By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
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By Tessa Stuart
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Lettuce B-Free won't give out her real name; she prefers her World of Warcraft moniker. She grew up on Staten Island and moved to Florida, where she shares an apartment with a friend and works in retail. There are two things that get her up in the morning: online gaming and the maverick libertarian politics of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. "He's an amazing man, and I agree with almost every one of his positions," she says. "I was raised to have a deep respect for the Constitution, and wow, he wants to bring it back!" On December 26, Lettuce B-Free found a way to bring the two together: organizing a Ron Paul rally in the World of Warcraft universe.
"One of our members, who went by the name of whoisronpaul, came up with the idea," Lettuce B-Free says. "And we just jumped on it. . . . So at like three in the morning, me and a bunch of people got together and signed a group charter. And it's been really fun chaos ever since."
Ron Paul's supporters have already distinguished themselves by their unorthodox campaigningthe blimp that's been floating around the South for the last month, the Guy Fawkes Day fundraising blitz. But running a virtual-campaign rally in an Internet gaming site must surely rank as one of the highlights of the season. The word went out through the online magazine World of Warcraft Insider, ronpaulforums.org, and the Wired blog. Soon, hundreds of people pledged to don their chain mail and shake their broadswords for Paul.
Unfortunately, there was one small complication one rarely encounters on the campaign trail: In World of Warcraft, you can get killed, usually by slavering beasts eager to rip you to shreds. Since all the Paul supporters would be playing new characters, they would be weak and all-too-vulnerable to monsters waiting to ambush them on the way to the rally point. In the days before the rally, Lettuce B-Free and a few other organizers hit the World of Warcraft universe, frantically fighting zombies and ogres in order to beef up enough characters to protect the newbies and act as bodyguards during the rally. Meanwhile, other players who hate Ron Paul's politics followed them around, taunting them and spitting on them (virtually).
Finally, the hour arrived: 8 p.m., New Year's Day. Almost 300 charactersbarbarians, elves, gnomes, and green, mottled thingsassembled at the small town of Kharanos, near the great dwarven city of Ironforge. They had to pick a rally point outside the big cities, because assembling so many characters in a crowded environment would slow the server down. Just before the march, Paul supporters milled around and typed snippets from the Constitution into their computers, where their characters bellowed them as text bubbles in the game.
Dozens of Ron Paul opponents donned characters of their own and milled around the edge of the crowd, where they challenged players to fight to the death.
"Unfortunately, there were folks who were there to harass us and try to stop the march," says Lettuce B-Free. "They were trying to get us to flag for [player vs. player mode], so they could kill us. They were spouting negative things, but we had already decided that we were going to be quiet and respectful and stay focused."
At 8:30, the march began, and Paul's supporters lined up single-file and tramped into Ironforge. Hecklers dogged them along the way, twirling their battleaxes and typing text bubbles like "He can't win," "He's going to ruin the economy," and "A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for socialism." The marchers chanted slogans as they boarded the tram for the human city Stormwind, and then it was on to the hamlet of Goldshare. Because she had pumped up her character to level 19, Lettuce B-Free was too busy fighting off flesh-rippers and other random beasties to look back on the crowd. But in Goldshare, she turned and gawked at what she'd created. "There was just this sea of names," she says. "The entire town was filled. That's when I realized how huge this was."
But soon Paul's supporters stumbled into more dangerous territory, and as fish-human hybrids tore the players to pieces, priest characters frantically worked their resurrection spells to keep the crowd from breaking apart. Finally, they reached Orgrimmar, a ghastly, reeking city of the orcs, which Paul supporters had agreed would serve as a stand-in for Washington, D.C. If they could storm its gates, Lettuce B-Free says, they would be symbolically taking their country back from the Beltway elites. Unfortunately, an army of Ron Paul opponents waited for them. They knew that once they got too close to the gates, all the characters would switch to player vs. player mode, and they could slaughter them at their leisure.
The bloodshed was epic. Orgimmar's guards automatically waded into the crowd and slashed left and right. Poisonous snakes slithered from crevices and sank their fangs into libertarians. Ron Paul opponents charged and struck a blow for the status quo. "I died twice," says Lettuce B-Free. "There was so much chaos. It was a mass battle." But Paul's supporters won the day, as characters breached the gates and stormed the city. The Constitution, it seems, was triumphant.