- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welcome to the Chucktatorship, whose leader — if Internet legends can be believed — would like to give you a roundhouse kick in the face.

How powerful is Chuck Norris? Powerful enough that his endorsement of Mike Huckabee could prove decisive in the Republican presidential nominating campaign.

A martial-arts film star who played the title character of the 1990s TV action series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” Mr. Norris could easily have spent the rest of his career in cable reruns and DVD sales. But thanks to a Brown University student and his TruthAboutChuck.com Internet phenomenon, Mr. Norris is now the stuff of legends.

Legends like: “There is no theory of evolution, just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.”

And: “When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.”



And: “Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad Chuck Norris has never cried.”

Such lore — or “facts” as they are known on the Internet — and their namesake have become part of the American pop landscape since the Chuck Norris “fact generator” launched in 2005. The primary audience for the facts are teenage and 20-something males.

At least one high school in Puyallup, Wash., has been known to broadcast a daily Chuck Norris “fact” on the school intercom. Internet statistics show that Chuck Norris facts are a popular late-night distraction from study in college dorms around the country. And throughout last year many of the Web site’s visitors could be traced back to Defense Department computers used by military personnel, the Web site’s owner, Ian Spector, said.

Like most pop-culture hits, it came as a surprise to everyone — especially Mr. Norris.

“No one could’ve anticipated the Internet phenomenon that developed,” said Jeff Duclos, who has acted as Mr. Norris’ publicist since “Walker, Texas Ranger” ended production in 2001. “He started hearing all this stuff and initially he was puzzled about it, but thought it was really cool.”

The supposed mythical powers of Mr. Norris have opened the door for him to promote to a wide audience his conservative political and moral agenda. Mr. Norris has proudly proclaimed himself a member of the National Rifle Association, a supporter of Bibles in public schools and a staunch Republican.

His endorsement of Mr. Huckabee in a video that became an instant sensation online when it was posted at YouTube.com in November is widely considered a catalyst for the former Arkansas governor’s victory in the recent Iowa caucuses.

The video — which featured Mr. Norris reciting Mr. Huckabee’s political positions in between clips of Mr. Huckabee reciting “facts” about Mr. Norris — worked because it mixed large doses of Internet star power with small doses of political meat, said Joe Mansour, a conservative blogger for TechRepublican.com.

“I would go so far to say it’s a very large contributing factor, and it’s part of the tipping point to Huckabee’s success,” said Mr. Mansour, a consultant for a Republican political marketing company, the David All Group. “Huckabee was having all this trouble cutting through the clutter, and Chuck Norris endorses him, and bloggers start talking about him, and he gets play in the mass media. That’s textbook of how you want to use the Internet to spread the message.”

Mr. Norris was so well-recognized on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire that long lines of fans formed around the star, leaving the impression that they had come to the event to see Mr. Norris, not the candidate, Mr. Mansour said.

But the Norris craze is not likely to carry Mr. Huckabee all the way. Although the brute strength of Mr. Norris does translate into political muscle, he’s not superhuman and is not likely to do any more for the campaign than help turn out the vote.

“I think Norris was good for the whole getting attention and getting people excited thing,” said Robert Thompson, a pop-culture specialist at Syracuse University. “I don’t think Norris is going to take a third-generation Democrat and convince him to vote for Mike Huckabee.”

When Mr. Spector, now a 19-year-old premed student at Brown, started the Web site as a high school joke, he says he wasn’t quite sure who this Mr. Norris was. It was not the name tied to the facts, but the facts themselves, that he and his friends considered funny.

“I’m 19, and I didn’t grow up watching his movies, and I didn’t watch his TV show,” Mr. Spector said. “If you take him out of the facts and put in anyone else’s name, they could still be funny.”

Although Mr. Spector says he has always felt that way, he currently has legal reasons for saying it — last month, Mr. Norris filed suit against Mr. Spector and his publisher, saying they exploited his image for financial gain through a book called “The Truth About Chuck Norris,” published in November.

“He’s suing me so it’s a little hard” for Mr. Spector to be an all-out Norris fan now, he said. “If you had asked me last year or something, maybe.”

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