The Tea Party protests

Plagiarism is the author's attempt to use the work of other people as your own, without disclosing their involvement.   Astroturfing is exactly the oppose: it is an organization's attempt to attribute their own work to other people without disclosing the involvement of the organization.

If I said Paul Krugman was a plagiarist because he quoted other people in his columns (with attribution), that would be ridiculous. I would owe him a correction.  And possibly monetary damages. Words mean things.

Yet, in today's New York Times column (in which he makes some reasonable points about the sad state of the Republican Party), Paul Krugman grossly misuses a term to libel a variety of people.

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

What Freedomworks and various other organizations are doing is not "astroturf" any more than the anti-war protests of some years back were astroturf because ANSWER and helped organize people around those events.  Astroturfing is paid activism by an organization; it is not genuine grassroots activism that funded groups are simply helping to organize.

The Center for American Progress & Think Progress, of all groups, should know better than to use the word "astroturf" against funded, ideological 501c(4) organizations that are trying to organize activists.  Especially considering how many funded, ideological 501c(4) organizations they have trying to organize activists.

The accusations Paul Krugman makes in the New York Times are very similar to the talking points that have spontaneously arisen in the Leftosphere recently, and their attempts to delegitimize these policy protests are not likely to stop unless the Right fights back.  For starters, unless Krugman and the New York Times issue a correction, the people they have libeled should consider responding to this libel through appropriate legal channels. 

Beyond that, it is crucial that the groups attempting to organize activists around these Tea Party protests see their role as service-oriented infrastructure.  Provide the information and tools, and let the grassroots continue to organize themselves.

UPDATE: Contra Matt Yglesias, I did not "attack CAP/AF as astroturf".  Indeed, my point was that the CAPAF (Think Progress) "grassroots advertising and organizing" is not astroturf, so they shouldn't throw the astroturf accusation at other groups that do grassroots organizing.

For the record, astroturf really requires two things: (1) A claim to be organic/grassroots, and (2) non-disclosure of the non-grassroots group that is really behind the activity.  Organizational involvement in activism is not, itself, astroturf.  Nor is it astroturf when an organization conducts its own activism project with full disclosure of their involvement.

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An astroturf example

Here's a helpful example of actual astroturf. A few weeks ago, Instapundit and Drudge linked a somewhat slickly-edited vid promoting the "parties". They didn't reveal that the vid was a GOP effort, and the Senate group behind it doesn't reveal anywhere on Youtube who they are.

You can see that if you do a find for 'McConnell' at my coverage of the tea party protests. There's a lot more there too, including examples of "parties" in deep blue districts attended by 0.2% of all those who voted in that district's last election and so on.

Best of luck with the "parties". Meanwhile, those who are smart and who want to actually do something should see my effective political activism tips. The least effective of those is approximately a million times more effective than the "parties" ever will be.

A person who is in possession

A person who is in possession of facts about Obama and decides on the basis of those facts to support him will not be swayed by a bunch of signs and a papier-mache pig head. Ignorant people, on the other hand, who are not in possession of facts and will believe what they're told, can be swayed in that manner.  Adison High School


"..Organizational involvement in activism is not, itself, astroturf.." 

When organizational involvement goes past a certain threshhold; when you have Sean Hannity hosting and helping promote, Glenn Beck hosting and fundraising, Neil Cavuto hosting and promoting, all of FOX News cheerleading, dozens of Congresspeople, Senators, staffers, foundations, FreedomWorks (which is HUGE), lending money, leadership, personnel, resources, media coverage, training, promotion, and all sorts of support of course it's astroturf.

You offer A.N.S.W.E.R. as a model?  Really?  Name one person in ANSWER, or who the leader was in 2003, and how many Congresspeople marched against the war because ANSWER got them on board.  In fact, except for Dennis Kucinich, I can't remember a single Congress person marching.

