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This post originally appeared at MilBlogs in October, 2006. While some of the information uncovered herein has since made it's way into smaller media outlets, most major mainstream media sources are still reporting this effort as a "grass roots" campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Astroturfing (via wikipedia):
In politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations (PR) campaigns which seek to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Hence the reference to the "AstroTurf" (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate "fake grassroots" support.And that's what's occurring with the "Appeal for Redress" web site.
The goal of such campaign is to disguise the agenda of a political client as an independent public reaction to some political entity —a politician, political group, product, service, event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt ("outreach," "awareness," etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by anything from an individual pushing their own personal agenda through to highly organised professional groups with financial backing from large corporations.
The missing piece of the puzzle was actually available from the start:
Yesterday, a company that does public relations for the liberal activist political action committee MoveOn.org, Fenton Communications, organized a conference call for reporters and three active-duty soldiers to unveil the soldiers' anti-war group Appeal for Redress.That's from the October 26 New York Sun - kudos to the only reporters in the crowd who had the guts to tell the truth about this. As of this writing, over 200 newspapers have carried the story; The Boston Globe, al-Jazeera, The Washington Post, ABC News, Reuters, The (UK) Guardian... but none of the stories acknowledge the orchestration of the event by Fenton Communications. Instead, virtually all of them detail the "grass roots" effort of the troops. Even without the Sun story, the mere fact that this appeared simultaneously in multiple "big media" outlets is evidence enough of such a campaign. In the pre-internet days this wouldn't be so obvious, but in these days of instant global communication the life cycle of such a story should hardly exceed 24 hours (and wouldn't have in the past without active media participation). But if you're among the few tech savvy and information hungry people interested in not taking such slickly-packaged information at face value, here are the facts about "Appeal for Redress" in order of discovery here.
A staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity said his company was approached last week by a longtime peace activist and former director of the anti-nuclear proliferation front known as SANE/Freeze, David Cortright, to publicize Appeal for Redress. Mr. Cortright is now president of an Indiana-based nonprofit group, the Fourth Freedom Forum, and his biography on the organization's Web site says he helped raise "more than $300,000 for the Win Without War coalition to avert a preemptive attack on Iraq in 2002–03."
The site is registered to J.E. Glick, of 803 North Main Street, Goshen, Indiana. A quick check of online white pages reveals that's the address of The Fourth Freedom Forum. (You can also read about the group here). This would seem to confirm the point in the Sun story quoted above:
A staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity said his company was approached last week by a longtime peace activist and former director of the anti-nuclear proliferation front known as SANE/Freeze, David Cortright, to publicize Appeal for Redress. Mr. Cortright is now president of an Indiana-based nonprofit group, the Fourth Freedom ForumAnd Jennifer Glick (J.E. Glick), actual "owner" of the Appeal for Redress web site, is listed in the Fourth Freedom Forum contact page as Director, Information Services.
The Fourth Freedom Forum's opposition to war pre-dates Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a well funded, very professional organization. But the group is not listed among the sponsoring organizations on the Appeal for Redress web page. (Those groups are Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace.)
It would seem the Fourth Freedom Forum wants to hide it's activities behind some groups and individuals seen as more credible to this particular cause. (I think "front groups" is the usual term.) But it was easy to find the real owners of the "Redress" web page (I originally noted the failure to do so on the part of one of the reporters who carried this propaganda to "the next level" - but have since come to believe that among journalists this was actually common knowledge that they saw fit not to include in their stories), so the "staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity" (ironically, given the breathless press accounts, the only actual whistleblower in this story) may or may not have needed to be so concerned about being revealed.
(Update: registration of the site has been changed. Fourth Freedom is working quickly to camoflage their involvement in this project.)
Back to the growing number of groups and individuals behind this campaign in a moment. But first, a look at the activist career of Jonathan Hutto, the "front man" of this organization.
In the initial media coverage of this story he was described as "a Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va., who set up the Web site a month ago." But that's a humble description of a well-traveled man. The full truth - while easy to discover - is a bit more complex.
