Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Pete Hoekstra's Campaign Website's "Offensive" Source Code Changed After Outcry

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, February 7 2012

As if "chop suey fonts" and obvious graphic allusions to the stereotype of the Chinese as the Yellow Peril weren't controversial enough, the group that created an incendiary microsite for former Rep. Pete Hoekstra's campaign has managed to further fan the flames with what it's calling a mistake in its code.

The Prosper Group, a Republican web design and strategy company, on Tuesday quietly removed a tag in a Hoekstra campaign site's source code that had labeled an image of an Asian woman, who also appears in an accompanying video, as "yellowgirl." The tag had been spotted by users of the social news-sharing site Reddit. In the code, that image is now dubbed "Yellowshirtgirl."

The site, titled "Debbie Spend It Now," accompanied a Super Bowl ad that invoked stereotypes of Asians generally and people of Chinese descent in particular. The ad sets a scene involving a Chinese woman speaking broken English, while riding an antiquated bicycle, in a rice paddy, and — evoking racial stereotypes and racially motivated fears that hearken back to the 18th century — eager to take the job of some American citizen.

Hoekstra caused an uproar on Sunday when the ad aired during the Super Bowl in Michigan, rolling all of this racially charged content towards the suggestion that the incumbent he hoped to unseat was somehow responsible for the Chinese holding larger amounts of U.S. Treasury debt, and that this was an existential threat to American national security. The ad campaign was created by Fred Davis of Strategic Perception.

On Reddit, members of the online community who looked at the code pretty soon noted the use of the phrase. Someone pointed it out to Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall. The Atlantic's James Fallows then called out the campaign on it, and the item has since gone viral.

By Tuesday, the name of the image had changed to "yellowshirtgirl."

Asked about the change, Kristen Luidhardt the Prosper Group's president, said: "As you saw from your own code example and file name, the color yellow was referring to the girl's shirt. The image in question was originally named "yellowshirtgirl" but was mistakenly shortened. It's that simple."

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hot Spots

How Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is making inroads in China; labor protests among Uber drivers spread to more cities; new data about the prevalence of online harassment; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Reminders

Why the RNC hasn't managed to reboot how Republican campaigns use voter data; new ways of using phone banking to get out the vote; how the UK's digital director is still ahead of the e-govt curve; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Patient Zero

Monica Lewinsky emerges with a mission to fight cyber-bullying; Marc Andreessen explains his political philosophy; tech donors to MayDay PAC get pushback from Congressional incumbents; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Front Pagers

How Facebook's trending topics feed is wrecking political news; debating the FBI's need for an encrypted phone "backdoor"; democratizing crisis data; and much, much more. GO

More