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Howling and Gaming the System

May 22nd, 2009

According to the Washington Post, the above featured T-shirt became an overnight success recently, based on its perceived popularity.

 

Something strange happened this week in Amazon.com’s apparel section.

For a day or two, a black T-shirt featuring an image of three wolves baying at a full moon claimed the top slot at the online store’s clothing bestseller list,, beating out the usual, unremarkable mix of Levi’s 505 regular-fit jeans, Crocs clogs and Adidas running shoes.

And really, why wouldn’t you buy the shirt, which is priced from $7.65 to $17.93, depending on your size? Just read the long and growing list of customer testimonials promising earth-shattering experiences or psychedelic vision quests upon purchase.

“I bought this shirt and instantly old girlfriends started calling me again,” wrote one reviewer.

“My doctor says the cancer has gone into remission,” wrote another. “Thanks for changing my life!”

As retailers, media companies and even government agencies attempt to get with the times and connect with an online audience, every once in a while they get a reminder: Anybody, or any group, armed with a Web browser can anonymously game the system and manipulate the marketplace at sites inviting user feedback — for profit or just for fun.

Hence the sudden and unexpected popularity of an old and not quite “in” T-shirt.

The shirt’s page at Amazon.com had quietly existed for years without much comment, but after a snarky link from CollegeHumor.com, the “Three Wolf Moon” shirt suddenly sprouted hundreds of five-star ratings. Reviewers have dreamed up epics about its powers, weaving fantasies involving everything from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to the pop group Duran Duran.

As the joke caught on and got passed around the Web, Photoshopped spoofs of the shirt started appearing online — featuring corgi puppies, spiders or haddock instead of the now-famous wolves.

Check out the shirts and the 5 star reviews on Amazon.com,

Perception is reality. Does this remind anyone of anything else that might have happened locally?

Have howling good weekend!

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  1. Slowpoke Rodriguez
    May 22nd, 2009 at 18:18 | #1

    The connection to what might have happened locally is rooted in the review of this t-shirt that claims that upon wearing the shirt, the reviewer’s cancer went into remission. The same sort of derangement holds that the resolution somehow damaged the county’s reputation. Actually, I would highly recommend this t-shirt to all those who believe our county has suffered in any way shape or form after the passage of the resolution….that way we know not to ask directions, seek advice, or otherwise ask these people to perform an simple tasks.

  2. Slowpoke Rodriguez
    May 22nd, 2009 at 18:19 | #2

    any

  3. Moon-howler
    May 22nd, 2009 at 18:41 | #3

    Put on a T-shirt and your property values plummet? Actually I think I had a shirt like this once. I don’t recall the magic. ;)

  4. Witness Too
    May 22nd, 2009 at 19:06 | #4

    I think the connection to what happened in county government is clear to those who have been paying attention, most of all to the Board of Supervisors.

    This article is funny. But the internet prank that had Numbers USA and Greg Letiecq played on our Board of County Supervisors had repercussions far beyond making an ugly shirt cool to the gullible.

    I don’t mind if people on college campuses game the dorky apparel industry, but overly angry people who live in Arizona and California should NOT have the right to determine police policy in Prince William County, Virginia, I don’t care how many emails they care to send to our elected officials.

    Yes, the policy may have been neutered, but it $14,000,000 is a lot of money to buy the same policy we will now have nationally under the Obama administration. Also, it sure didn’t help to have our crime rate go up while our population probable dropped and our housing market crumbled.

    I think that in a few years, the case of the ugly wolves shirt and the case of the Immigration Resolution will be obsolete. Politicians who don’t understand that the internet has the power to create illusions will not be in office any longer, either through retirement or through challenges from more tech savvy politicians.

  5. Slowpoke Rodriguez
    May 22nd, 2009 at 19:31 | #5

    Moon-howler :
    Put on a T-shirt and your property values plummet? Actually I think I had a shirt like this once. I don’t recall the magic.

    Property values plummeting??? Like having 45 illegal aliens in a flophouse next to you??? Like That?

