Free Markets, Free People

THIS Is What “Astroturf” Looks Like

We now have real paid organizers promising to produce bodies to confront the citizenry showing up at townhall meetings to loudly voice their disapproval.

The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.

In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.

What could go wrong with this scenario? First, who says they’re all “boisterous conservative protesters?” This is about union members going to an event expressly to confront those who are voicing a dissenting opinion and quelling that. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge “fail”. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge backlash.



“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …

Yeah, nothing could go wrong here.

But, of course, since this is true astroturfing, there’s a political payback being demanded:

But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.

Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,'” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”

Yes friends, these protesters will truly be paid protesters. If they help intimidate the citizenry at the townhall meetings, then they expect to see their legislative desires fulfilled.

As the AFL-CIO spools itself up to confront the “mobs”, its secretary issues the battle cry of the astroturfer:

Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud — as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.

Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.

Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents — not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction

We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone – on all sides of the issue – deserves to be heard.

Does anyone out there have to wonder what tactics they’ll use to ensure others are “heard”? Republican can only pray they do.


13 Responses to THIS Is What “Astroturf” Looks Like

  • These are the people who want to berate their political opponents for supposedly sleazy tactics. They have willful blindness to their own tactics while being hypersensitive to even imagined tactics by their opponents.

    I’ve said this too often in comments here (along with some others who agree): I’m afraid the time for any kind of reasonable political discourse with the left is over. They insist on setting the terms of the debate, and those terms are slanted in their favor. If you disagree, that’s prima facie evidence in their mind that you are nasty and unethical, and your opinions therefore are valueless. 

    They reserve privileges for themselves they will not grant to their opponents. And they see no problem in such an asymetrical philosophy. They regard their own intentions and goodness as beyond question, and they believe that insulates them from having to defend their own tactics and gives them carte blanche to denigrate and demonize their opponents.

    You can’t have rational debate with someone who starts with the assumption that disagreement with them makes you unethical. You can’t have a debate using Enlightenment concepts with someone who denies the validity of such concepts in favor of post-modern ones.

    Unfortunately, I fear that the ultimate result will be that one side or the other will give up on non-violent political discourse. It was the left the last time, in the sixties. I don’t know which side it would likely be this time, but a situation in which the left denies any legitimacy to their political opponents is not stable. 

    • Billy Hollis – “… I’m afraid the time for any kind of reasonable political discourse with the left is over. They insist on setting the terms of the debate, and those terms are slanted in their favor. If you disagree, that’s prima facie evidence in their mind that you are nasty and unethical, and your opinions therefore are valueless.”

      Why I feel ANY urge to be fair where lefties are concerned escapes me, but I do. Therefore, I suggest that lefties feel exactly the same way. From their twisted, insanely partisan perspective, the terms of debate are completely slanted against THEM (after all, we’ve got Rush Limbaugh and Fox News). Let’s assume that they are capable of at least occasionally being honest and take their agitprop and hysterical rhetoric at face value. What do we learn about how they perceive the world and their opponents?

      They feel that much of the country is reflexively racist, and hence TAO faces an uphill battle even before he starts. They also feel that they are fighting against an entrenched, reactionary, white, conservative power structure that is based in Wall Street but has willing minions among the ignorant hoi-poloi (especially in the South) who are too uneducated to know that their labor is being stolen to line the pockets of big corporations. They see themselves as carrying on the fight against the same greedy capitalist barons that their Progressive forebears fought during the last half of the 19th century going into the 20th; the fact that the fight is still going on is de facto evidence of just how powerful their capitalist opponents actually are. They see a rich country that COULD be a paradise on earth if only a relative handful of scheming, unethical men who corruptly control the levers of power didn’t take most of the wealth for themselves. Their task on this earth is to overturn that power structure and return the wealth to its rightful owners, i.e. the people.