Initially I speculated that he had been "recruited" after the publication of his letter to the socialist propaganda e-newsletter "GI Special" on 26 September, 2006. The origin of the "Redress" web site project - "about a month ago", according to the news coverage - would fit this time frame. (Background on that publication here - and read that link for a profile of "GI Specials" creator, Thomas Barton, yet another of the "fellow travelers" on the periphery of this story.)
But I may have been wrong on that "induction". Independent research by Robin Boyd at Newsbusters reveals additional facts:
Then there is the issue of the spokeman for "Appeals for Redress" featured in the media reports. Jonathan Hutto is described as a Navy seaman based in Norfolk VA who set up the website a month ago. But the media failed to report on Mr. Hutto's less than pro-American background.Let's put all that in an easier to follow chronology:
According to his own writings, Hutto "enlisted in the United States Navy in January of 2004" after "working at non-profit organizations and an unsuccessful stint at teaching 5th grade post graduating from Howard University in 1999." The non-profit organization Hutto worked for was Amnesty International - not your typical voluteer organization. In 2002, Hutto was Membership Program Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region of Amnesty International.
In 2001, Hutto was a speaker at The Fight against Police Violence: from Cincinnati to PG County, Maryland. Hutto's co-speaker at the event was Glova Scott of the Socialist Workers Party. The speech was posted on The Militant website.
1999-2004: Hutto works for "non-profit organizations", including Amnesty International
2002: Hutto has risen to the position of Amnesty International's Membership Program Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region (seen here - with megaphone - "rallying the troops"). When his university considered honoring President Bush he wrote a letter opposing the decision.
2003: The United States invades Iraq. Hutto is involved in anti-war demonstrations.
2004: Hutto joins the Navy, and serves as a Mass Communications Specialist and Photographer aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.
Summer, 2006: He is recognized as the Theodore Roosevelt's outstanding "Blue Jacket of the Quarter (BJOQ)"
Hutto, a native of Atlanta, joined the Navy two years and six months ago, and has been a member of TR’s Photo Lab for two years.
“Being selected as BJOQ gives me a strong sense of accomplishment,” Hutto said. “It feels good to have the vote of confidence in my abilities from my chain of command.”
As assistant 3M coordinator for Admin Department, Hutto spends a lot of his time performing maintenance and making sure Admin Department’s spaces are in top shape. Hutto hopes to make third class petty officer off of this past advancement exam, and wants to earn his surface warfare qualification.
October 26, 2006: Fenton Communications holds a media teleconference to announce the launch of the "Appeal for Redress" web site. News stories that follow describe Hutto simply as "a Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va., who set up the Web site a month ago."
It would appear that among his other accomplishments, Hutto is very skilled at web page design.
Now let's get back to our look at the growing number of groups and individuals involved in this month-old effort begun by "a Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va."
A review thus far:
TrueMajority -- an antiwar group founded by Ben Cohen, one of the creators of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream -- hired Fenton Communications, a Washington public relations firm that has worked intermittently with Sheehan over the past year to coordinate media coverage.TrueMajority and Ben and Jerry's are also Fenton clients, by the way.
2. Fourth Freedom Forum, (another of Fenton's clients), is the actual "owner" of the Appeal for Redress web site. According to the NY Sun, it was David Cortright, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum (and author), who approached Fenton to represent Appeal for Redress.
3, 4, 5 - The groups actually listed as sponsoring organizations on the web page: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace. Of those, only Military Families Speak out is a listed Fenton client.)
Now back to the Sun for more (hyperlinks added):
Still, the counsel retained by Appeal for Redress, J.E. McNeil, runs the Center for Conscience and War, an organization whose mission is to defend the rights of conscientious objectors.That's a pretty powerful "grass roots" team so far.
Ms. McNeil said yesterday that she first got in touch with some of the soldiers in Appeal for Redress through a military hotline the Center for Conscience and War runs for active-duty servicemen to find out what rights they have. According to the center's Web site, the group's lobbyist is Pat Elder, a co-founder of the D.C. Area Anti-War Network, which has organized civil disobedience demonstrations against military recruitment offices in shopping malls.