  6. Slowpoke Rodriguez
    May 22nd, 2009 at 19:34 | #6

    If PWC could only have a little of this:
    http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/illegalaliens.jpg

    on EVERY street corner!! Our economy would be 10 feet tall and bulletproof!

  7. Moon-howler
    May 22nd, 2009 at 20:57 | #7

    Slow, I am having problems seeing what you posted. (I think)

    Witness, I certainly see the funny games with the numbers and how they fooled our board of supervisors. In many respets, it was a grand scheme of bandwagoning. I still am not sure we spent $14 million. I would like to see facts and figures on that one.

    I am not so sure the county didn’t game us on the money.

  8. Moon-howler
    May 22nd, 2009 at 20:58 | #8

    Btw, Witness, *I* don’t think that shirt is ugly. It might not be cool but it isn’t at all fugly.

  9. Witness Too
    May 22nd, 2009 at 23:42 | #9

    No, you wouldn’t think that shirt is ugly, M-H. Of course you wouldn’t with a name like that!

    It was advertised as $14,000,000 and change, over a five year period. Now that the Commonwealth and the federal government also have the same policy, I think we should ask for a refund.

    Ultimately, the internet illusion that was used to intimidate the Board into voting against the county’s interest was a good example of how politicians will make big mistakes in a fear politics environment. Somehow, we have not yet learned how to counter fear politics, other than the Obama election of 2008.

  10. Witness Too
    May 22nd, 2009 at 23:49 | #10

    I should clarify that the Board corrected their mistake when the Resolution was snip-snipped, and did indeed vote in the county’s interest. The fear politics tricks were still being performed at Citizens Time, but luckily they had come to seen the light. They brought the policy back to within the framework of the U.S. Constitution, just like the Virginia policy and just like the announced Obama policy to check status of all those people arrested (but not engage in racial profiling during routing traffic stops).

    I don’t know if the internet tricks were being tried when the Resolution was snip-snipped, but if the BOCS could live up to their duty to the county in the face of fear politics, they should be able to do it in the face of emails from angry shut-ins in California and Arizona.

    I just wish they had learned the lesson of the Moon Howling Wolves T-Shirt BEFORE we wasted all that time and money on the original Resolution when was a recipe for racial profiling law suits.

  11. Moon-howler
    May 22nd, 2009 at 23:55 | #11

    Too much bandwagoning and too much political ambition, I would say, Witness.

    That business was all about winning an election-a very costly one.

  12. Slowpoke Rodriguez
    May 22nd, 2009 at 23:58 | #12

    Ithought you might get a kick outta this. Cut and Paste directly from the NumbersUSA web site. First sentence of main story…is there a word missing??? or is this what they MEANT to say!!

    White House Schedules June Immigration Policy Meeting

    Thursday, May 21, 2009, 12:24 PM
    A White Source has confirmed that Pres. Barack Obama is scheduling a meeting to discuss immigration on June 8. According to the Wall Street Journal, the source said Congressional leaders will meet to discuss policy discussion, but legislative action isn’t planned until next year.

  13. Moon-howler
    May 23rd, 2009 at 04:45 | #13

    Oh how hilarious! Thanks Slowpoke. I think you might be on to something. Let us know how long it stays that way.

  14. May 23rd, 2009 at 07:51 | #14

    MH marketed the howling t-shirts for sure! :)

  15. ShellyB
    May 23rd, 2009 at 09:23 | #15

    The wolf heads are too large. But honestly I didn’t think the shirt was all that bad when I first saw it. Then I read the article and realized that was the point of the prank. People are laughing at it. Then I realized the shirt looked worse to me.

    Isn’t that what “style” is anyway? Bell bottoms become a fad because people are willing to accept that it’s a fad, but for no other reason. At least that I can see.

    WT, I’m with you on your interpretation of M-H’s riddle.

  16. Gainesville Resident
    May 23rd, 2009 at 10:53 | #16

    The shirt looks nice to me. one of my sisters is a wolf fanatic, she would probably like that shirt a lot. SHe has all kinds of pictures of wolves hanging in her house.

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