Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican–or someone who doesn’t care at all about politics–it’s hard not to notice the massive campaigns to influence opinion on social media, the news and out there in real life. Those trying to persuade and manipulate are playing hardball. And, in many instances, we’re falling for it: they plop the ball in the middle of a frenzied crowd, nobody sees exactly who dropped it, and we in the news and the public pick it up and run.
As I’ve reported and written: Astroturfers often disguise themselves and publish blogs, write letters to the editor, produce ads, start non-profits, establish Facebook and Twitter accounts, edit Wikipedia pages or simply post comments online to try to fool you into thinking an independent or grassroots movement is speaking. They use their partners in blogs and in the news media in an attempt to lend an air of legitimacy or impartiality to their efforts. Astroturf’s biggest accomplishment is when it crosses over into semi-trusted news organizations that unquestioningly cite or copy it.
The whole point of astroturf is to try to convince you there’s widespread support for or against an agenda when there’s not.
The language of astroturfers and propagandists includes trademark inflammatory terms such as: anti, nutty, quack, crank, pseudo-science, debunking, conspiracy theory, deniers and junk science. Sometimes astroturfers claim to “debunk myths” that aren’t myths at all. They declare debates over that aren’t over. They claim that “everybody agrees” when everyone doesn’t agree. They aim to make you think you’re an outlier when you’re not.
Top 10 Astroturfers
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2008 December: President Obama nominates Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. 2009 Jan. 13: Reports say the clintonemail.com domain was established. Jan. 21: Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state. March 18: Clinton will later name this as the date she began using a private server for government business. 2012 Sept. 11: Islamic extremists launch […]