Actually, it's nothing of the sort. But if you pick up one of the 200-odd newspapers with an article written by one of the reporters invited by Fenton Communications to help launch this project, you'll read that it is just that, a "grass roots" project started by a " Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va." Nothing will be said about who provided the story, the countless groups behind them, or the countless groups behind those groups.
And if you visit other web sites and forums, you'll see posts directing people to "tell their friends in the military about this great site launched by active duty military guys". If you are in the military, it's likely you'll soon get a chain email telling you the same. This is all part of the organized "astroturfing" process.
If, on the other hand, you are reading this post, you may wonder what you can do to counter that. The answer is simple, though perhaps not easy. Join a very real "grass roots" campaign. We have no lawyers, we have no slick professional PR firms, we certainly don't have the kind of big bucks available to this crowd - and we definitely don't have a thundering herd of reporters ready to write whatever we tell them to.
In short, we are a real grass roots community. And here's what we need to do. For the record - I'm all for my fellow troops speaking their minds, but I'm not in favor of them being duped by Socialist organizations hiding behind false fronts - "astroturfing". And that's what's going on with the web site called "Appeal for Redress".
If you want to fight back, spread the word to as many people as you can, via forums, email, or phoning the editor of your local paper - especially if they've already carried the initial press release disguised as news. Tell them what's happening, and give them this link: http://www.mudvillegazette.com/milblogs/2006/10/27/#006854 which will bring them right to this entry page.
And keep coming back - we'll keep doing our best to expose anyone who would attempt to use our fellow troops with deceptive tactics like these.
Active duty military now have another option. They can sign my Appeal For Redress - http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ar96892/index.html
Explanation here - http://www.antimedia.us/posts/1168355539.shtmlPosted by antimedia at January 17, 2007 02:01 PM
While I often disagree with you, on this issue I think you've "hit it out of the park." These groups are actively manipulating naive servicemembers. The list is long ... the guys encouraged to desert to Canada, Ehren Watada and now these sailors. A bunch of 60s radical "retreads" are selling these kids false bill of goods.
They must be exposed.
The only disagreement I have is youyr lumping of Amnesty International in with kooks like NION and the ISO.Posted by IRR Soldier... at January 17, 2007 02:52 PM
Great article but did you know that none of the links you use to refer to Hutto actually work? I imagine someone other than those who agree with you are reading your article as well.Posted by Tim Boggs at January 17, 2007 08:59 PM
Great job Greyhawk! Just the other day I was over at Daily Kos (because I like to get my blood pressure stirred up) and responded to a post by some moron spouting the "Appeal for Redress" petition as the greatest thing since sliced bread, calling it "highly significant" and "an historic event." I simply disagreed with his opinion and went on to say that even if the 1000 names were verifiable service members (highly unlikely), compared to the total number of US military forces serving in Iraq, the percentage was extremely small (around 0.003 percent). That percentage was around 0.0006 percent compare to all US forces (active and reserve). I went on to say that in any other statistical poll, research, survey, election, etc....these numbers would most likely be thrown out as insignificant or irrelevent. Well, obviously this did not sit well with the poster (I think the simple math hurt his head) and he promptly gave me a troll rating and insulted me. It totally made my day!Posted by Johnny OMA at January 17, 2007 09:00 PM
Excellent work, though we shouldn't be surprised. This is a rather incestuous bunch.Posted by Andi at January 17, 2007 09:26 PM
IRR - you are correct - Amnesty is not associated with this "Appeal" program at all, nor are they involved in any similar activities (to my knowledge).
Hutto's appearance at various rallies where he is touted as "Jonathan Hutto, Amnesty International" may not accurately reflect Amnesty's level of indorsement of those appearances, any more than his current activities suggest any endorsement by the Navy.Posted by Greyhawk at January 17, 2007 10:49 PM
Excellent investgative work. The old 60's Marxist radicals and draft dodgers are all afraid they're gonna die and be proven wrong. LOL They are nothing but cowards and always will be.
RVN 1971-'72 11B
1st Cav Div (AM)
3rd Bde (sep)
B 2/5th Cav & D 1/12th Cav
someone should kick their asses -they deserve respect for serving but an ass kicking for siding with the enemy.Posted by Jim Ustreet at January 18, 2007 04:23 AM
The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk/Virginia Beach's newspaper) did an article about this Hutto guy back in November.
