The Idiocy of the "Pajama Boy" Witch Hunt

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 19 2013 5:43 PM

The Idiocy of the "Pajama Boy" Witch Hunt

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BREAKING: This is a real person.

Barackobama.com

When I was in college, I sort of knew this guy named Ethan. He was the editor of the Madison Misnomer—UW–Madison's version of the Onion—when I was editor of one of the college papers. A couple of months ago, I saw that Ethan was in a pro-Obamacare ad. "What a weird coincidence!" I thought to myself. Then I promptly forgot about it.

This week, Ethan debuted in another Obamacare ad, and as "Pajama Boy" he became the Shiny Media Object of the Week. This is not to say I didn't also try to capitalize on the story—I did reach out to Ethan to see if he'd talk about the blowback he's been facing as Pajama Boy, but his employer isn't letting him give interviews.

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The meme-ification cycle concluded today with what I like to call political transference, where media outlets try to dig up any information they can about someone who's completely inconsequential to a policy aside from having his face associated with it. The Washington Examiner published some of Ethan's (decidedly mundane) Instagram photos—scooplet! BuzzFeed tracked down a blog post of Ethan's in which he lightly criticized Obama's 2012 campaign strategy—scooplet! The website Naked DC claimed to have found Ethan's parents' house in the Chicago suburbs—scooplet!

So, what have we learned from these tatters of information?

1) Ethan Krupp is a human being.

2) Ethan Krupp is a human being who lives in Chicago.

3) Ethan Krupp is a human being living in Chicago who works for Organizing for Action.

4) Despite working for OFA, Ethan Krupp has had critical thoughts related to the Obama campaign.

5) Ethan Krupp is a human being living in Chicago who works for OFA and who appears to enjoy the taste of bacon.

Are you seeing the whole house of cards crumble around your ears yet? It's a shame Linda Taylor didn't have an Instagram account to be so thoroughly psychoanalyzed. Unlike during the Reagan era, Taylor's misdeeds would have been discovered within 24 hours, and heaven knows they would have been much more interesting than a filtered photo of bacon. And unlike Taylor, Ethan Krupp is effectively getting called a pansy, not for actually doing something wrong, but for letting his employer associate his face with a policy people don't like.

Poster children have been the subject of persecution before—Michelle Malkin had Graeme Frost back in 2007, and the left had Joe the Plumber as its collective punching bag during the 2008 election. What these stories ignore is that trying to glean some relevant information about a policy from its respective human talisman is always, always a horrendously stupid idea.

By trying to market Obamacare toward the demographic they need the most, the administration has invited some insanely petty acts of journalism at best and privacy invasion-cum-clickbait—er, sorry, scoopage!—at worst. But Obama's team is playing the long con—more people know about the ad now than if conservatives had simply let Ethan sip his damn cocoa in peace.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.

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