Here's the problem: astroturfing
itself is a sordid, scandalous business. After all, how else can you
describe the practice but as a systematic distortion of the
grassroots process (the very heart of democracy) in favor of the
entrenched interests of the anti-democratic elites? It's hard to
uncover any revelation that would make that look any worse.
It's very existence is a scandal.
That said, Josh Marshall's particular revelation is an article
coming out in this month's Washington Monthly. Entitled “Meet
the Press,” it's an exposé detailing the
relationship between an outfit called Tech Central Station (a web-based information
vetting house for the right wing) and The DCI Group, a Washington
(DC)-based PR firm whose specialty is astroturfing.
Well, actually, the relationship between them is that TCS is a
wholly-owned subsidiary of DCI ... and DCI is to astroturfing what
the Pope is to Catholicism. Of course, they astroturf exclusively in
the interest of gigantic corporate behemoths (such as AT&T,
Microsoft, et al.) and, by default, mostly Republican interests.
According to the article, TCS's main purpose is to serve as an
originating point for much of the Corporate/Republican media echo
chamber. That is, someone at TCS will write an article (the Kyoto
Protocols are bad, say ... or Microsoft
isn't a dangerously abusive monopoly), a bunch of right wing
hacks will take the handoff, and soon talking points lifted from the
article are bouncing all over the info-sphere masquerading as
It doesn't matter if the original article was well-researched, or
even true. Once enough people are saying it to each other, it becomes
accepted as fact. That's
Propaganda 101, my friends; and it happens all the time.
Therein lies the scandal, though I confess to having a hard time
getting that worked up over it. As ugly as this story is, it only
details one cog inside the gigantic, infernal political machine the
Republicans have been constructing for themselves over the past 20
years, and which now looms before us nearly perfected. There's much,
much more than this – some of it even
more sinister in its implications for our
Republic's future than these guys.