Astroturfing is the dishonest technique of inserting carefully prepared political messages into public forums where the writers claim to be  "real citizens" who are "independent".

This technique tries to create a "grassroots" phenomenon — but it’s artificial and inorganic. Hence, "Astroturf." It is also a technique that is likely to backfire with independent voters who are increasingly Internet savvy.

Astroturfing is played with both volunteer and paid help and seems to be increasing as we get closer to Election Day. This is not confined to Campaign HQ for either party because there are independent regional efforts by Democratic and Republican partisans alike.

The two common versions go like this:

I have voted Republican (Democratic) for the past two elections, but the smears spread by John McCain (Barack Obama) and his minions have convinced me to switch parties at last and vote for the man who will lead America out of the mess it is in.
Signed, Rita from Ohio.

A more sophisticated version goes like this:

Democratic version:
1. Claim to be conservative or Christian,
2. say some weakly charitable things about McCain and/or Palin to "prove" you’re not a partisan,
3. But we
had no idea McCain was so craven and ridiculous. Sara Palin is no more
qualified and tested than Julia Roberts.

Republican version:
1. Claim to have been a long term Democrat
2. Say how much hope was generated by Obama’s nomination
3. Express grave concern about Obama’s donations from Fannie Mae, close ties to William Ayers, etc. and say will be voting McCain/Palin now

The giveaway in most cases is that the same wording appears in comment after comment on many different forums and the attacks are wildly partisan and not completely truthful or accurate. Their hope is that by repeating the big lie often enough it will convince voters that it is true.

What these people of both parties do not seem to know is that once a falsehood has been exposed, all credibility is lost. Continuing to spread a discredited story of how bad someone is only causes revulsion and rejection on the part of the public that votes.

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0 Responses to Astroturfing

  1. GBGames says:

    I like your optimism, but exposing a falsehood doesn’t make it lose resonance with the people who want to believe it. Even today so many people want to believe that Obama is a Muslim, or that Palin wanted to ban books.

    And on the other end, many people want to pretend that Palin was always against the Bridge to Nowhere, even with all the proof (with pictures even!) that shows she was for it until it was all but shut down anyway. Obama and McCain have both changed their minds on a number of issues, and yet people ignore their favorite candidate’s flip-flops while pointing out the other’s.

    Astroturfing is lame and only serves to muddy the waters, but I fear that for many people, their minds are made up anyway. Exposing falsehoods doesn’t convince these people of anything.

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