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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.All done!
Come join us for a military funeral in small town 'Murica.
Writer and Blogger Cathy Seipp has a wonderfully breezy, near-insider’s reflection up at National Review Online, discussing the efforts of The Los Angeles Times to remain relevant in a changing media environment.
Seipp claims responsibility for coining Spring Street to describe the LA Times, similar to how Grey Lady describes their New York City counterpart. Seipp demonstrates long familiarity – no doubt breeding considerable contempt – for the Times, and passes along several common criticisms for the LA paper. A couple in particular caught my attention:
Many of the complaints about the Times’ new front-page redesign dwell on how the page looks too similar to USA Today. I stand behind no man when it comes to my distaste for USA Today — when I stay at hotels offering complimentary issues of the traveling salesman’s broadsheet, I always ring up the front desk to demand, “Take it away, take it away, take it away!” — but cynics take a different view.In light of all the recent discussion about journalism, embedded or otherwise, and MILBLOGS, I would draw a similar conclusion about mainstream media (MSM) in general.
A TV writer and former magazine editor I know, for instance, once told me he cancelled his L.A. Times subscription to get USA Today instead, which really seems pretty crazy. He added that he just wants the following three questions answered when he reads his morning paper: 1) How are the Dodgers doing? 2) Rain today? 3) What’s on TV?
“Those are the only three answers I want from American journalism,” he noted. “USA Today is perfect.”
(Further commentary at Dadmanly.)
Anti-war elements really grasp at straws when it comes to finding credible military dissenters (Jesse MacBeth, Jim Massey, etc).
I honestly believe that any posting author on this blog could instantly achieve fame and fortune in these circles simply by speaking out against the mission. There's no standards with the anti-war community. If you wear the uniform and disagree with the war, your opinion automatically discounts the overwhelming number of soldiers who support it.
Here’s just a taste:
While it is an obvious thing to do to honor our dead soldiers, the joy of a book like this — and of the milblogs it gives a snapshot of — is to introduce you to very real words of our living ones. They are a very real manifestation of Whitman:What a great review. AL, posting at Winds of Change, also encourages buyers of the book to follow up by sending a little note to some interested parties:
“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear. …”
Fewer and fewer Americans know soldiers as the tradition of military service slips into history. Buy the book, meet some, and listen to them.
And when you buy the book, take a moment to send an email or letter to both the White House and the Secretary of Defense, asking why it is that midlevel Pentagon bureaucrats are choking off the ability of our troops to blog and of our bloggers (see this from Michael Yon) to cover the troops:Thanks, Marc. We’re pleased and proud to have you on the team. Wish we had more like you.
I do not recognize your website as a media organization that we will use as a source to credential journalists covering MNF-I operations.
LTC Barry Johnson
Some things speak for themselves. The war doesn't, and we need the voices of Blackfive and his band of bloggers, and of Michael Yon, and of all the men and women serving to try and comprehend what's going on over there.
(Cross-posted at Dadmanly)
Al Jazeera coverage here.
US troops call for Iraq pulloutYesterday 118, today 200. I expect ultimately there may be 655,000.*
More than 200 men and women from the US armed services have joined a protest calling for American troops in Iraq to be brought home, organisers say.
According to a White House reporter, the original count was 65:
Q Tony, quick -- there's 65 active duty troops that are coming out with a letter today, saying they think the occupation should end, and they're saying that -- this is part of the military whistle blower. Any reaction to that?Would like more information on that Fenton Communications connection - if accurate this certainly implies something much more than the "grass roots" action portrayed in the press. But we already know that. (And it also implies the press knows that their stories are misleading.)
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, it's a Fenton Communications job, which means clearly it's got a political edge to it. But number two it's not unusual for soldiers in a time of war to have some misgivings. I believe at least two of them have served in Iraq proper, active duty. We don't know how many have actually served --
Q I think the majority of them have.
MR. SNOW: But let's say they all did. You also have more than -- you have several hundred thousand who served in Iraq. You have reenlistment rates that have exceeded goals in all the military. You've had a number of people serving multiple tours of duty. And it appears that there's considerable --
Q They don't have much choice.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I mean they do have choice. If you've got a chance to sign up or not sign up, and you decide that you're going to sign up again and go serve in Iraq, it means it means something to you. And so I believe that there is also -- you get 65 guys who are, unfortunately -- no, not unfortunately -- 65 people who are going to be able to get more press than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they're proud of their service.
*Including illustrious names like Colonel Mustard, General Disorder, and Private Parts.
Update: Many questions answered here.
Don't look if you want to believe "All Is Lost".
Looks like the Pentagon is fighting back against misleading MSM reports.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he can clean up Iraq sooner than the most optimistic U.S. timeline yet proposed:
Iraq's prime minister said on Thursday he could get violence under control in six months, half the time U.S. generals say they need, provided Washington gave him more weaponry and more say over his own forces.That kind of leadership is exactly what is needed in Iraq - I say we give him what he wants, get out of the way as much as possible, and see what happens in six months.
"They think building Iraqi forces will need 12 to 18 months, for us to be in control of security," Maliki said, referring to remarks two days ago by U.S. commander General George Casey.
"We agree our forces need work but think that if, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough."
"I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate," Maliki said.
"I have to be careful fighting some militias and terrorists ... because they are better armed than the army and police," Maliki said. "The police are sharing rifles."
Asked what kind of Iraqi forces he wanted, Maliki said: "I'm not talking about modern tanks or modern warplanes and missiles ... I'm talking about having a well-trained army, swift and light on its feet and at the same time with medium weapons."
By the way, why wasn't this the biggest headline story of the day?
Holy cow! I picked the wrong week to be in MINIMIZE!
There are a few more, but you get the point: if you sort and group together all these points, you get some interesting trends about information.