Saturday, October 3, 2009

Astroturf vs a Greensward

This is important.

In a world where tweeting and blogs are replacing hard news reporting, and the big media echo chamber controls the spin, It's harder and harder to spot "the real". The corporations buy politicians and votes and can afford to put out commercials that spin "Green" to their advantage, for example. Today, we have astroturf, which is artificial grassroots representation, bought and paid for. Talk about cynical. Talk about old techniques that have moved into the internet.

As an example, take agribusiness and water in California's central valley, specifically Fresno. An Alternet article about the recent Fresno killing rampage examines a reaction to the repressive agribusiness war with the water industry. The political leverage created by the manipulation that produced this sequence of events is astroturfing by a PR company paid by industry to create a divide between those "liberal environmentalists" and "honest labor", a classic divide-and-conquer strategy:

"Taking astroturfing to a new and darker level, in April, agribusiness interests gang-pressed a couple thousand migrant Latino farmworkers into "marching" 50 miles over four days in the scorching Central Valley sun, calling for the repeal of the Endangered Species Act and for taking out the taxpayer credit card to finance and subsidize more cheap water."

"The New York Times reported that marchers were paid by their employers, something I haven't seen since Russian Vladimir Putin's PR goons would bus in thousands of workers and students for rallies that either were bribed into attending, or told they better attend."

Nothing new. I've worked for companies in more than one state that informed employees that they must donate to certain politicians (sometimes reimbursed) or programs out of their measly salary. I've also run public hearings where folks are bussed in, pretending to be residents objecting to a business coming to town that doesn't pose a problem to anyone except a local business with connections.

This is insane politics protecting old-economy process and methods that can't adapt to the new realities. It's moving into dangerous territory, as is portrayed so well by Michael Moore in his Goldman-Sachs funded movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story", where the backlash against corporate suffocation of the middle class and the environmental destruction bullwhips workers into a sit-down revolt reminiscent of those in 1937 that created the UAW. So it would seem that Moore can astroturf with the best of them, to the profit of Goldman and the political benefit of letting off steam by watching a movie instead of taking popular action. Goldman's court jester perhaps? An interesting interview with Moore is here at Crooks and Liars with a discussion of FDR's "Second Bill of Economic Rights" included in the film.