HOWTO Put a hidden radio-prompter on Sarah Palin during the debate

DailyKos's Ipsos has a great technical post on the logistics of sneaking an earpiece onto Sarah Palin at the debate, from the physics of spectrum use and antenna design to earpiece-hiding techniques and more:
3. Where do you put the person doing the cueing?

This one has me stumped, because you have two problems with mutually-exclusive solutions.

Ideally, you'd like the person whispering in Sarah's ear to be somewhere far away from the debate site. You don't want someone pulling back a curtain, Oz-style, and finding Randy Schuenemann hunched over a microphone muttering about the difference between Iran and Iraq.

A hotel room somewhere else, watching on TV? Perfect...except that there's a delay issue to contend with. All the digital links from debate site to satellite uplink to network headquarters to cable company mean that several seconds can elapse between the time the question is asked on stage in St. Louis and the time a viewer sitting somewhere else hears it. And you don't want Palin standing there looking silent while waiting for the cues to come back over her earpiece. (Well, we do, actually, but...)

Then you also have the challenge of getting the whisperer's audio from the hotel room into the arena to be broadcast to Palin's earpiece. Cellphone? Those get overloaded in a busy situation, can drop out, and introduce more delay. Wi-fi? Same problems, to a greater degree. (This is also why you don't just drop a tiny cellphone down Palin's back and connect it to a concealed earpiece - it solves the spectrum issue, but it's just not reliable enough when you need it to be.)

How they'd put a bug in Palin's ear tonight (Thanks, Bill!)


  1. Its the government, they can hide a video camera in tiger shit. Im sure they can easily rig this up for the beauty queen.

  2. “…muttering about the difference between Iran and Iraq.”
    It’s just one letter. How hard could that be?

  3. Remember the way President Bush was put under a microscope during and after the 2004 debates? The video was examined frame by frame and radio frequencies were scanned to find an off screen person giving him answers. I’m pretty sure Democrats will be scanning every possible radio frequency to make sure Palin isn’t being prompted off camera. C’mon, there is no way Republicans will be able to hide transmissions to Palin without the tech geeks, watching out for such tricks knowing about it. Sure, it’s fun to talk about, but it’s not gonna happen – you know it and I know it.

  4. dn’t gt t; why r y brngng ths p Mr. Dctrw?

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    1. I am also starting to lose faith in BoingBoing as well as some other once trusted online resources because of this sudden advertised support of one candidate or the other.

      Because BoingBoing has long preached that we should sit quietly and pretend that nothing is wrong? I admit that Cory usually advocates complete passivity in the face of a hostile government, but surely just this once he can be allowed a strong opinion.

  5. Well, there were some very suspicious gazes toward her podium where it looked like she was being prompted and spoke fluently, then she’d look up, and it was right back to Sarah as usual. My roomie said, “She looks like people do when they’re reading a text message.” It’s fine and right that Cory posted this, because there is so much to lose if the people do not know everything there is to know.

  6. Radio is too easily discovered. Use multiple ultrasonic transducers around the hall to create audio frequency interference that only she can hear. There’s no equipment for her to wear, no radio to be picked up on scanners, no frame-by-frame analysis that will disclose an impropriety.

  7. As a technical matter they could mount an IR receiver on her back and feed her signal that way. No radio for anyone to overhear. However she is perfectly good at waffling along and saying nothing at length about things she knows nothing about. I don’t think they need to feed her cues while she’s on the podium.

  8. @5: Which blog have you been reading? The one I’ve been writing is totally and absolutely opposed to the Republican party, its agenda and its legacy over the past eight years, a grotesque perversion of constitutional liberties and science. Obama disappointed me by supporting GWB’s illegal wiretapping program, but it is GWB and the GOP’s wiretapping program, after all. McCain is more of the same, and Palin is a nightmarish totalitarian in half-specs who believes in censorship, opposes medical freedom, and believes in the primacy of greed over science and the environment.

  9. an interesting technical challenge. Perhaps easily disguised brute force on the radio spectrum; say a neon sign transformer on the premises “shorting out” to create a broad frequency spark gap pop? Enough to make her flinch on cue? The tight beam sound projection is harder, maybe “support” placards in the way – but how to know the beam paths? IR beam now, that could also be spoofed by hostile projectors bounced around the room…
    Best to just seed rumors the dirty deed was done – same result anyway.

  10. It didn’t seem to me as if she was wearing a wire. The way the first couple sentences of all her answers were delivered in a rapid-fire monotone as she started into the camera, it was more like she was rushing to deliver talking points she’d memorized beforehand. Then, once she’d gotten those out of the way, she’d relax and slow down a bit, regain facial expressions, modulate her voice.

  11. the idiots love their idiot. What greater proof that god is in his heaven and all is right on earth that an idiot as inarticulate,ignorant and scatterbrained as themselves is deemed fit to run the country? The fact the Lesser Bush didn’t actually bring on Armageddon (although he DID manage to impoverish them) just supports their “thinking”.

