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Astroturfing: Here are a few things to consider.

Astroturfing: Here are a few things to consider.

Are you familiar with the term Astroturfing? If not, then today is your lucky day. That’s because I am about to provide you a bread crumb that will help you navigate the seemingly lonely tunnel that so many are lost in.

You will find this ironic later, but according to Wikipedia, “Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s).” Yes, this is from Wikipedia. If you don’t find this ironic yet, you will.

The term astroturfing has only been around since April of 2009, when Nancy Pelosi said that the Tea Party Protests were AstroTurf; suggesting that it was a phony grass-roots movement. Her label stuck though and I’m glad it did because it now represents any fake grassroots organization – on all sides. Essentially, Astroturfing refers to organizations that appear to be grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms. They are actually rampant in both business and politics on both sides of the aisle. Some good examples of such groups might include Media Matters, Daily Kos, Scienceblogs.com, SEIU, ACORN, Working Families for Wal-mart and so on.

Check out this video…

As you saw, and strangely enough, the mainstream media tends to support and/or publicize these groups in the attempt to make YOU feel outnumbered or alone. Unfortunately, this is often how uninformed people are influenced. This is also where “alternative facts” tend to come into play. Ironically, in their attempt to stop certain truths from becoming readily known, they will often suggest that the REAL FACTS are the “alternative facts”. This goes back and forth though. It can become very confusing for some.

So how does one provide “alternative facts” without it being an outright lie? Well, it appears to be due to the underhanded and very old tactic of sprinkling bits of truth in with the lie. You have to understand that a lie with bits of truth sprinkled in is much easier to accept than a blatant fallacy. This is why you have to pay attention not only to the statement being made, but also the context and the sources provided.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Hillary Clinton said “I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified.” That statement was a blatant lie. We know this because FBI Director Comey directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials “marked” classified. On the other hand, “dihydrogen monoxide can kill and it’s a chemical found in bleach. It’s also something that is deliberately sprayed on the foods you eat every day.” This is true, but it’s misleading because it is made to sound bad.

Of course, we know that many people do not pay attention, nor do they research or boldly question. That is why the dihydrogen monoxide hoax got so big. Many simply flow with what they believe is “popular belief”. But take that same person and give them truth that counters what they believe is popular or true, and you have created an inner struggle. People don’t like that.

Usually, the result is something known as Cognitive Dissonance. It seems very few are willing to see the truth for what it is and admit they might have been wrong or duped. Most people will simply re-interpret the data to reinforce what they want to believe. This will not change until there is another inner struggle that forces that opinion to change. An example of this might be how Harry Reid and the Democrats were very much against criminal immigration in the 1990’s and their followers supported that call. Now, since another party is in power and these same people were told by their party to oppose it, they now oppose it vehemently. Ironically, those often struggling with cognitive dissonance will believe that it is the person presenting information that is suffering from it.

Avoid the trap! Here’s what you can do to help prevent yourself from becoming a victim of lies, propaganda, deceit, cognitive dissonance and astroturfing.

  • Don’t just hit “send” and don’t just accept what has been sent. Understand that many people have a political agenda. Read it with intent of destroying it; watch with the intent of proving the video has been edited to fit an agenda.
  • Understand that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. That doesn’t mean that all people with strong opinions are misinformed though. Double check yourself and ensure your facts are really the facts by using more than one non-biased source.
  • People seek consistency. Don’t be one of them. Seek truth, wherever that may lead.
  • Start each search as if you know nothing. Let the data guide you to the answer. Don’t let agenda guide your research.
  • Be open-minded and try to learn something from someone you disagree with.
  • Question your own conclusions. Is it possible your sources are biased or astroturfing? Is it possible you have missed something? What harm is there to double check one more time and become the expert? Also, imagine how much respect you’ll earn from peers knowing that you’re more about facts than anything else.
  • Understand that you can lie to yourself without knowing it. This usually happens in the attempt to fit in. Think of a spouse who accepts her beatings, a druggy who says there is no problem, a black man or homosexual wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, an obese person justifying their condition and so on.
  • Be realistic. If everyone around agrees with you on everything or you agree with everyone around you on everything… something might be wrong and you might all be drinking the punch. Evaluate. It’s okay to disagree about things and it’s okay to change your mind about things.
  • Change your mind about something. Find something that changes your mind about something you’ve believed your whole life. Start small and simple, like the truth of Napoleon’s height or what “AR” stands for in “AR-15” or which nation killed the most people during World War II. Then move your way into more interesting things like the truth about slavery in America or the truth of Native American genocide (just for example).
  • Review sources that you may not otherwise agree with. Check out the sources provided in what you’re reading. Non-partisan sources are helpful. If you use partisan sources, try to balance them — conservative and liberal, for example.

Stay wise my friends. Don’t let yourself get caught up in astroturfing. Let me leave you with two familiar but very wise quotes:

“A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”— Dresden James

And this one…

“And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger.” The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis.

David Robertson

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David is a writer, researcher, speaker, and much more. He holds a Master’s of Science in Leadership and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in both a nationally-recognized program of Leadership and in Security Management. Additionally, he boasts certificates in both Operational Leadership and Homeland Security.

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One thought on “Astroturfing: Here are a few things to consider.

  1. This needs to extend people’s personal lives too. You shouldn’t just believe someone because they are screaming the loudest.

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