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Republicans’ Iran Letter Ignites Fierce ‘#47Traitors’ Debate Online

MARCH 11, 2015

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    The political conversation on social networks in the United States this week continues to be dominated by a partisan debate over the open letter to the leaders of Iran posted online Monday by 47 Republican senators.

    Outraged Democrats, eager to defend President Obama’s effort to negotiate a deal intended to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, posted tens of thousands of messages on Twitter. They used the tag #47Traitors to describe the Republicans who signed the letter and who the Democrats say are undermining the president’s authority

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    I'm glad the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden was secret, so no Republican Senators could send him a letter about it first. #47Traitors

    — JRehling (@JRehling) March 11, 2015
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    Another draft found near the crayons.....to the right of their toy box. .... of the #47Traitors pic.twitter.com/WIYo3LVSJJ

    — NO! GOP! NO! (@NoGOPNo) March 11, 2015

    Supporters of the letter from Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas responded indignantly on the same thread and tried to create a more flattering one, #47Patriots.

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    The Founding Fathers who turned against a tyrannical government were called traitors also. #47Traitors are actually #47Patriots.

    — HighHorseCrusader (@desjax) March 10, 2015
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    To thwart Reagan, John Kerry met with dictator Daniel Ortega to usher in communism in South America. #47Traitors pic.twitter.com/q1YXAjhIQM

    — Ban Collectivism (@mrgeology) March 11, 2015

    As a result, the response to the letter has been at or near the top of Twitter’s trending topics for three days.

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    Amazingly #47Traitors is still #1 trending topic on Twitter. The @GOP needs to thank all the neo-cons that made this possible.

    — Dean Obeidallah (@Deanofcomedy) March 11, 2015

    The #47traitors tag was used more than 208,000 times by Wednesday afternoon, according to data compiled by Brandwatch, a technology firm that tracks discussions on social networks. The firm noted that the intensity of the Twitter mentions spiked on Tuesday, after Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced the letter during a televised news conference at the United Nations.

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    Hillary Clinton spoke on the #47Traitors and their open letter to Iran. Frame this! #GOPTreason pic.twitter.com/V6cv7jXuCZ

    — Hillary 2016 (@HlLLARY) March 11, 2015

    Although partisans on both sides of the political divide used the tag, Brandwatch reported that there were more than three negative messages about the letter’s signatories for every positive one. There were just over 9,500 messages tagged #47Patriots, by contrast.

    The avalanche of angry conversations over the letter, under various hashtags or none, seemed to illustrate that the subject of war and peace in the Middle East gains most traction among Americans when there is a partisan divide over American foreign policy, as there was regarding the invasion of Iraq.

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    It appears a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq were not enough. pic.twitter.com/6dBJirBtgl

    — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 9, 2015
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    Actions taken by the #Iran47 do have precedent. In 1980 backdoor dealings with Iran produced an "October Surprise." http://t.co/FDpndhMJpl

    — LeftCoastLean (@LCL21CE) March 10, 2015

    The online conversation about the letter included sharp comments from a number of officials and pundits, including William Kristol, whose Emergency Committee for Israel donated heavily to Mr. Cotton’s Senate campaign.

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    I see #47Traitors is trending on Twitter, a testimony to the infantile McCarthyism of today's Left. #47Patriots

    — Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 11, 2015
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    Emergency Committee For Israel threw nearly a million dollars into Tom "#IranLetter" Cotton's Senate race http://t.co/Cd98UzjOdg #47Traitors

    — Trita Parsi (@tparsi) March 11, 2015
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    GOP letter to Iranian clerics undermines American leadership. No one considering running for commander-in-chief should be signing on.

    — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 11, 2015
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    .@HillaryClinton No one who allows Iran to become a nuclear power should consider running.

    — Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) March 11, 2015

    The debate over the letter also drew its author into a direct dialogue on Twitter with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. After Mr. Cotton alerted Mr. Zarif to a Persian translation of the letter, the American-educated diplomat responded with a copy of his detailed reply in English.

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    .@JZarif also, in case you need a translation... http://t.co/NVWL4PSFi1 pic.twitter.com/LfOl16gWiu

    — Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) March 9, 2015
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    .@SenTomCotton ICYMI my response. In English. http://t.co/jEleaAjGaG pic.twitter.com/9482aLbSC6

    — Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 10, 2015

    Beyond simply demonstrating his mastery of English, in his answer to the letter Mr. Zarif accused the Republican senators of failing to understand either their own Constitution or that the negotiations, between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, were not, in fact, intended to produce the sort of bilateral treaty between the United States and Iran that would require ratification by the Senate.

    Mr. Zarif’s reply was heartily applauded by Iranians on social networks, according to the BBC Persian correspondent Bahman Kalbasi.

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    While Cotton MAY raise his profile w/ voters in AK for #47GOP, Zarif is def. getting a loud cheer from #Iran’s social media 4 his response.

    — Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) March 10, 2015

    It remains to be seen whether the uproar over the letter will ultimately help or hinder the negotiations, but Sobhan Hassanvand, the social media editor of Iran’s Shargh Daily, noted that in Tehran, too, there was a clear partisan divide over the letter. While newspapers close to the hard-line conservatives opposed to any deal focused on the letter, Mr. Hassanvand noted, the front pages of reformist dailies featured Mr. Zarif’s reply.

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    Iran hardline dailies have GOP letter on front pages that possible nuclear deal won't last after Obama - #IranTalks pic.twitter.com/HCWQDX3bpT

    — Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) March 10, 2015

    Iran reformist dailies have @JZarif response to GOP letter on front page, unlike right dailies having #IranLetter pic.twitter.com/zCv7nckSdi

    — Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) March 10, 2015


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