Originally published June 19 2015
Watch for these 4 signs of astroturfing to recognize corporate disinfo and propaganda
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Most Americans are probably not familiar with the industry term astroturfing – the practice of hiding or masking the sponsors of a particular message, be it in public relations, political or in advertising – to give the appearance that it is supported by, and originates from, a grassroots sponsor.
That's a shame, because the practice is used to sham and scam Americans into believing certain ads or messages are genuine, and this is especially true with Big Pharma. So pervasive is the pharmaceutical industry's reach into American society that even Ivy League professors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been compromised.
In a recent TEDx Talk, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, formerly of CBS News, discussed the issue of astroturfing (as she did in her recent bestselling book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington).
It isn't about truth, it's about selling the fiction
"In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages," said a description of her talk.
In particular, Attkisson identified four ways Americans can generally spot astroturfing:
– "Inflammatory and charged language - i.e., quacks, kooks, pseudo, conspiracy theorist";
– "made up myths that are 'debunked' which can wind up on Snopes (I call them Inception stories)";
– "attacking or controversializing people's character or organizations instead of addressing the facts";
– "and especially the 'turfers that reserve all of their public skepticism and criticisms for those exposing the wrong doers instead of directing that skepticism to the wrongdoers themselves. Prime example: instead of questioning authority, they question those that question the authority."
Attkisson ought to know. As she explained in her book, she was eventually marginalized so badly at CBS News while attempting to uncover major Obama Administration scandals (for which she was targeted by the White House), she eventually was reduced to publishing what she could, when she was allowed to, on the new network's website only, having lost her on-air presence. The reason? Most of her superiors at CBS News are supporters of the president and Democrats in general, as driven home by the fact that the president of CBS News is David Rhodes, whose brother, Ben Rhodes, is a member of President Obama's National Security Council.
"The whole point of astroturfing is to try to get widespread support for or against an agenda when there's not," Attkisson said in her talk. "Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel as if you're an outlier when you're not."
She went on to provide some examples of the practice.
Vaccine-autism link "debunked" by controversializing truth-tellers
"One example is the [National Football League's] Washington Redskins name," she said. "Without taking a position on the controversy, if you simply were looking at news media coverage over the course of the past year, or looking at social media, you'd probably have to conclude that most Americans find that name offensive and think it ought to be changed."
In reality, she said, "71 percent of Americans" really don't want to see the name changed, or nearly three-quarters of respondents.
Another example she used was the "controversy" over the link between vaccines and autism, which Natural News has well documented. And she called phony online encyclopedia Wikipedia an "astroturfer's dream come true," because of the way they use it to manipulate data and push propaganda.
"Astroturfers seek to controversialize those who disagree with them," she continued. "They attack news organizations that publish stories they don't like, whistleblowers who tell the truth, politicians who dare to ask the tough questions, and journalists who have the audacity to report on all of it."
Other times, astroturfers will attempt to cloud the issue with so much flak and controversy that Americans "simply throw up their hands" and disregard everything, including the truth, she said.
You can see the entire 10-minute talk, which took place Feb. 16 at the University of Nevada, here.
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