I do remember FOX AND MSM figures viciously attacking all protesters and their supporters, refusing to cover events, refusing to give actual numbers of protestors, and doing what they could to cheerlead the war.  I do remember anti-war people losing shows on radio and Cable news because of their protests of Iraq, I recall the Country Music Association and many radio affiliates attacking and refusing to play the Dixie Chicks'  music.  I remember one radio host destroying their CD's live on his show, and Sean Hannity using a sound effect of CD"s breaking 50 times a show.

I don't remember "astroturf" in the lead up to Iraq, I remember many people marching on principle alone, knowing it might cost them a job or a chance at progress, or a relationship, but being there because it was the right thing to do.  It was not a popular or easy stance:  The easy thing was to " support our troops"  and "get behind our President" .  Remember?

These Tea Baggers are a deliberate, hugely funded, organized and orchestrated attempt to cynically play on the American people's fears and frustrations to try and hurt the President, and cause a drop in his approval ratings. That is what is being planned for Wednesday.

quibbling over semantics

when your house burns, does it matter?

Nonpartisan events

Krugman obviously does not know what he is talking about. is a nonpartisan site that promotes tea parties across the nation and is organizing major protest across the nation on July 4th.  Their latest post begins with the following: "With the increasing attacks from reputable new sources like the New York Times and, challenging the non-partisan and grassroots nature of the various Tea Parties, and Free and Equal would like to both stress our commitment to non-partisanship and our independence from organizations under question."  Check it out for yourself.

Some thoughts

1. The NYT is only slightly reputable, and TP is not in the least reputable. What's sad is that reteaparty probably wasn't being sarcastic; that indicates yet another problem.

2. The message I'm getting from the parties has a strong underlying strain of Randroidism, and that might be "non-partisan" but it's hardly something that's going to appeal to anyone but a few tens of thousands across the U.S. at most. When millions of Americans are out of work, seeing a sign with nothing but "No Taxes" won't exactly be an appealing message to 99.99% of Americans. Seeing our small entrepreneur class whining about the taxes they pay in a fashion that indicates that their interest is completely selfish and that they have no real concern with what's best for the U.S. as a whole is not a winning message.

3. You could get millions to support you if you'd ditch the Randroid loons like Instapundit and simply come out for fiscal sanity, recognizing that part of your base is not opposed to some redistributionist policies. Instead, you guys went for broke.

4. You could get millions more if you'd oppose things like unnecessary government intrusion (privacy, 1st/2nd amendment, etc.) and illegal immigration, with the latter opposition being done in the way that I do it rather than the low-wattage Sean Hannity fashion. Instead, some of those supporting the "movement" also support massive immigration: Armey, Norquist, and the Kochtopus.

Krugman doesn't mention either of these groups.

If he did they'd have an window they could close with a quick call to the Editorial Page Editor to offer their rebuttal.

Krugman is careful with his words.  He's looking to strike a deep blow and protect his paper from being forced to poorly allocate its limited resources to points of view that stand in contrast to his and their own.

Think Progress doesn't mention them either.


Jim Dandy, you do not have any idea what you are talking about:

"These Tea Baggers are a deliberate, hugely funded, organized and orchestrated attempt to cynically play on the American people's fears and frustrations to try and hurt the President, and cause a drop in his approval ratings. That is what is being planned for Wednesday."

Oh really?  I've been to a Tea Party protest and I'm going to another on Wednesday; where's my check then?  Some of the tea parties match your description of "organized and orchestrated" but some are completely UNfunded, and none that I know of are being organized deliberately to hurt the President.  And how on Earth are they to cause a drop in his approval ratings, unless you are admitting that many of the people who support the President do so out of ignorance?  A person who is in possession of facts about Obama and decides on the basis of those facts to support him will not be swayed by a bunch of signs and a papier-mache pig head.  Ignorant people, on the other hand, who are not in possession of facts and will believe what they're told, can be swayed in that manner.

What do you call a bunch of private citizens scheduling a time to show up at the Utah state capitol on their own, with nobody but the citizens themselves paying for it? Astroturf??  As for "ditching" various parties, NoMoreBlather, you kinda can't do that if it's NOT an organized movement, ya know.  You take whoever shows up.

it's astroturfing when someone lights a match

and yinz go off like a powderkeg, on their command.

