Is @JimBridenstine Actually The Voice of Jim Bridenstine? Yes.

Keith's 29 April update: Looking back at my original posting I realized something that I had totally overlooked - something that someone like me should have paid much more attention to. In looking at @JimBridenstine tweets I saw speech patterns that I did not associate with the way that Jim Bridenstine talks. Of course, I did not stop to think that @NASAWatch - and - have a voice that is mine - but different than the way I actually speak. I have been doing this for so long I make the switch without thinking. Jim Bridenstine has surprised a number of people by diving directly into the use of social media. On one hand you want a NASA PAO strategy and filter on what the agency says and how it says it. On the other hand, these layers of filters can stiffle spontaneity and make it harder for NASA's new leader to chart his own course. Just take a look at how @ElonMusk does things. From all accounts I've heard thus far, NASA HQ was initially taken aback by this - and it is going to have to adapt to this new way of engaging with social media by its Administrator - not the other way around. This should prove to be interesting.

Keith's 28 April update: OK, so I guess this answers my question. Bridenstine's first public interaction with snarky NASAWatch and he made me eat my words. He learns fast.

Keith's original 28 April note: Last week - Monday 23 April to be exact - a Twitter account @JimBridenstine representing NASA Administrator Bridenstine suddenly became active - hours before he was actually sworn in as NASA Administrator. Eric Berger took note of its existence at 12:44 pm - 2 hours before the actual swearing in. The account itself was created in January 2011 but was dormant until its reactivation. Bridenstine used another Twitter account @RepJBridenstine for all of his official congressional activities. It stopped tweeting in August 2017 when Bridenstine's nomination was formally announced. The newly active @JimBridenstine account features a big Moon graphic and follows a mixture of aerospace companies and new outlets. Curiously @JimBridenstine first followed the Vice President's Twitter account but has yet to follow the President's Twitter account.

The way that @JimBridenstine speaks is not the way that Jim Bridenstine actually speaks. Here in Washington many of us know how Bridenstine talks. It would seem that someone is running this account for him. But Twitter is not conversation so differences in style are to be expected. This is not a big surprise since many important people have their public relations organization run their social media accounts. As such, you would expect that NASA Public Affairs would be running this account. But that is not what is happening. NASA PAO is not running @JimBridenstine. In fact, last week, multiple sources in meetings at NASA HQ recounted that NASA's AA for Public Affairs Jen Rae Wang did not know who was running @JimBridenstine and was trying to find out who was.

As is the case with the President's Twitter account, when a social media account purporting to be the official voice of a government official says something, you would rightfully expect that what is being said by that account is indeed being said by the person in whose name the Twitter account speaks - right? Right now that is not exactly certain.

As was first reported on NASA Watch on the morning of 26 April, NASA HQ has decided to cancel the Resource Prospector mission. That decision was made on 23 April while Bridenstine was being shown where the coffee machine is. In the evening of 26 April, hours after that news had already spread across NASA @JimBridenstine tweeted "Great 3rd day on the job with the @NASA family. Excited to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program." It was somewhat odd to see the (apparently) official Twitter account of the NASA Administrator talk about an "aggressive robotic program" on the Moon hours after the news of a stealthy decision within the agency he now leads to cancel a lunar robotic mission leaked out. Then again this meeting itself was done in a stealth fashion.

The next day, on 27 April at 5:11 pm, @JimBridenstine issued another official tweet "We're committed to lunar exploration @NASA. Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign. More landers. More science. More exploration. More prospectors. More commercial partners. Ad astra!". Yet sources I have spoken with at NASA HEOMD and SMD are not exactly certain where the wording for that tweet came from either. This just does not sound quite like Jim Bridenstine - and NASA PAO is not the source. But again - its Twitter.

Then, by coincidence, at 8:33 pm on 27 April, the long dormant account @RobertSWalker1 of long time commercial space advocate and Trump space advisor Bob Walker suddenly came alive after making one tweet in 2016 and others back in 2014 and tweeted "NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is off to a fast start toward implementing the President' Moon program. He is going to combine NASA instrumentation with commercial Moon landers to accelerate the Moon research program and land on several more sites than envisioned before."

And it is probably just a coincidence that an op ed by Walker's compatriot in space commerce advocacy, Newt Gingrich, appeared online on 25 April - an op ed that speaks expansively of full scale lunar resource utilization. Clearly there is a faction within the TrumpSpace world that really, really wants to go back to the Moon in a big way (hooray!) - and anyone who has listened to Jim Bridenstine in the past few years knows that he is totally on board with that. And, while I am not wanting to delve into overt conspiracy mongering, it is curious that the tone and wording of what @JimBridenstine has to say so eerily similar to what the suddenly reanimated @RobertSWalker1 has to say about commercial Moon landers.

Given that @JimBridenstine is now the official voice of the NASA Administrator, it is important to know the identity of the actual person(s) serving as the voice behind @JimBridenstine. The tweets have a decidedly non-NASA cadence to them and are being released outside of the way that NASA normally conducts its public affairs. To be blunt, @JimBridenstine needs to be Jim Bridenstine's voice - or an accurate representation thereof - not the effort of some stealthy third party. NASA should explain who is behind @JimBridenstine and #FreeJimBridenstine to speak for himself.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 29, 2018 7:58 PM.

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