “fighting” for us, against the “powerful” interests that pay his way. Yeah, right. He, like Dubya, will say anything to get a few extra votes.

13 February 2001, Hays (KS) Daily News, “Bush restores civility” by George F. Will, pg. A4, col. 3:
It has been helped by dissonant vituperation from the departing chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew, who dismisses Bush as a “lousy” president and a “sock puppet” manipulated by the vice president, and from the new chairman, Terry McAuliffe, who says Republicans favor “spilling oil in Alaska” and “putting derricks in Yellowstone Park.”

Google Books
How Bush rules:
Chronicles of a radical regime
By Sidney Blumenthal
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
2006
Pg. 340:
The new speaker, Dennis Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach from Illinois, was DeLay ‘s sock puppet.

MyDD
Senator Sock Puppet, This One’s For You
by boadicea, Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:14:21 PM EDT
I realize it’s a bit of a challenge to know where to draw the ethical line when you’ve made your bones on behalf of an utterly corrupt regime, John Cornyn, but here’s a quick and easy rule of thumb.

If you’re going to have people who work for you go onto blogs and talk you up, they need to disclose who they’re working for.

The Huffington Post
Sock Puppet Lieberman Demands Pony In Exchange For Health Care Vote (VIDEO)
First Posted: 12-18-09 03:05 PM
While the real life Joe Lieberman has been busy with his filibuster threats, he’s nothing compared to his sock puppet counterpart. In this ad from Moveon.org, the sock puppet Senator (whose appearance is strikingly accurate) makes it simple. If the Democrats want his vote, they’re gonna have to pony up. Literally.

New York (NY) Post
Gilly’s 2nd opinion
Defends health bill against gov and Bloomberg
By CHARLES HURT Bureau Chief
Posted: 3:39 AM, December 23, 2009
WASHINGTON—Responding to searing criticism from Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg that the Senate’s version of health-care reform would devastate New York’s medical services, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand insisted yesterday the legislation was good medicine.
(…)
COMMENTS
Aardvark
12/23/2009 7:53 AM
Typical from Senator “Sock Puppet.”
Schoomer’s lips aren’t even moving.

The Rush Limbaugh Show
Coakley Aide Assaults Reporter; Democrats in Massachusetts Panic
January 13, 2010
(…)
RUSH: (…) Then F. Chuck Todd—go back and grab sound bite six. After they dragged me into the campaign and I thus began talking about it, F. Chuck Todd on MSNBC said this.

TODD: Another sign this race is finally getting even more national attention: Rush Limbaugh weighed in on his radio show.

RUSH ARCHIVE: [S]he is the entrenched machine candidate here. She’s attorney general, or has been. I never heard of her until all this got started, but, at any rate, she’s just a sock puppet for Harry Reid and the Democrats.

TODD: Well, we shall see. I’m guessing that Rush Limbaugh SOT might its way into a Democratic ad soon.

RUSH: So here’s F. Chuck Todd. (“SOT” again is “sound on tape.” It’s an acronym.) F. Chuck is suggesting that they make another commercial with me in it, with that she’s just going to be a sock puppet for the Democrats. Do it! The Democrats in Massachusetts deserve to know this.

Boston (MA) Herald
Rush Limbaugh blasts AG Martha Coakley as Dem ‘sock puppet’
By Jessica Van Sack
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The seemingly tightening race for U.S. Senate gained national steam yesterday as conservative radio yakker Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves to blast Martha Coakley as an “entrenched machine candidate” and a “sock puppet” for Washington Democrats.

Limbaugh’s assault on the Democratic attorney general came at the top of his broadcast – and after Coakley used a picture of him in a negative ad targeting GOP opponent Scott Brown as a “lockstep” Republican. Limbaugh, who said he had “purposely” stayed out of the race, could not resist responding.

New York (NY) Post
The job is senator from New York
Posted: January 26, 2010
Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, eyeing a challenge to unelected Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, showed last weekend that he understands more about New York’s vital interests than the senatorial sock-puppet he hopes to replace.

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