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August 23, 2006

Our discourse. Falsified.
Posted by Teresa at 05:54 AM *

Am moving at a dead run here, on my way to Worldcon, but most earnestly recommend Thomas Nephew/Newsrack Blog’s “Their voice. Amplified.” or Why I’m banning 151.200.70.* comments, on astroturf operations aimed at weblogs.

See you in Anaheim—

Comments on Our discourse. Falsified.:
#1 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 09:56 AM:

I'm wondering if Making Light records IP addresses, and if you guys have had any visitors/posters from that block...

#2 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 10:30 AM:

Margaret Mead was more right than she knew when she said "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world when they've got millions of dollars worth of IT services to play with." (Or something like that.)

I'll resist the temptation to suggest what would be obviously naive and uninformed solutions to this problem. But I'm glad stuff like this is getting light shined on it.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 12:01 PM:

This sounds like another illustration of the rule that any good thing can be perverted.

#4 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 02:17 PM:

Apparently my security settings won't allow the linked entry to display; all I get is a blank white page. Could someone provide a 3-sentence summary?

#5 ::: JulieB ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 02:31 PM:

I got through by going back to the root and clicking on the link to the blog. Try this and see if it works for you.

#6 ::: Michael Falcon-Gates ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 04:35 PM:

I don't usually think this, but There Oughta Be A Law. Because when the alternative is "firebomb their office," there really oughta be a law instead.

#7 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 05:28 PM:

I can't account for the difficulty this afternoon, and hope it's over with now. I have a site that loads a little slowly at the best of times; maybe that plus the visit rate today bollixed things up a bit.

So far no one has come forward to report other comments from that IP address (152.200.70.*), so that part of what I wrote about may have been an isolated incident. This was a way of trying to find out. And the rest (about astroturfing and OnPoint Advocacy) remains a valid concern regardless.

(Re Mr. Falcon-Gates: as far as I'm concerned, I think we should focus on the remedy of exposure, certainly over violence -- I assume that wasn't serious -- but perhaps also over some well-intentioned law that would boomerang on us.)

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 08:08 PM:

Thomas, I have a very good ear for prose, and sometimes it makes me lazy. I've occasionally gotten comments at Making Light that were clearly pro astroturf, but I didn't read auguries from their IP addresses.

I've sometimes pointed them out for what they are, which may be why I haven't seen any more lately. Or possibly they've reassigned me to a sufficiently subtle astroturfer; but I doubt it. I'm not important enough to warrant the attention of someone good enough to get past my ear, if you can follow that.

(Dear God, please don't let me turn out like those raddled old street activists I used to run into, who were always so sure their every phonecall was being recorded and analyzed, and who so obviously would have been heartbroken to find out otherwise.)

But I'm sure the ones I'm talking about were true astroturf. Real human beings don't respond to discussions of marginally related subjects with one of the standard slick paragraphs about tort reform.

What weirds me out is the disproportion of resources. We blog in our spare time, on our own nickel. On the other side of the divide, there are educated, literate human beings getting paid to pretend to make spontaneous personal comments in our weblogs.

(I'm going to digress now.)

I've often thought the reason there are so many college right wingers is that there are so many more jobs to be had working for the right wing. It's a career move.

I keep remembering those two awful girls who made such a nuisance of themselves here after my neighbor's murder was reported in the papers. They'd done paid political work, and I think clearly expected to do more in the future, even though their judgement, skill sets, self-control, and overall intelligence weren't anything I'd want on a campaign staff. Maybe they were right. One of the big things privilege is about is giving good jobs to your unqualified friends.

Maybe they'll wind up working for DD&C. It's a depressing thought; but hey, better there than FEMA.

#9 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2006, 11:12 PM:
On the other side of the divide, there are educated, literate human beings getting paid to pretend to make spontaneous personal comments in our weblogs.

Teresa, why do you think that? It seems to me this could be a semi- or fully-automated process.

#10 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 12:29 AM:

Julie: thanks, that did indeed work. I'm appalled, but not the least little bit surprised; it's all of a piece any more.

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 02:10 AM:

For me, the depressing thought it that most people don't have the mental tools installed to recognise the lurching topic nature of such comments, OK, so topic lurching is a default in fandom, but even in fandom people don't jump into politics and stay locked on like a Sidewinder.

Over on RASFF, there's too many threads which do the equivalent of an anime missile launch. And most of the cloud of chaff and decoy flares seems to come from the right-wing.

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 04:05 AM:

In the Guardian today, and available online, an article on the troubles of WalMart.

The penultimate paragraph is significant to this thread:

The fightback includes the establishment of a lobbying group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, spending millions of dollars in donations to politicians, and sending "voter guides" to its staff.

Author at We have a different political vocabulary here, but I'm tempted to mention Astroturf campaigning to him. Should I wait until people are back from the Worldcon?

#13 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 10:15 AM:

All your discourse are belong to us!

#14 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 10:23 AM:

Dave Bell has hit on exactly the right word, the word I've been using in my head for some time now: chaff.

#15 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 04:45 PM:

" that part of what I wrote about may have been an isolated incident."

Just in case I should clarify that, all I meant was that the particular comment at my blog may not have been part of a particular concerted astroturf(/shill/chaff) campaign on its topic -- not that such campaigns don't occur. I have no doubt you're right about the comments you've spotted here.

#16 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 06:07 PM:

Dave Bell, Andrew Young -- former Atlanta mayor, former UN ambassador, civil rights activist -- just resigned from Working Families for Walmart because he issued a racist statement.

#17 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 09:21 AM:

Ann Bartow ("Feminist Law Professors") noticed this and published a post with links to four other times bloggers have noticed "chaff" from astroturf outfits -- "multiple" people with the same IP address and ISP posting anti-net-neutrality items, repeated visits from astroturf outfits like "Netvocates", etc. See "On 'Astroturfing' and Paid Shills"; it's also cross-posted at "," another interesting site.

#18 ::: Ann Bartow ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2006, 11:03 AM:

This may be of (somethat orthogonal) interest:

#19 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2008, 11:52 PM:

Spam from

#20 ::: Clifton Royston sees enlargement spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 12:44 AM:

Boy, talk about your falsified discourse!

#22 ::: [tiresome spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2009, 02:54 PM:

[posted in anodyne fashion from, which is clearly not one of the brighter and more interesting areas of the internet]

#23 ::: Sebastian sees boilerplate spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2009, 03:01 PM:

I write you this comment to have your attention.

("You need to delete that right away, it's a God damned virus." "This is classic Tycho -- it just *kills* you to see me succeed.")

#24 ::: Xopher can only respond to the homogenous discourse ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Wait, I mean falsified, not homogenous. There goes that "literary" reference.

#25 ::: Dave Bell sees a ranging shot ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2009, 04:35 PM:

Now I'm waiting for the FOO to signal "Fire for effect!".

What's the internet-equivalent of counter-battery radar?

#26 ::: cadbury moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2009, 04:54 PM:

Flash Spotting: the Making Light userbase.
Sound Ranging (outstations) Senderbase, Spamcop
Sound Ranging (control): Spamhaus, nan-ae, Spam-L
Counter Bombardment (legit) the various SBL lists.
Counter Bombardment (illegitimate) various netkooks with DDoS tools.


#27 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 06:28 PM:

Spam from

#28 ::: Serge sees thyroid spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:23 AM:

Talk about making a gland entrance...

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