Citizen Action Monitor

How political, corporate and special interests manipulate and distort news and information

Exposé of the methods of unseen spinmeisters who are confusing the truth beyond recognition

No 1423 Posted by fw, August 14, 2015

“Complacency in the news media combined with incredibly powerful propaganda and publicity forces mean we sometimes get little of the truth. Special interests have unlimited time and money to figure out new ways to spin us while cloaking their role. Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress. There’s an entire industry built around it in Washington. What is astroturf? It’s a perversion on grassroots, as it fakes grassroots. Astroturf is when political, corporate or other special interests disguise themselves and publish blogs, start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads, letters to the editor or simply post comments online to try to fool you into thinking that an independent or grassroots movement is speaking.”Sharyl Attkisson, investigative journalist

After watching Sharyl Attkisson’s 10:36-minute Ted talk, embedded below, you may never again trust Wikipedia as an authoritative and truthful news and information source. Below is my partial transcription of her talk, focusing firstly on the methods of astroturfers and secondly on what you can do as a consumer of news and information to recognize and separate fact from fiction.

To supplement Ms. Attkisson’s video, check out the SEE ALSO reference at the bottom, a guide to help you critically evaluate the contents of the Internet swamp as you navigate through it.

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Astroturf and manipulation of media messages by Sharyl Attkisson, TEDxUniversityofNevada, February 6, 2015

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT

[Astroturfers’ methods of deception]

Complacency in the news media combined with incredibly powerful propaganda and publicity forces mean we sometimes get little of the truth. Special interests have unlimited time and money to figure out new ways to spin us while cloaking their role. Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress.

There’s an entire industry built around it in Washington. What is astroturf? It’s a perversion on grassroots, as it fakes grassroots. Astroturf is when political, corporate or other special interests disguise themselves and publish blogs, start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads, letters to the editor or simply post comments online to try to fool you into thinking that an independent or grassroots movement is speaking.

The whole point of astroturf is to try to give the impression there is widespread support for or against and agenda when there’s not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel as if you’re an outlier [well beyond the norm], when you’re not….Astroturfers seek to controversialize those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations that publish stories that 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.

Sometimes astroturfers simply shove intentionally so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix that you’re left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it, including the truth.

[Tips on how to protect yourself from astroturf BS]

So now you may be thinking — What can I do? I thought I’d done my research. What chance do I have of separating fact from fiction especially if experienced journalists with years of experience can be so easily fooled? Well, I have a few strategies that I can tell you about to help you recognize signs of propaganda and astroturf. Once you start to know what to look for you’ll begin to recognize it everywhere.

First, hallmarks of astroturf use of inflammatory language such as – crank, quack, nutty, lies, paranoid, pseudo, and conspiracy.

Astroturfers often claim to “debunk myths” that aren’t myths at all. Use of the charged language tests well. People hear somethings a myth – maybe they find it on Snopes* – and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it. But what if the whole notion on the myth is itself a myth and you and Snopes fell for that? [Snopesattempts” to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, but its credibility and reliability has been questioned].

Beware when interests attack an issue by controversializing or attacking the people, personalities, and organizations surrounding it rather than addressing the facts. That could be astroturf.

And most of all, astroturfers tend to reserve all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoers. In other words, instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority.

You might start to see things a little more clearly, kind of like taking off your glasses, and wiping them and putting them back on and realizing for the first time how foggy they’ve been all along.

I can’t resolve these issues, but I hope that I’ve given you some information that will at least motivate you to take off your glasses and wipe them and become a wiser consumer of information in an increasingly artificial paid-for reality.

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Sharyl Attkisson is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. She is currently writing a book entitled Stonewalled (Harper Collins), which addresses the unseen influences of corporations and special interests on the information and images the public receives every day in the news and elsewhere. For twenty years (through March 2014), Attkisson was a correspondent for CBS News. In 2013, she received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for her reporting on “The Business of Congress,” which included an undercover investigation into fundraising by Republican freshmen.

SEE ALSO

Evaluating Information Sources by the Library, University of British Columbia, last modified July 24, 2015 – a comprehensive set of criteria by which to evaluate the authenticity, accuracy, currency, objectivity, scope, and more of online and print information sources. Included is a video offering a brief recap of the main points from this guide.

Australian Psychological Society “Disturbed” By Climate Denialist Group’s “Misleading” Newspaper Advert by Graham Readfern, DeSmog, August 11, 2015 – This story provides a classic example of astroturfers at work confusing the truth beyond recognition. “The advertisers identified themselves only as The Climate Study Group in the page five advert that appeared on 7 August under the title ‘Psychology and the New Climate Alarm’. The advert claimed there was ‘no evidence CO2 has determined climate in the past or that it could do so in the future…the next ice age remains the real global threat’. DeSmog has found the group members have links to mining, finance, agriculture and free market ‘think tank’ the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).” To read more, click on the linked title above…

Americans Are Finally Learning About False Flag Terror by Global Research, August 14, 2015 – False flags refers to governmental staged events blamed on a political enemy and used as a pretext for war or enact draconian laws in the name of national security. Stephen Harper’s anti-terrorism Bill 51 is a recent example of a false flag. Here’s another example: In 2007 Quebec police admitted that alleged thugs carrying rocks to a peaceful protest were actually undercover Quebec police officers. For many more government-inspired false flags examples, click on the above linked title…

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