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<xTITLE>Tinselgate And Online Redress</xTITLE>

Tinselgate And Online Redress

by Colin Rule
January 2010

From Colin Rule's blog.

Colin Rule

An inside chonicle of the kerfluffle (a.k.a "Tinselgate") over the White House xmas tree, with an ODR emphasis added:

"During the first three weeks of December, the White House schedule of fetes and receptions proceeds without incident. The Wish Tree is groaning with wishes. Oprah and HGTV praise and immortalize our efforts. Everyone is happy. Even Pat Nixon’s old Faberge orbs, polished up and reused in one of many bipartisan gestures, are happy.


Some grody little snapshots find their way to Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government Web site HQ....

The iPhotos contain carefully chosen and gruesomely misleading micro-close-ups of three of the 800 Blue Room balls: Barely visible is a postage-stamp-size Andy Warhol Chairman Mao from, I assume, a Pittsburgh Warhol Museum–themed ball; a micro-mug-shot of a good-hearted vaudevillian tranny entertainer named Hedda Lettuce; and a pecan-size Obama head decoupaged by a fan onto Mount Rushmore. These three details are seized upon by Mr. Breitbart and attributed directly to yours truly: “Transvestites, Mao and Obama ornaments decorate White House tree.”

The BG posting implies that I have manipulated the content of the décor to incorporate my own malevolent agenda, expressing communist sympathies and launching an attack on family values by including a mug shot of Hedda Lettuce.

There is no way to even begin to address the idiocy and inaccuracy of these notions. There is no such thing as redress on the curse that we call the Internet. Big Government has dropped me in the shazzit and the hating begins. Within hours, Hedda and mini-Mao have gone viral and global with Fox News and tens of thousands of blogs and hits.

Homicidal hatred rages. Death threats involving baseball bats and my head, etc. You get the picture. Merry Christmas, Mr. Doonan, and welcome to Tinselgate.

As somebody who was raised by an arch-conservative working-class mom and a lefty dad, I am no stranger to the concept of a feisty debate. But why the threats of violence? The willingness of wing-nut Web devotees everywhere to jump aboard the hostility train was staggering and extremely unfestive. Even Gawker fanned the flames, calling me a “noted gay male.” How about “ping-pong ace” or “animal lover?” There are many other facets to the First Elf, you know.

The one person who kept her sense of humor was Hedda Lettuce herself. (She apparently decoupaged her ball while volunteering at a senior gay fund-raiser.) Spewing double-entendres, she blogged about the exhilaration she experienced knowing that one of her balls was now hanging on the White House tree.

The irony of Tinselgate is fairly breathtaking: A person donates his time and expertise—for free!—thereby saving taxpayer money. That same person then uses his ingenuity—incorporating the creativity of kids and needy folk and reusing tchotchkes from previous administrations, thereby saving even more dosh—and ends up on the receiving end of a torrent of threats and physical abuse from his fellow Americans."


Colin Rule is CEO of Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. ("RIS"), home of,,, and a number of additional leading online dispute resolution initiatives.  From 2017 to 2020, Colin was Vice President for Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies. Tyler acquired, an ODR provider that Colin co-founded, in 2017.  Previously, from 2003 to 2011, Colin was Director of Online Dispute Resolution for eBay and PayPal.  Further, Colin co-founded Online Resolution in 1999, one of the first online dispute resolution (ODR) providers, and served as its CEO and President.  Colin also worked for several years with the National Institute for Dispute Resolution in Washington, D.C. and the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge, MA.

Colin is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, published by Jossey-Bass in September 2002, and co-author of The New Handshake: Online Dispute Resolution and the Future of Consumer Protection, published by the ABA in 2017. Colin received the first Frank Sander Award for Innovation in ADR from the American Bar Association in 2020, and the Mary Parker Follett Award from the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) in 2013. Colin holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in conflict resolution and technology, a graduate certificate in dispute resolution from UMass-Boston, a B.A. from Haverford College, and Colin served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995-1997.  You can read many of Colin's articles and see some of his talks at


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