It aint' yinz all getting together, and deciding to do something ... it's Fox tellin' y'all to do it.

And fox is heavily funded. You aint, cause, well you're dumb enough to do what they want, without being paid.

Pig Head?

That's pretty sick.

Not only do you admit that some parties ARE organized and orchestrated, but you have said nothing to refute MY argument that overall the TeaBaggers are massively organized. 

You have not shown that the major GOP and Conservative figures I list have not been actively AstroTurfing.

Astroturfing implies a few things

1) The so called support numbers cannot be verified in any way.

2) A PR agency is typically either directly linked to the cause or is in fact running the cause.  Fenton Communications is pretty good at this.

3) The cause celebre comes and goes so quickly you never know what happened.

4) There is immediate concealment of the person(s) and party(s) behind the movement.

5) When asked to disclose information the person(s) and/or party(s) dodge the questions or simply remain silent about the questions.

A legitmate organization will respond to critics.  It will make public information it is authorized to make public by its articles of incorporation and what is required of it by law.  Some are more willing to go public ahead of legal requirements.

There is also a difference between an astroturf organization and 'astroturfing'.  A good example of astroturfing is  This site is nothing more than a project of the public relations firm Mark Karlin & Associates.  It interviews elected officials(surprise).  It also engages in the public policy debate without disclosing any of it's financial interests in the public policy debate.

Eric Odom isn't concealing anything about the "dontgo movement".  His name is on the ICANN records.  The staff members for dontgo do range from the first time activist to the seasoned GOP political strategist.  Big deal.  Consider these people to be way more concerned citizens that have taken two steps towards the establishment in the past and today have taken three steps back.

The interesting aspect to the tea parties will be their actual events, the attendance, and what is done thereafter.  The anti-war coalition divided itself by way of the same methods that lead a political party from a majority into the wilderness.  Rigid points of view requiring absolution triumph and moderation lacks the will to defends its approach.  International ANSWER did not in fact organize the early anti-war protests over the Iraq War, but they were the only organizers left standing soon thereafter.

One point of contention that is good subject for its own post is the Center for American Progress operating a lobby shop in the form of The American Progress Action Fund.  Are they a think tank or a lobby?  Right now they want to be both.  That's fine so long as they cease and desist with their fairy tale that they're just a think tank.

Does not dispute Krugman

Henke doesn't really dispute Krugman.  He just uses that great debate technique: "Takes one to know one!"  The first three person tea party may have been spontaneous, but now they're thoroughly astroturf, which nobody, even Henke, can deny.

Astroturf or authentic grassroots, it doesn't really matter.

Sure, Corporate America is, and will be, trying to change the grassroot message to suit their own political purposes as long as its their money they are spending to produce stuff like this:

But does it really matter? We are on to them now. We are in a new age, the Communication Age. Authentic grassroot networks are growing all the time, even among the older set. They know they have been betrayed by their own party and will recognize the truth as soon as they hear it.

So relax, enjoy the show and let Corporate America do its thing. Now for the first time in history, the grassroots will lead themselves.

ex animo



The guy in the video is this guy:

I don't know if that's a corporate product, but he could have made something like that fairly cheaply.

I'm going to guess the animation here isn't as cheap as the narration:

And, the only cost of this (unmarked) GOP product was the time it took to hunt down the clips:

in context

If davidfarrar levels a charge that something is corporately funded and then provides a link to a production that is allegedly corporate funded, wouldn't you just ask for evidence that it is corporately funded?

He presents no such evidence that the video is in any way a production beyond the whatever capital limits of Mr. Bob Basso.

In short, when a charge is leveled, ask for evidence.

I apologize

It was never my intent to make a charge that this Basso video was "actually" funded by Corporate America. My point was that even if somebody hired this professional media consultant's firm to produce these videos, it wouldn't make any difference.

