"I've been called so many nasty things on Facebook." It's a badge worn by many people who brave the Internet. But lately, it has Vinny Minchillo feeling sad.
"Discourse is so nasty and mean," says Minchillo, a Texas-based ad maker currently heading Glass House Strategy. "It seems like it's OK to say anything to a Republican. People say things about Republicans that they would say about a terrorist or thug."
Minchillo is determined to change this perception with his new campaign, "Republicans Are People Too."
The centerpiece is the above ad, which argues that not only do many Republicans read the New York Times — in public — but that they also take part in the very trends that occupy the paper's pages.
Or cooking fancy food.
Minchillo's campaign also has a Twitter feed. He even sprung for a Facebook page, despite his disappointment with the medium's trolls. Minchillo says the feedback he's gotten so far has been "wonderful." "It warms the cockles of my Republican heart," he says.
However, he expects his "first 'You Stink' comment any minute."
Minchillo's bio on Glass House's Web site notes that he was the "first person to write an ad with the 'I approve this message' disclaimer," that he "defeated Harold Ford and upset the Canadians" and "introduced the world to 'Community' star Joel McHale." According to a Washington Post story from 2012, he also races lawn mowers.
He did a lot of work for Mitt Romney's presidential bid as part of the campaign's self-described team of "Mad Men." He talked to Texas Monthly in late 2012, and it was clear that a distaste for social media was already brewing.
"What happens in a lot of those memes, is usually something that is not true or half-true is at the base of them, and they’re posted and posted and re-posted long enough to where people think it’s true," he told Erica Grieder. "That’s always a little dangerous, but I kind of feel like in the world of social media, no one’s ever going to get convinced."
Although Minchillo has done work for big Republican organizations, he says the "Republicans Are People Too" campaign is a personal project. "It's not funded by the Koch brothers or anything," he said.
He thought now was the perfect time for such a campaign, since Glass House Strategy isn't involved in any of the big races in this year's midterm election. They've been "doing mostly public affairs stuff."
But the nasty comments that Minchillo so despises are definitely not reserved for Republicans alone — and neither are stereotypes. A new Gallup study shows that a majority of Americans have unfavorable opinions of both parties. A Pew Research Center study that the Fix wrote about on Monday showed that people often perceive that the group they identify with is the one that receives the most backlash.
And public discourse -- especially online -- has never found a friend in nuance.
Minchillo concedes that plenty of groups are treated horribly online, but still thinks Republicans are reserved some of the worst vitriol. "Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist," he said, "but other groups seem to get way more help. Democrats are treated better on TV. It always seems like a Republican is the bad guy."
This is yet another issue where both parties are condemned to never agree. In 2012, the Obama presidential campaign complained that the media was too favorable to the person Minchillo was making ads for.
Overall, of course, the perception of a "liberal media" is far more widespread. And Minchillo is suggesting that is carrying over into the conversation on social media.
But if Minchillo really wants to strike a chord, his next video — and he says more are on the way — should focus on the main gripe that led him to start the campaign in the first place.
Republicans are people too — because they have Twitter trolls, just like you.