― Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"
Word is out that JJ may be (soonish, DJ! hopes) posting at her blog. In anticipation of this, as well as the tentative arrival of springtime in Ontario ―possibly in Manitoba and Yurp as well― this seemed relevant.
In 1985, responding to an influx of mailers promoting insurance company interests in his district, Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) reportedly said, “A fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grassroots and AstroTurf.” He was referring to the difference between an actual, organic uprising among constituents and a manufactured movement often paid for by corporate or other interests to simulate the real thing. The name stuck, and since that time, the term “astroturf” has been used to describe these contrived public campaigns.From here. Our emphasis.
The Tea Party may be a movement that blossomed as a result of this kind of corporate astroturfing. A study by the National Cancer Institute found the tobacco industry paid millions to fund free-market oriented “grassroots” groups that were aligned with their interests against cigarette taxes, the Clinton health care plan and the EPA’s findings regarding the dangers of second-hand smoke. Many key players in the Tobacco-funded groups Citizens for a Sound Economy and FreedomWorks went on to play a major role in the formation of the contemporary Tea Party. Likewise, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and CSE are funded by the notorious billionaire Koch brothers, who have poured their wealth into causes such as abolishing social security, welfare and public schools.
Fortunately for astroturfers, costly forms of the practice, such as the building of physical crowds, are less necessary today now that so much of the public sphere has moved online. As a result, other forms of message control are blooming. Wikipedia is targeted by politicians, corporations and SEO advertisers desperate to improve their images on a neutral but participatory platform. The regularity of these editing campaigns can even be used to predict political appointments or running mates.
It reminds us of the MASSIVE blogging fun we've shared, writing about the many failed efforts by the religious right-wing to appear significant to the majority of Canadians.
We're hoping for a scathing follow up to Marci McDonald's "The Armageddon Factor" or better still, an exposé by investigative journalists Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher on the complex range of CPC astroturf tactics, who directs them, how they're funded and if they're connected to Harper ReformaTories' electoral fraud and voter suppression strategy.
Grand merci to Námo Mandos whose hilarious post at the other place brought Gittlitz' piece to my attention.