What is astroturf?
Well everyone knows the answer to that… it is that strange fake grass that has taken over far too many football stadiums.
True or False?
Both, but as I am about to discuss it, Astroturfing refers to political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are designed to mask the sponsors of the message to give the appearance of coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. Astroturfing is intended to give the statements the credibility of an independent entity by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.
Astroturfers use software to mask their identity. Sometimes one individual operates over many personas to give the impression of widespread support for their client’s agenda. Some studies suggest astroturfing can alter public viewpoints and create enough doubt to inhibit action.
The tea-party is famous for them. The Koch brothers
have founded more of them than I can name. Big pharmaceutical, Agra-business, Big tobacco, Politicians…
It is actually very simple. Hire someone like me who is good at organization and public speaking. Pay them a lot of money to start a “grass-roots” organization that is supposed to be a movement by the people and for the people in order to get some change to occur. Seed this organization with more paid supporters and even a few paid dissenters, because having dissent makes an argument more powerful and compelling. Town Hall Meetings – they are nearly all seeded with paid individuals on both sides to ask specific questions… some pro-policy in order to give the politician a chance to shine and look popular… some anti-policy in order to give the politician an opportunity to turn it into a witty answer to a “hard” question that he or she was already well prepared to answer… making them look good even to their detractors.
The “tea-party” is the greatest example of this. The “tea-party” is actually nothing more than an astroturf re-sodding of the John Birch Society
. Some things you should know… The Koch Brothers have been funding conservative “think tanks” officially since 1971
. Currently, they control the Citizens for a Sound Economy
and Americans for Prosperity
openly… and that does not even get into the numerous other “grass-roots” organizations that have been traced back to them financially. The John Birch Society was beaten into obscurity by one of its own former members, William F. Buckley Jr.
and Ronald Reagan… with both being dead, there have been few to point out the fact that the “tea-party” is nothing more than the Koch Brothers trying to revive an old political movement that was as bad an idea then as it is now.
Here is what truly upsets me about all this – it is not that people are ignorant (to be honest, I have almost come to expect that people are too easily fooled). What upsets me is that the vast majority of those who identify themselves as members of the “tea-party” are actually the people who would be hurt the most by them coming into power. The working middle class… yes, they want to keep the money they earn and rightly so… but if the “tea-party” ever truly gained control, there would be no middle class and they would be the ones hit hardest financially. They are also often the people with the least access to the education to teach them that these “grass-roots” organizations that sound so logical when they speak about small government and keeping your hard earned money and changing how Washington works… are bought and paid for soundbites that have been being tested in “think tanks” for over 4 decades to appeal to that group of voters.
I mean, I should be grateful because the “tea-party” has caused such a schism within the Republican Party that the vote gets split which increases the chances of Democratic rule. Of course, this would make me a lot happier if todays Democrats did not hold the exact same policies as yesterdays post-Birch Society Republicans. Do you have any
idea how close the policies of President Obama
and President Reagan
- Once upon a time, the DNC was the people’s party. They looked out for the lower and middle classes. Their biggest weakness was lack of organization because they held a fundamental belief that each legislator should vote their conscious and their constituency.
- Contrarily, the RNC was the educated party – they were the “think tanks” and the Ivy League grads who all spoke with one voice and one vote – while that voice and that vote was not always something that I agreed on – they got things done, where as (best evidenced by President Carter – best post-presidential career ever) the DNC had trouble getting much of anything done.
- Everything has been flipped on its heads. Now the RNC wants to swill beer and pretend that they are the people’s party and that the DNC are just a bunch of intellectual elitests (personally, I want someone smarter than me running the nation but hey… if you want the guy who drinks beer with you and can’t throw darts for shit – have at it). Of course – the fact that most of them are still Ivy League educated and Wall Street funded gets ignored. Why – because they have kept one core principle. They still speak with one voice and one vote. So the soundbite goes out to every candidate that they are going to take over Washington and look out for your best interests – while it is Wall Street’s money that is putting them there and it is Wall Street and big business that they will be concerning themselves with. They have jammed the legislative bodies up so bad that it is like passing legislation is like getting a rich man into heaven (you know… pass through the eye of a needle… if I have to explain it you don’t get it). Moderates, like Huntsman, who might actually be decent candidates can’t even get to the Primary because they poll so low because we the people or rather the astroturf organizations that speak for us say that we want extremists…
- Personally – I take a pretty dim view of the tea-party movement. If you look at the creation and momentum, you will see that it really started to get a foothold when it was looking like we might get our first African American President. Now, I do not want to get into how “black” President Obama is or the “right” or “wrong” of playing what is so shamefully called the “race card” but the reality is that most of those drawn to the tea-party movement are white middle-americans. They are people who are easily convinced with the right rhetoric that allowing homosexuals the right to marry will somehow affect their own marriages (I will never understand that one – beyond it just being against the 14th Amendment but then most of these folks stop at the 2nd Amendment), that Mexicans are flooding our borders to take all of the jobs (when in truth migrant workers come and take jobs that actual experimentation has proven that white Americans will not take even if paid minimum wage and offered benefits), and that President Obama is actually a secret Muslim who is not even born in this country (we will ignore the fact that one of the troubles early in his campaign was his association with an outspoken and extremist Christian minister, that the long form of his birth certificate has been produced, and that in all reality – the whole birther thing is pretty stupid (and also yet another example of astroturfing) considering the lengths one would have to go to in order to plan all the way back when he was born all that was needed in the hopes that he would become President one day. Truth – Stephen Colbert started the secret Muslim thing as a satirical joke and now feels terrible that it was taken so seriously that it has yet to die down.) It is easy to sell the tea-party ideas to a bunch of people who are in all reality suffering a backlash of a horrifyingly disastrous Republican Presidency and then the election of an African American President – so yea… post race America… think again. But then again – that is just my personal and very cynical voice talking.
I do not know what the next four years will bring and I do not know what the next Presidential Election will look like. I’m hoping that people are paying enough attention to vote in the Mid-Terms this go-round, but I’m not counting on it. All I ask is that you think for your self… and if any organization claims to be “grass-roots” dig it up and see just how dirty those roots are.