Astroturfing in American English is a neologism for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising which seek to create the impression of being spontaneous “grassroots” behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf.” – Wikipedia
Here’s the intro from Michelle (or you can skip this and read the full outline here):
A collaborative investigative effort by our friends at The Jawa Report to expose an apparently astroturfed, anti-Sarah Palin smear campaign seems to have caused late-night panic in Barack Obama-linked p.r. circles.
First, read this. Read the whole thing. Rusty Shackleford — with help from Jane of Armies of Liberation, Stable Hand, the Jawa team, Dan Riehl, Ace of Spades, and Patterico – traced a Palin-bashing YouTube video to a Democrat public relations firm, Winner and Associates, and one of its employees, Ethan S. Winner. They believe the voiceover for the ad — which spreads the lie that Sarah Palin belonged to a fringe third party, the Alaska Independence Party — was done by a professional whose voice they believe was also featured in several Obama ads and other spots produced by Obama top strategist and astroturfer extraordinaire David Axelrod’s firm.
The Bottom Line from the Rusty’s investigation:
While not conclusive, evidence suggests a link to the Barack Obama campaign. Namely:
* Evidence suggests that a YouTube video with false claims about Palin was uploaded and promoted by members of a professional PR firm.
* The family that runs the PR firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, the netroots, and are staunch Obama supporters.
* Evidence suggests that the firm engaged in a concerted effort to distribute the video in such a way that it would appear to have gone viral on its own. Yet this effort took place on company time.
* Evidence suggests that these distribution efforts included actions by at least one employee of the firm who is unconnected with the family running the company.
* The voice-over artist used in this supposedly amateur video is a professional.
* This same voice-over artist has worked extensively with David Axelrod’s firm, which has a history of engaging in phony grassroots efforts, otherwise known as “astroturfing.”
* David Axelrod is Barack Obama’s chief media strategist.
* The same voice-over artist has worked directly for the Barack Obama campaign.
This suggests that false rumors and outright lies about Sarah Palin and John McCain being spread on the internet are being orchestrated by political partisans and are not an organic grassroots phenomenon led by the left wing fringe.
Here’s the best part: IT’S A TRAP!!! Blogger Ace of Spades tipped the Obama campaign that a major story was about to drop about astroturfing:
Barack Obama and the DNC watch this blog. And I’ve put them on notice since this afternoon that a story about them was coming.
Within an hour of the story being posted, the videos began coming down. Within 90 minutes they were all down.
That’s a pretty fast response time. I didn’t mention Winner & Associates in my hints. So why would they be on notice?
I only mentioned Axelrod and Obama.
Fedpapers sums up the great ‘dissapearing’:
Ace warned about a major story breaking from Rusty, and even tipped people off to the approximate time it would be published. All they did was sit and wait for the expose. AJ’s right. They read it, realized they got caught, and immediately set about the task of covering their tracks. The problem is that people like Ace, Dan Riehl, andMichelle Malkin are night owls when it comes to major news. If this had been pure conjecture with no back up evidence, they would have shut their computers off and gone to bed. But the evidence Rusty provided was enough to prompt them to keep an eye on the YouTube accounts. At 12:42 AM Ace noted that “eswinner” logged into his YouTube account. By 4:38 AM, all of the “winner” accounts were gone. Ace even noted that he didn’t mention Winner and Associates in his initial report of the scoop coming out. Obama campaign people were obviously watching to see which one of their stealth cronies was about to get exposed. Ace also notes that the KosKiddie who urged the scorched earth viral video astroturfing has been busy scrubbing the DailyKos diaries of his/her suggested strategy. Searching for it on the Kos site is futile because it’s gone. Um, note to the KosKiddie “geekesque” — you can delete the diary, but you can’t delete the cached page.
New kind of politics, anyone?