The fact is, Corporate America will attempt to change any political movement it sees as a political threat and it will do so from the inside, out, just as it has done with the Republican Party. Unless the grassroot movement can come together with one voice (which is all it really needs to do), it will be divided and conquered by those who have come together and speak with one voice. It's called, "politics".

ex animo



This clarifies my concern.

It may not be astroturf, but what is it when...?


I hear you when you say that advocacy groups publicly organizing activists into grassroots action is not astroturf. But tell me, what is it when a news network (not even a reporter, but a whole network) promotes a grassroots action?

Yesterday, Neil Cavuto substitute host proudly proclaimed his delight at "promoting" the tea parties after dismissing a guest who was criticizing the April 15 events. Then they showed their ad for all day coverage promoting the events.

Now I understand advocacy groups and opinion writers promoting grassroots advocacy efforts, but I am perplexed, if not stunned, when a news network promotes an advocacy action.

Reporting on an advocacy campaign is news, promoting one is advocacy. What line should news networks NOT cross? How can a news network claim to be "fair and balanced" when it is "promoting" an advocacy campaign, when they are advocating for a position?

Even the ad Fox is running on its website promotes the goal of the campaign, yet concludes with "We report, you decide." Shouldn't it read, "We promote, you follow."?

And if I am right about the inappropriateness of a news network publicly advocating for an issue campaign, while claiming it is being objective in its coverage, should that network lose its privilege of calling itself a news network?

Instead of Fox News Network, it seems it should be the Fox Advocacy Network.

It seems that at the crux of your beef with Matt Yglesias is the notion that organizations that facilitate a grassroots action are not making astroturf, they are practicing normal interest group advocacy organizing grassroots advocacy.

By your logic, Fox clearly fits the same model. So, I say, "Hello to the Fox Advocacy Network! Biased and Proud of it!"


I'm fascinated by Fox News

I'm fascinated by Fox News using teabagging to come out of the closet and openly embrace their advocacy status.  No thinking person could have watched Fox News for the past several years and not realized that "fair and balanced" was just an advertising gimmick -- even their devoted audience sees through that, because its bias is the reason they tune in.  By the same token, I'd never argue that MSNBC is fair and balanced, but they don't make that claim and to my knowledge they've never gone so far as to outright promote an event or movement for the left, make it their own, and then cover the promoted events as 'news'.

It deeply concerns me that an alleged 'major news network' is now openly, actively creating and participating in the 'news' they are ostensibly covering.  Fortunately for them, though, most of their viewers are not likely to recognize or be concerned with the conflict in that.  I can see from a business model why they see value in playing to their 'base" because it assures about 28% of the viewing audience (if viewership is roughly consistent with those who strongly identify as Republican). 

Who cares?

Fine - suppose the Tax Day Tea Party protests are in fact organized, run, and paid for by uber-rich money-grubbing evil nefarious right-wing capitalist pigs.  Are they paying off all of the attendees too?  Are they the ones who are creating doubt about our financial future?  No, that doubt was created by the massive levels of debt that our nation has incurred over the past several years (yes that includes Bush) but has been vastly accelerated under Obama.  This hypothesized cabal of evil right-wing financiers is only tapping into the angst that already exists out there.  THAT'S the grassroots nature of these protests.  A child born today will inherit a debt to pay of approximately $38,000 because WE foisted that debt upon that innocent child.  That's wrong.  YES this immorality has been around for a long time under both Republicans and Democrats.  But, thanks to Obama and our current Congress for their naked lust for spending, this immoral behavior has been brought into sharp focus and we are now paying attention closer than ever before.  So arguments about astroturfing or grassroots or whatever is just a red herring.  The real question is, how are we going to live within our means?  Obama and Congress don't seem too terribly interested in this question even as Obama campaigned as the 'prudent' and 'responsible' candidate.  We conservatives, however, ARE concerned.  We were concerned when George Bush was president;  admittedly, probably not as concerned as we should have been, but certainly concerned enough that we declined to offer our enthusiastic support to our congressional candidates in 2006 and our presidential nominee in 2008, who did not seem to understand this existential angst that we the conservative people are experiencing.

