Reporters are treating these seriously, acting as though they have a chance of success.
The whole idea of Astroturfing is to fly under the radar, to appear to be spontaneous. Once a campaign is identified as Astroturf, it becomes useless for measuring public opinion. The numbers brought out on behalf of the Astroturfing company are discounted by politicians. And the lengths Astroturf groups go to hide their true nature is proof of this.
The only reason the above efforts are taken seriously is because they have institutional support beyond the companies involved. There is tremendous support, within Washington, for virtually any corporate campaign, and the bigger the corporation the greater the support.
It’s sad, really. Wal-Mart under Sam Walton was a good company. Employees were "associates" and were treated as partners by "Mr. Sam," who was constantly on the road, listening and cheering them on. The rejection of this by Sam’s heirs, in the name of short-term profit, is a great tragedy, a real Buddenbrooks story.
The AT&T effort is equally pathetic. Much of the power of Bell
lobbying in the past was based on the fact that the companies were
local. AT&T is entirely national, it is shedding employees, and it
has no emotional hold on anyone.
What is saddest about these campaigns is what they do to those
political figures who head them up. Andrew Young is now over 80, and
his shilling for Wal-Mart won’t make much difference in the long run,
except to his personal comfort, which he prizes highly. Mike McCurry,
on the other hand, had a great career ahead of him, but his work for
AT&T ends it.
In an age of political excess,
such as this one, those who take sides against the excess also wind up
taking sides against both Astroturfing and those who practice it. Which
is funny, because Astroturfing has, in fact, been a hallmark in how
this Thesis holds power. Astroturf groups like Concerned Women for America, designed to confuse people about just who benefits from conservative policies and put a "better" face on them, are decades-old.
When the Thesis falls — and it will if people are given a chance to
take it down — so does the Astroturfing. And so, too, do all its