[ExI] Astroturf - Is anything 'real' out there?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Aug 2 09:02:14 UTC 2011

I used to think that Astroturf lobbying was just a couple of campaigns
like those protest groups created by the tobacco industry to support
smokers freedom rights to smoke themselves to death, but I now realise
that today it is standard operating procedure for every big
corporation, as a part of their PR campaigns.


Astroturfing is a form of propaganda whose techniques usually consist
of a few people attempting to give the impression that mass numbers of
enthusiasts advocate some specific cause. In the UK this technique is
better known as "rent-a-crowd" after the successful "rent-a-crate"

The term "astroturfing" is also used to describe public relations
activities aimed at "falsely creating the impression of independent,
popular support by means of an orchestrated and disguised public
relations exercise....designed to give the impression of spontaneous
support for an idea/product/company/service," according to the
Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Social Media

Another name is to call them 'cashroots' campaigns to contrast them
with grassroots campaigns.
And the point is that supporters of these corporate funded campaigns
are fully convinced of the rightness of their cause.

That the anger is real doesn't make it any less manufactured. It's
literally a product, the sum of a public relations campaign
orchestrated by some of the wealthiest interests in the country. The
goal is to scare ordinary Americans, who've been shaken up by the
economic crash of 2008, into opposing health care reforms intended to
help protect them from insurance industry practices that hurt real
people every day. As Rachel Maddow noted, the industry's profits have
literally quadrupled while countless Americans have been denied
coverage or squeezed with higher premiums for policies riddled with

This recent controversy over health reform is partly the product of a
well-financed disinformation campaign by groups like "FreedomWorks,
Inc." That's the name of a registered non-profit that is greatly
funded by undisclosed for-profit corporations. Before this group was
re-branded with a fancy new name, leaked documents showed that 85
percent of its funding came from huge donations from big companies,
like Philip Morris, and right-wing foundations, like those funded by
the mega-rich Scaifes. This was under its former name, "Citizens for a
Sound Economy" (CSE). Because its brand new name is more Orwellian
than I can stand, I'm just going to call it "F-Works" from here on

With all these cashroots campaigns, "Follow the money!"  Where does
their funding come from? Though that can sometimes be very difficult
to find out.


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