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Voting Mayhem Casts Spell Over Cyber Chatters

November 16, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AUSTIN, Texas — If the 24/7 news coverage, beside-themselves Floridians and angry emissaries from the camps of Al Gore and George W. Bush aren't enough evidence of the passions stirred by the presidential election imbroglio, consider the Internet.

On chat groups dedicated to anything from obituaries to Bruce Springsteen, gambling to animation (did you know Olive Oyl once cast a deciding vote between Popeye and Bluto?), the uncertainty over the election has taken over the national consciousness like O.J. Simpson's slow-speed chase in his white Ford Bronco.

Since the voting booths closed last week, the word "recount" has popped up more than 660,000 times on Internet chat group messages. During the 10 previous months, the word came up 14,000 times.

As in every other venue, the opinions are flowing fast and furious.

On the alt.politics chat group, a woman disgusted with the Democrats wrote the word "recount" 218 times in bold letters and then remarked: "Say it again, say it a lot, say it slowly, say it enough times so it'll be true that they're recounting for the [umpteenth] time."

Meanwhile, on alt.true-crime, talk has turned to Jeb Bush, the Florida governor and brother of the Republican presidential candidate.

Asks one of 72 messages in the newsgroup that include Jeb's name: "Is it business as usual with the Bush Brother? Do you think he's wearing a Band-Aid too?"

Then there's the musical offering that has been forwarded around the Internet: "Come listen to the story of a man named Jeb." Set to the tune of "The Beverly Hillbillies," the ditty includes the verse: He and his brother were laughing at us dolts, when up from the ground came a load of Gore votes.

The election has even pervaded such unlikely places as a chat group for fans of the Backstreet Boys--the pop quintet hugely popular with pre-pubescents. At alt.fan.backstreet.boys, the election talk has received at least one harsh rebuke.

"Hey, a LOT of the people in this [newsgroup] are NOT Americans, and I for one am sick of trying to read stuff about the Backstreet Boys when every second post is about Gore and Bush. Please concentrate on BSB stuff now, pleeeeeeeeeeeze?" suggested one crazed fan.

As if.

In a discussion group dedicated to the memory of John Denver, fans electronically held hands and bit nails as election night wore on and on. In subsequent days, regulars in the group asked for each others' help in understanding what was transpiring. "Would it be possible for some jerk to sit in a country that is 12 to 24 hours behind the U.S., watch how the election is going, and cast his vote accordingly and STILL have it postmarked Nov. 7th?" asked one "Rocky Mountain High" fan. "I just can't believe that this is so weird."

The Web has also been a soapbox for boosters and bashers of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. A message on a forum called alt.baldspot reads: "Ralph, thanks for helping me win, George W."

Meanwhile, a regular on an O.J. Simpson fan chat group had more extreme feelings, musing about the possibility of trade union members with baseball bats seeking out Nader supporters, and not for a pickup game.

Some Nader backers themselves expressed no regrets. In a chat group on the CIA, a woman said: "As far as a Nader vote, a journey starts with but a single step, and this journey is just beginning."

On another front, the words "sore loser" and "Gore" appear together at least 10,000 times in the various newsgroups. And at last count, the words "thief" and "Bush" appear together at least 4,800 times.

For a final word on the election and the so-called butterfly ballot, which confused some Palm Beach voters because of how the names of candidates faced each other, let's check with a group of folks that know something about the odds.

After one contributor to alt.gambling.poker suggested those same old folks would have had little trouble with a bingo card, another aficionado treated the question seriously.

"A little bit of a stereotype here, methinks," wrote the man. "Not all elderly play bingo. Don't know the percentage. Of those players, not all play multiple cards. Of those, not all do so competently. Yes, of those who can do what you describe, they probably got the ballot right too. The vast majority who cannot [get their bingo cards straight] might have messed up the ballot too."

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