YES Fox News is marketing the crap out of these events.  It's smart business!  Good for them!  They are advocacy journalism, no doubt about it.  The fact of the matter is, ALL MSM journalism out there today is advocacy journalism, it's just the liberal elites who have declared that their liberal advocacy should be defined as "unbiased" and that Fox News' advocacy alone is somehow the threat to the journalistic enterprise.  When Newsweek runs cover stories declaring 'we are all socialists' and showing Rush with tape over his mouth, where are the howls about advocacy journalism?  When, time and time again, Republicans caught in a scandal have their party affiliation prominently displayed in the story's lede but Democrats caught in scandal mysteriously have little to no mention of their party affiliation, where is the outrage?  When the Washington Post editorial board falls so in love with Obama that they go so far as to suggest that the Pope - the Pope! - on Easter weekend, no less! - could learn a thing or two from Obama, where is the shocked expression of disbelief?  Fact is, the history of journalism in America is not a story of prudential neutrality but a story of polarized opposites using newsprint and ink to wage journalistic war on each other.  We see merely a continuation of that in the modern era, with the difference being that the finger-waggers appear to be aimed only against one side.  Quite frankly if Katie Couric wants to go on NBC News and say she wants Obama's love child, she should have every right to do so.  I take umbrage, though, at the suggestion that even if Katie Couric's bias is not quite so overt, that we should somehow overlook it or normalize it as "standard" or "correct" and that it's the evil right-wingers at Fox News that somehow represent the only threat to journalistic integrity. 

howdy again.

your children won't be paying for it.

we will responsibly inflate our way out of this, or at least you'd DAMN WELL BETTER PRAY we do... because the Alternatives Are Worse.

'it's the end of the world as we know it'

We cares

..we keep saying we HAVE NO PROBLEM with peaceful demonstrations, no matter who organizes them.

Just don't keep calling them "grassroots"  'cos it's AstroTurf.

See, many people are willing to attend a rally which is meant to tell Washington how they feel.  But it bothers them to find out they will be used by FreedomWorks or other GOP organs as wallpaper for their anti-Obama efforts.

Already there are some reports of people who will not be showing up because they are realizing these things are not as "grassroots" as advertised.

Let's see what happens tomorrow.

Chemjeff! Glad you're back!

I'd been wondering where/why you'd gone and was hoping that some of us skeptics hadn't chased you off, because I respect your thoughts.

On this topic, I'd like to ask your thoughts on when, if ever, an operation that bills itself as 'news' crosses an inappropriate advocacy line? 

I'm really curious about your thoughts on that and I'm not limited to Fox in my concern.  Let's say that during the 2012 election Fox is promoting attendance at the GOP's candidate rallies and urging donations, and MSNBC is doing the same for the Dem candidate.  They subsequently cover these events as 'news' reporting; perhaps some of the news personalities even attend and speak.  ABC and CNN also jump on the GOP bandwagon, while NBC and ABC go Dem.  Can all of them still be considered 'news' programs?  Should their airttime devoted to advocacy have to be reported on campaign filings and paid for by the campaigns?  Would Obama have to pay for the airtime as he did for the half-hour infomerical before the 2008 election, or could NBC and ABC devote a half-hour of their news broadcasts to giving him the floor at no cost, with the promotion of the news staff? 

You don't see any difference between a news network, across its entire staff, promoting and participating in events they will later cover as 'news' reporters, and Couric's schoolgirl gushing or Chris Matthews' leg tingles?  I'll grant you the Couric and Matthews behavior is unprofessional and should make them feel foolish, but it wasn't comments or behavior designed to 'create' news to drive viewership (and profits).

What's so special about the pope?

Popes in general - and the current one in particular - could learn a hell of a lot from normal people - Barack Obama included.

THAT'S the grassroots nature of these protests.  A child born today will inherit a debt to pay of approximately $38,000 because WE foisted that debt upon that innocent child.

Ridiculous hyperbole, unless you are willing to accept that the child also inherits a portion of federal income revenue equal to X every year. And no, I can't be bothered to figure out what X is becasue there is no connection between the way debt work in private hands vs. the way it works on the national level.