Here is a more general article from October. He's quoted as saying he's NOT anti-war. Oh please!(rolling eyes):
The most recent article:
Feel free to go to thoses links and leave comments at the bottom of the page.Posted by JenW at January 18, 2007 12:36 PM
This "Grassroots" thing is amusing. Makes me think back to the so-called "Radio Free North America" tapes I listened to in a survival school. Very amusing, but very ignorable.
I wish that Hutto person worked for me. He would not have time to do his agitating.
By the way, WTF is a "Grassroot'? Is it something that occurs when you spill pot seeds on the windowsill dirt?Posted by dc at January 18, 2007 05:20 PM
It's just another pathetic attempt to re-inflate the "Winter Soldier" balloon, cracked and patched and leaking as it is... the anti-warriors are trying to fight the last anti-war, but one.
Kinda sad, how they keep expecting to find all these disaffected draftees. I suspect a lot of the people that signed their petition are along the lines of "I.P. Freely" and "Seymour Butts."
Johnny OMA writes:
...even if the 1000 names were verifiable service members (highly unlikely), compared to the total number of US military forces serving in Iraq, the percentage was extremely small (around 0.003 percent).
Socialist Liberals - Brainwashing the Gullible Masses Since 1864.
(Hint: The founding date of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA), sometimes called the First International)Posted by fdcol63 at January 19, 2007 07:36 PM
Rule #1 about the media: reporters don't mind getting rolled as long as the story is juicy enough or agrees with their viewpointPosted by jblog at January 19, 2007 07:54 PM
During WWI, the various communist parties assigned folks to join the army (fighting the Germans) to organize and encourage their fellow soldiers to desert.
My calculator says that 1,000 is .0066 of 150,000, not .6Posted by Kenno at January 19, 2007 08:46 PM
Yes, but .0066 is .66 %.Posted by Neal J. King at January 19, 2007 09:18 PM
Ooooooh, 0.6%. Sorry, "over" 0.6%. That just changes the whole argument, doesn't it? That leaves only that small 99.4% fragment that feels differently. Changes everything.
Thanks for keeping us all informed, Greyhawk.Posted by inmypajamas at January 20, 2007 01:32 AM
You do know what a percent is, don't you??
Ooooooh, 0.6%. Sorry, "over" 0.6%. That just changes the whole argument, doesn't it? That leaves only that small 99.4% fragment that feels differently.
By that logic, one could claim that sign only four servicemen have signed this petition, (and one of them is retired), hence all the remaining serviceman oppose this petitions, some 99.999+ percent.
That would be incorrect manipulation of numbers. Just as your 99.4% is.
The Army Times had a poll that's relevant. Here's a story that reported the results:
Poll: U.S. military support for war fallsPosted by Michigander at January 21, 2007 01:54 PM
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Just over a third of military respondents approve of the president's management of the Iraq war, according to the Army Times newspaper group.
Only 35 percent of the servicemen and women polled this year said they approve of the way President George W. Bush is handling the war. Another 42 percent said they disapproved. The results show a significant drop in approval, down from 63 percent last year.
On that Army Times Poll - a good point. I can also tell you their grounds for disapproval. Most troops in Iraq last year felt their hands were tied because they couldn't do what they felt needed to be done - specifically, going after Sadr's goons. Instead they were patrolling and waiting to be attacked so they could fight back. Since most of those attacks were with IEDs (the bad guys knew better than to actually attack in force) there was no one to respond to.
You can see why they'd be frustrated, to say the least, with policies that forced this (in)action upon them - GIs have little patience in these situations.
One thing you must remember - no one is more "anti-war" than the soldier. But given a job to do, the tools to do it (which requires the support of politicians and "regular folks" back home) we'll get 'er done.
