The Democratic National Party has released a web ad that unmasks this summer’s Republicans astroturf campaign of deploying tea-baggers to disrupt health-care town halls and other events. The ad exposes the fact that the people shown in cell-phone videos of the disruptions are not the angry constituents confronting their elected representatives they pretend to be, but rather are tea-baggers bussed into the districts to shut down discussion about reform.
While the current GOP campaign seems to be working so far — meaning the visuals from the videos are likely duping millions of low-info voters — the party’s record on astroturfing has had mixed results over the past decade.
From DU: Identities of Brooks Brothers “rioters” revealed
The GOP’s first astroturf action was the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000, when a handful of paid operatives were parachuted into Miami to as part of its campaign to shut down the Bush v. Gore recounts. (There’s a list of the operatives and who they worked for here.)
At the time, the hapless mainstream media portrayed the “riot” as if it were a legitimate outburst of outrage by concerned Floridians. It was just one in a series of successful tactics that helped the GOP abscond with the presidency in 2000, with disastrous results for the country and the world over the ensuing eight years.
The tea party movement, a broader-scale astroturf effort, failed this year after it came to light that the events held on April 15 nationwide had been coordinated by, among others, FreedomWorks, a right-wing group set up as an answer to Moveon.org and operated by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who is now a Republican lobbyist.
In the current anti-reform campaign, FreedomWorks and others are emulating the “flash mob” phenomenon from five or six years ago. Flash mobs were benign, spontaneous moments of street theater in which participants were notified online about where and when to meet and given an improvisational script to perform when at the appointed time and place. A group of strangers might show up at a particular corner on a certain day and time to dance wearing pink tutus, for example.
True to form, of course, Republicans have turned the flash mob whimsy into something dark: a campaign to deny the right of citizens to have open and legitimate discourse with their elected officials. They deploy participants using email listservs and provide them with a “strategy memo” that is basically a script for shutting down discussion at the forums.
What makes this tactic so sinister is its hidden purpose. Lurking behind groups like FreedomWorks and the rest are corporations who are footing the bills. For example, one of Dick Armey’s lobbying firm’s clients is drug-maker Bristol-Myers-Squibb.
Astroturfing only works if the mainstream media plays along. The Brooks Brothers riot was an unqualified success at the time because the MSM unwittingly (we suppose) treated it like a real event. So far, the major networks have treated the flash mobs as legitimate protests — as CBS News did earlier this week.
There is a major push to get the truth out there about these flash mob disruptions. Maybe the DNC’s ad will help.