Other than that, nice to see you back.


Why Krugman hates tea parties

As I just noted in another comment  here, Krugman is on the record saying taxes should go up in the US now by more than 10 points of GDP --- that's a 90% income tax increase on everyone, individuals and corporations, or an equivalent revenue increase from some new sort of tax, like a national VAT.

WELL, he knows full well that he's never going to get any kind of spontaneous, or even "spontaneous",  public uprising in support for that, so the only thing he can do is make up insults and charges to tar the other side (no matter how bogus.) 

In fact, Krugman is clearly afraid of telling his own truth here in the US, which is why he says such things only in the Asia Times -- in spite of being the brave truth teller he fancies himself as being.

But he also knows full well what the Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Democratic Establishment reaction would be if their most popular economist spokesman came out and said "Democratic policies demand a 90% income tax increase right now!"  He'd immediately become an "ex- " of what he was.

There are stories around that Obama doesn't like him already.

We can also imagine what all this bodes for the day when that 90% tax increase actually becomes due and payable to cover the cost of these policies.

Krugman's written some columns that indicate he's thought of that (without explicitly mentioning the 90%, of course) and is not happy about it at all. As well he shouldn't be. Maybe that's why he's such an ornery, snarky guy, in spite of all the personal great good fortune that has befallen him.

you're 100% wrong on Krugman.

Yes, he is interested in paying off the debt -- but he wants us out of the recession/depression first (and is Keynesianly favoring a stimulus that is much bigger than Obama's).

It's really not too radical of a position.

What % wrong on Krugman?

What did I write that was wrong about Krugman?.

That he told the Asia Times:  "We should be getting 28% of GDP in revenue. We are only collecting 17%." ?

That such an increase corresponds to an income tax increase of about 90% across the board, on individuals and businesses?

That's he's never had the nerve to say any such thing here in his column in the US?

That if he had said any such thing before the last election -- before the current recession, when he was saying it outside the US -- all the Democratic candidates and leaders would have shunned him a leper?  "A 90% tax increase???  That man does NOT speak for US!!!!!"

That maybe, just maybe, this is why he hasn't been brave enough to speak this "truth" here in the US, where it would matter?

That all this says something about the honesty of the Democratic leaders, the bravery of Krugman, and what is likely to happen in the future when that 90% tax increase actually does  land on the voters?

Please explain, so far you are up to me being a good "0% wrong", and counting!. 

I think that his message is

I think that his message is great, isnt it? Mike

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"The tea parties have been

"The tea parties have been promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. The group's federal tax returns show it has both educational and charitable arms, which together received more than $6 million in donations in 2007, the most recent year for which returns are available.The group is not required by law to disclose its donors. FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the group's financial backers.Armey, who the tax returns show was paid $400,000 by FreedomWorks in 2007, also is registered as a lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper, and has listed corporate clients there including Verizon, Raytheon, liquor maker Diageo, CarMax and drug company Sanofi Pasteur." 




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Are they the ones who are

Are they the ones who are creating doubt about our financial future?  No, that doubt was created by the massive levels of debt that our nation has incurred over the past several years (yes that includes Bush) but has been vastly accelerated under Obama.  This hypothesized cabal of evil right-wing financiers is only tapping into the angst that already exists out there.  THAT'S the grassroots nature of these protests.  A child born today will inherit a debt to pay of approximately $38,000 because WE foisted that debt upon that innocent child.  That's wrong.  YES this immorality has been around for a long time under both Republicans and Democrats.  But, thanks to Obama and our current Congress for their naked lust for spending, this immoral behavior has been brought into sharp focus and we are now paying attention closer than ever before.  So arguments about astroturfing or grassroots or whatever is just a red herring.

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There is no doubt at all that

There is no doubt at all that the Obama administration is trying their best to recover from the huge debt situation that the former government left for them.It's really a tough work for a newcomer like Obama, but he is doing his best taking active measures and soon United States will again come and stand up with a better economy.

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