THe jury is still out on whether the new strategy will change this - the President said "restrictions" would be lifted when he announced the surge. You can bet he heard an earful about those "restrictions" from commanders in the field, and that's why you heard it in the surge speech. Early signs are that this is the case, but the real drama is yet to come.Posted by Greyhawk at January 21, 2007 03:34 PM
Fenton practically invented "astroturfing". You might try a google search on fenton and Alar. You might remember the Alar apple scare where Fenton built a grassroots network of "concerned environmentalist" groups nationwide practically overnight. The finale was a 60 minutes piece on the dangers of Alar on apples. Nevermind that not a single person had ever been harmed.
THANK YOU for shining light on this. I tried over a year ago to point out how Fenton Communications was orchestrating all of these antiwar groups/individuals and how people such as Dana Priest of the Washington Post had connections with many of these groups (Dana Priest through her husband connected to the Wilson/Plame issue and a Fenton client).
Fenton Communications has been the driving force. One of their tactics is simple ... hijack an event, cause a spectacle, and become the focus to get the message out ... such as when Larry Johnson heckled Rumsfeld at a press conference (VIPS ... Fenton client) or when Sheehan disrupted a Democratic press conference. The idea is to steal the media eye and use it to get the message out.
Nobody seemed to believe me then and I didn't have the time/resources to flesh it out though AJ Strata over at his blog and the Sweetness and Light blog exposed a bunch of that stuff.
These individual groups are coordinated via Fenton to provide a certain synergy and to ensure they don't work at cross purposes. For all intents and purposes, they are the same group.
The link I am providing in the details section is to an old blog I don't post to anymore but has some things I discovered a long time ago.
It is really great to see more light being shined on this and others reaching similar conclusions independently.Posted by crosspatch at January 21, 2007 05:53 PM
An article I wrote that parallels this one in May 2006:crosspatch at January 21, 2007 06:10 PM
Guess my son is the anti-Hutto. His actions speak louder than other's words
Are you aware that this group and Hutto will the subject of a piece airing on "60 Minutes" tonight? Tonight being 25 Feb 2007 and trust me they ain't debunking them.Posted by Just_A_Grunt at February 25, 2007 10:23 PM
I've been wondering for a couple of years how long it would be before we saw this sort of thing. It's not something new to the Socialists....put in a sleeper, wake them up, then let the fun begin.Posted by bikermailman at February 26, 2007 01:33 AM
thx for exposing this crap. it's the primary MO of MoveOn and George Soros - highly recommend "The Shadow Party" for those interested in learning morePosted by anon at February 26, 2007 01:52 AM
Charlatans all, they don't give a damn for the troops or the USA, they want Iraq to fail.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
don't support the troops
deny them any more help
call their mission a failure
"Hopes to earn his Surface Warfare pin" ? Christ, anyone can earn a surface warfare pin. 2 years and not a petty officer tells me he ain't working at being one. Secondly, he isn't involved in much. He is the DCPO? Damage control Petty officer? Not a huge job. Important non the less but not overly mentally challenging. My guess, he is a lousy bitching sailor who is endured by his leading PO(petty officer).Posted by Shane at February 26, 2007 03:12 AM
I'm not sure that I buy the math argument presented here at all. The numerator is 1000, but since the group is defined as "active duty service members", the denominator should be all active duty service members, broadly defined. That is a long way from 150,000 which is the small fraction of the whole currently serving in Iraq. It may even be larger if the names on the petition include veterans who are no longer serving. Throw in the reserves and the denominator is well into the millions, shrinking the number on the petition into a vanishingly small fraction of a percent.
And that of course, is assuming that the signers are actually in any way verified. Frankly, I doubt it. I have seen quite a few petitions using weasel words allowing signatures by 'family members' or 'supporters' in the small print, but packaged as "petitions by the military".
An outstanding job by Mudville Gazette which I will do my best to promote. Thank you.Posted by DaMav at February 26, 2007 05:52 AM
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It sounds to me from the chronology that this guy joined the Navy with the specific intent of getting credibility to later "expose" the same people he was hanging out with before. I think it would be reasonable to presume such intent.Posted by Reader at February 26, 2007 05:20 PM
You should consider doing a soft redirect from http://www.mudvillegazette.com/redress or something. It would be easier to remember and spread.Posted by Stefan at February 27, 2007 04:17 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(35) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)