    The universe and its laws exist independently of the idea of America. Ultimately, stupidity is punished by extinction. Idiots also have trouble with time.

  12. Joey clearly had some good things to say, but if they were a duo skating, she would’ve been cowtowing and triple lutzing all over his stumbling and falling. Sad, but true analysis. He’s going to get voted off tomorrow night, just you wait and see.

  13. I think posting the link to the DailyKos article is fine, the actual article is clearly speculative, as it says so in the first paragraph. If you read it now, after the debate, the author updated it to include his assessment that she didn’t appear to be coached remotely.

    As a technical review of what is possible, it was an interesting read.

  14. PUHLEASE — what a bunch of conspiracy-minded hogwash. she didn’t *need* to be wired for this. it was very clear that her script was all written down clearly right there on her notes in front of her, and she deviated very little from them.

  15. I didn’t watch the debate – how did she do really? – I know whose names to trust.

    Either way – I’ll do an in depth check tomorrow- hell – it’ll be all over the news tomorrow at the station – but I trust the opinions here from people who’s past posts were on the level more than I do the News.

  16. Tom Hale (the commenter formerly known as Trvth):
    What do you mean, “how did she do?” I don’t think you get to ask that. You already proclaimed your disdain for the event; so if you’re not interested, don’t pretend to be.

    But for everyone else who might indeed care, I thought she did well. Summary: not so terrible after all.

  17. found and watched perhaps thirty seconds: This person is of second or third rate intellect and has little ethical strength. Any who would vote for her are fools. That such low calibre is even entertained bodes ill for America. Other nations also use figure head leaders but most strive for at least minimal credibility. A clear case of Caligula’s horse and with the same peril.

  18. Johnny Cat gives me an idea … She wears glasses right? Suppose there’s a miniature laser that projects text right on her retina. That’ll be near impossible to catch. The person prompting her will be seated right in the audience, typing into a laptop.

    Unfortunately I’m not going to get rich from this idea. Some people already thought of it …

    In fact, amongst the top applications they listed are
    # Giving a speech while information is streamed to your eyeglasses in real time
    # Presenting to a crowd with your notes secretly stowed away in your eye glasses

    If it looked like in that picture (and you don’t look like Star Trek’s Geordi), I’d buy one straight away. But I think they’re still working on it.

  19. I just watched the debate with my students, and they were fairly certain that she was receiving text-messages behind the podium.

    (they were unimpressed)

    I had to agree it did look that way – regularly looking down at a specific point in space and smiling…

    It’s funny how these subtle behaviors send a message, and make an impression.

  20. I didn’t actually see the debate (I’m not American so don’t follow these things closely), but do you have any reason to think she was prompted? Or is this just a fun intellectual excercise that just happens to imply foul play by the terrifying right-wingers?

    To the people who say she paused to look down before answering – have you considered the possibility that she was considering her response, then smiling as she thought of a good answer? I know it might pain you to imagine a republican wth the power of thought, but they’re people too you know.

    It’s something I had drilled into me by various debate and interview courses over the years: after a question, take a couple of seconds to figure exactly what the questioner means and decide on your answer. Spending those few seconds silently staring at your audience looks and feels weird, los of people look off to the side, or if they’re surrounded on all sides, look down where there’s no-one staring back at them.

  21. #23: Cory does have a wry sense of humour. I’d go with option 2, or something in between.

    #15: “The tribe has spoken”?

    I don’t know. I started out reading the transcripts, and Palin seemed to struggle to string a complete, grammatically correct sentence together, while Biden spoke calmly, clearly and firmly.

    Then I watched some of the footage, and the folksy charm almost carries it through. I say almost, though – when she got into Miss Teen USA South Carolina mode, I winced.

  22. Avram @11: I’ll agree with you AND Easy2Panic @5. I’m not going to tell the Boing Boingers what they can blog about, but I don’t come here for the partisan politics and I’m disappointed that it’s headed more and more that direction.

    I’m just going to pass on the blog so that I don’t have to listen to the partisan agenda. There are lots of things here that I enjoy, but whether or not I agree with their politics, I don’t come here to listen to it, so I’m going to go to a different party.


  23. She’s wearing glasses. Couldn’t that be a good place for it? She’s also wearing a different pair than I’m used to seeing and they have thicker earpieces… hrmmmmm?

  24. I thought Biden actually did better than Palin in the debate. That is no surprise. ‘m stll nt vtng fr bm. Nt chnc.

  25. Anyone interested in investigating Joe Biden’s bald spot to determine if an inverted parabolic listening device was in play? Hairplug antenna’s…anyone…

  26. What would be the point of a hidden microphone? Two sides of the same coin. It’s another election I’ll throw my vote away by voting 3rd party.

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