In Deceiving Us Has Become an Industrial Process, the weblog Rational Grounds has far exceeded the old post of mine he quotes, Common Fraud, in examining how pervasive corporate-sponsored fake grassroots organizations have become:
Answer: a lot of them, unless you’ve gone through and cleaned out every compartment.
Josh Marshall is currently beating the drum against Koch Industries and their various outfits, who are staging some protests around the Rock the Vote awards ceremony tonight. And reading his comments I was bowled over by the number of astroturf groups involved in this little network. You’ve got Social Security for All, who are actually Americans for Prosperity, who are actually the Independent Women’s Forum (Do the math yourself, really)
Then there’s Citizens for a Sound Economy (now merged with Empower America to become Freedom Works, flaming sword sold separately). They share a good deal with all the above groups. Interestingly, they also had a hand in my last post’s topic, lobbying for the tobacco companies going back to 1994.
And that’s just the groups involved with this Social Security protest shindig today. The bizarre advocacy network the government has worked up for No Child Left Behind is probably more famous, if only for it’s eventual involvement with Armstrong Williams and the illegal fake-news blocks the Bush administration put out promoting its Medicare, drug control and NCLB initiatives. (The administration shows every sign of continuing these practices.)
The Medicare and Armstrong parts of this saga are run through a PR and marketing firm named Ketchum, Inc.. An internet campaign was also mounted through Democracy, Data & Communications, a company with a breathtaking record in the astroturf world. A quick WHOIS/nslookup investigation turned up oodles of DDC fronts. [detailed list to follow] Their client list is also pretty impressive.
Harking back to Common Good for a moment, it seems tort reform, as a movement, is entirely concocted from corporate lobbying fronts. All those stories about wacky lawsuits and outrageous settlements? Lies. (Really, read the whole Making Light article.)
Social Security, tort reform, the drug war… looking through all this, I have to wonder - how many of my opinions about my world are bought and paid for?
I don’t want to give myself undue credit for precocity, but I started noticing there was something funny going on when I was a kid reading my grandparents’ copies of Readers Digest. That was where I first heard about juries making ridiculous awards in personal-injury cases. It made interesting reading, but after a while it occurred to me that I never saw articles about reasonable and justifiable personal injury awards. Surely there had to be some? Likewise articles in which the IRS wasn’t a monster, and labor unions had some good reason to exist, and politicians weren’t all windbags, layabouts, and snake oil salesmen.
I doubt we’ll ever know the whole history of astroturf. I suspect it goes back further and spreads wider than most sane people have ever imagined.