Meet the SWILs

When campaign season rolls around and the SWILs become active, what you see isn't necessarily what you'll get

As we approach the primary elections on July 31, political campaigns will be heating up and the SWILs will shift their rhetoric into high gear. For the uninitiated, SWIL is an acronym for Sleazes, Weasels, Inbreeds and Liars.

Typically, SWILs like to work in the shadows and keep their sleazy, weaselly activities under cover. Sometimes they send messengers to do their dirty work, sometimes they use the Post Office to deliver it (while they hide behind fake return addresses) and on rare occasions, they encourage under-achieving SWILs to crawl out of the shadows and stand in the light of day. Even if you didn’t know what they are called, you’ve all seen SWILs before—you’ve even heard a few of them speak at various functions.  But you may not be familiar with some of the ways they operate, so here's a little bit of insight.

A favorite SWIL tactic is to state a fact or two that leads people to believe something is true—when it is actually false. They do this by leaving out or twisting the information that tells the true story. As an example, picture a SWIL-- let's call him Douglas. Douglas wants to cause problems for a candidate who is running against a fellow SWIL, so when he hears a story about a situation involving the candidate he opposes, he slithers off to plant the seeds of deception.

For our brief journey into SWILdom, we'll make up a situation (in this case a transaction) and then put a SWIL spin on it. Our imaginary transaction involves the SWIL's adversary offering to buy some sign brackets. The owner of the brackets delivered them, but had decided to donate them and refused payment. Pretty simple. But when Douglas tells the story he states, "Bill (name changed to protect the guilty) offered to buy some brackets and they were delivered to him. But you know what? That son-of-a-gun never paid for them."

Those are all true statements but by leaving out the fact that the seller had told Bill to forget about payment because he was donating the brackets, Douglas made an honest and forthright transaction seem shady and dishonest. Playing SWIL games is even easier with political issues because they're usually complicated, which provides numerous opportunities to leave out or twist the facts.

No specific physical characteristics are required to become a SWIL, which makes it difficult to recognize a SWIL on the rare occasions that they ooze out of the shadows. However a SWIL’s real stock-in-trade is the type of communication that does not associate a face with a name—anonymous mailings, blog posts and letters to the editor signed with an initial, fake name or no signature at all.

The signature, or lack thereof, is often the first clue. The second is the extent and detail of the “information” that’s presented. With a few exceptions, people who are not involved with a specific campaign (one related to a candidate or a referendum) aren’t able to quote chapter and verse concerning the topic at hand. So when you read a post or a letter written by a person who claims to be just an average citizen, and it incorporates all the gory details about an issue, you can bet he or she is a SWIL with a personal agenda. You can also bet that in spite of all the detail, some significant facts are missing.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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