When you see a tree with a bunch of apples on it, the logical conclusion is that you are looking at an apple tree, right?
But what if you are looking at a political movement that claims to represent “the people,” yet constantly gets caught manufacturing the appearance of popular support?
That’s called an Astro-Turf tree and it’s found mainly - though not entirely - on the Left, from the grassroots all the way to the nation’s capital. If you doubt me here, consider these recent stories:
- A headline in the feisty New Hampshire Journal proclaims: “Dems caught staffing group posing as GOP-friendly gay marriage organization.”
Standing Up for Families, an activist group touted as Republican by the pro-gay marriage forces in the Granite State, is being staffed by folks from local and state Democratic committees.
Trevor Chandler, the guy orchestrating it all, including the fake group’s red, white and blue elephant logo, just happens to be “a Democratic political operative who once worked for Rep. Paul Hodes, D-NH, whose Senate candidacy was rejected by Granite State voters in 2010,” according to the NHJ.
- Then there’s the national outcry against conservative Talk Radio meister Rush Limbaugh in response to his crude remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University Law student at the center of the HHS contraception coverage mandate flap.
Every major mainstream media outlet in the country has made hay reporting demands for Limbaugh’s sacking and the parade of advertisers allegedly leaving his program.
Then we learn from Legal Insurrection blogger William Jacobson that a left-wing political activist employed by Media Matters for America was the parade master waiting for Limbaugh to stumble so he could implement a program he created in 2009 for just such a purpose.
“While much of the public outcry against Limbaugh was genuine, the advertiser secondary boycott was astro-turfed by Media Matters, which initiated a pre-existing ‘Stop Limbaugh’ campaign, executed it over the first weekend of the controversy, and then hyped it and spoon fed it to the mainstream media without disclosing that a Media Matters employee was behind it all,” Jacobson reported.
But wait, there’s more.
- Remember all those “citizen protests” against the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast from Canada and create thousands of new jobs in the process? It was all planned and funded by a bunch of rich foundations and environmental activists, coordinated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
They put it all on paper, too, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markay: “The presentation, written in 2008, describes the allocation of $7 million to environmental non-profits for tactics that include the use of the legislative and legal systems to delay or derail energy production in the United States and Canada, and to ‘raise the costs’ of energy in both nations.”
(By the way, I wonder what John D. Rockefeller would think if he knew his heirs were spending the proceeds from his work in the oil industry to destroy his work in the oil industry.)
- But the granddaddy of all modern leftist astro-turfing efforts is probably the $140 million creation of the Ford Foundation, the George Soros-funded Open Society Institute, Pew Trusts and five other big liberal philanthropic groups.
Their goal was to gain passage of McCain-Feingold, the landmark campaign finance reform. I did a good bit of reporting on this flap back in my Tapscott's Copy Desk days.
But Ryan Sager was the guy who broke the story big-time. As Sager described it in 2004:
"All of the major reform groups - Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, the Campaign Finance Institute, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Responsive Politics, Democracy 21 and the William J. Brennan Jr. Center for Justice - are funded by the same eight liberal foundations, and have received millions upon millions of dollars each.
"Yet, by maintaining the fiction of independence from one and other, they appear to much of the press to be a pack of scrappy underdogs sinking their teeth into the ankles of the big-money men."
The campaign inadvertently became public when video of a presentation by Pew vice president Sean Treglia to a group of journalists at the Annenberg Center let the cat out of the bag:
"The target was 535 Members of Congress and the idea was to create the impression that a mass movement was afoot, that everywhere they looked people were talking about campaign finance reform," Treglia explained on the video.
Not one of the journalists listening to Treglia challenged him on the fact he was, in effect, admitting a massive, systematic pack of lies.
Nor did any of them do what was minimally required of them as journalists, which was to write a story about Treglia's admission.
And that's why we shouldn’t credit too much genius to the lefties who create these astro-turfed wonders of public opinion manipulation.
After all, it helps when so many journalists covering American politics desperately want to believe these Potemkin villages are reality.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.