      I submit that the rank-and-file of lefties actually believe something like this, and so can be said to argue and struggle in “good faith”. Now, whether or not there is any point in debating or even arguing with people who have such a twisted, hateful view of their own country in a matter for debate. I agree with you that there really ISN’T any point. That’s pretty bad, actually: if enough people agree that there’s no point in discussing thing with “the other side”, then we don’t have a country any more.

  • These f*****g thugs make me want to throw up.

  • Hopefully the next day there will be fewer union workers in any shape to work.

    The days where AFL-CIO actually scared anyone are way gone.

  • Billy-

    There’s plenty of evidence that in fact the left has already mostly given up on non-violent debate.  Even their non-violent debate boils down to using fighting words (RACIST, NAZI, etc) and asassination imagery *(see the past 8 years)

  • There is another angle here. While the administration is throwing the “astroturf” pejorative around, take note of the one guy who is disappearing into the administration woodwork – Obama’s number one political advisor – David Axelrod – aka The Astroturf King.

    Recall that prior to the campaign Axelrod was a founding partner in two firms co-located in the same office, one of them ASK Public Strategies – the gold standard in astroturf consulting firms (Axelrod is the A in ASK). The MSM mostly gave him a pass during the campaign as he claimed he was on leave from ASK (while working for the co-located political consulting firm hired by the Obama campaign) and said he had no intention of being part of the administration. So now he is Obama’s right hand man in the White House and his bio has disappeared from ASK’s website. Yet no one has ever investigated or disclosed the exact nature of the financial arrangement between Axelrod and ASK during the campaign and now.

    Per the Sun-Times, when he accepted the position with the administration in January, he “sold” his stake in ASK for $3M to be paid out out over 5 years (i.e. he is still being paid by ASK and will continue to be paid during the entire tenure of Obama’s first term). It was also disclosed under the Obama transparency rules that he received $157,000 in salary from ASK in 2008, while he claimed he was “on leave”.

    I always wondered about the Obama flip-flop on Telecom Immunity until I learned that ATT was a big ASK client.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

  • Mob rule is not democracy.

    Actually, that’s exactly what it is.  That’s why we’re a republic.

  • That’s what I was thinking, too.

  • If health care takeover passes IN ANY FORM at this rate, it will have horrible consequences for our country. A significant fraction of our people already have grave reservations about this issue anyway, and if they perceive that it really IS being rammed down their throats by use of propaganda and outright thug intimidation…

    Billy Hollis – “… I fear that the ultimate result will be that one side or the other will give up on non-violent political discourse.”

    I’m also (ahem) curious about where all the civil libertarians have gone. You know: those people who so passionately decried all the “abuses of authority” that occured during the Bush administration. Where are they now when the president is urging people to inform on each other? Where are they now when the White House is working with unions to send paid thugs to town hall meetings to “counter” people who are questioning their members of Congress about major legislation? Where are they now when the Speaker of the House is hysterically accusing her opponents of wearing swastikas? Where are they now when reporters are working directly for the White House? Where are they now when the White House is using friendly bloggers to diseminate its talking points?

    Has there ever been such a coordinated campaign on the part of the president and his party to marginalized, demonize, and outright intimidate his opponents? I certainly can’t recall it happening in my lifetime. This is bad. BAD.

  • I’m surprised this hasn’t been dubbed, Vast Right Wing Conspiracy 2.0.
    Its the same people, way better delivery than Hillary, but same paranoid message.

  • A union… using intimidation tactics?

  • Local Tampa news is reporting that the Tampa event that has made the news, so to speak, was filled with Union reps while people who waited in line outside for 2 or 3 hours (quite something in yesterday’s heat) were denied entry.

    The news reports are that the Union reps were filed in the back door while only a very small number were admitted in the front doors.

  • “Has there ever been such a coordinated campaign on the part of the president and his party to marginalized, demonize, and outright intimidate his opponents?”
    Why, yes, a President once deputized 100,000 thugs to harass and arrest dissenters from his wartime policies
    He was a Progressive Democrat, of course. Woodrow Wilson.
    Just another example of the lying filth of the Democrats in demonizing Bush on civil liberties.