Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word “grassroots.” The implication behind the use of the term is that there are no “true” or “natural” grassroots, but rather “fake” or “artificial” support, although some astroturfing operatives defend the practice.
One particularly egregious example of this appeared on page 16A of The Oklahoman this morning:
“PAID ADVERTISING” appears in largish print near the top, as would seem appropriate. Where things get artificial is at the bottom:
PAID FOR BY OKLAHOMANS FOR BETTER ROADS AND BRIDGES
BOBBY STEM, TREASURER
636 NE 41ST STREET, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA 73105
405-520-1874 OR BSTEM@WEBUILDOKLAHOMA.COM
It took all of four seconds to trace this back to the Association of General Contractors. Now I don’t have any problem with AOGC trying to wangle funding out of the state, as does seemingly every interest group from Black Mesa to Bokchito. But I object strenuously to this “Oklahomans for Better Roads and Bridges” nonsense, obviously intended to imply that your neighbors and mine contributed to the ideas and the cost of this Paid Advertisement; it’s a PAC, nothing more, with over a million dollars on hand to spend on fund-wangling. If we’re going to have PACs, and by all indications we are, the very least we can do is to require them to identify themselves as such.