Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Please keep off the "Astroturf"

Grassroots community groups help ordinary citizens, pressure governments and frame debates.

Where would we be if groups such as the National Trust or anti-pollution groups had not fought vested interests in the 1960s and 1970s to protect our historic buildings or environment.

But a new game is afoot ... so-called "astroturfing".

Astroturf is an artificial grass and astroturf groups are artificial "grassroots" groups set up to push an business or political group's agenda while pretending to be independent or community group.

Such astroturf groups are everywhere these days. You see them quoted in the newspapers and they attend conferences such as Mr Rudd's 2020 Summit pretending to be the voice of the people, but actually pushing their backer's agenda.

Such groups as Get Up! ... A group that is officially unaligned but which had 118 delegates out of the 1000 summiteers at that 2020 Summit. Piers Akerman: "Incredibly, 118 of the chosen delegates are GetUp! members, including our Executive Director Brett Solomon." He gained fame for his extraordinary performance at the Summit: “Is anyone actually going to argue that we shouldn't be a republic?” summiteer Brett Solomon of grassroots political movement GetUp asked the 100 delegates in the summit's governance session. One lonely figure shot up a defiant hand, prompting laughter around the room. A remarkable way to deal with a differing opinion, which speaks volumes for his respect for people having a dissenting point of view.

It may be unaligned (which i doubt), but it is stridently pro Kevin and anti-monarchy. It has all the signs of being an ALP astroturf group!

Beware of "grassroots" groups that seem to be little more than fronts for political or business interests and pretending to represent the community.

The whole 2020 Summit seems to have been the ultimate astroturfing exercise ... a group supposedly representing the people of Australia but in fact hand crafted to ensure a predictable outcome.

All they could demonstrate was that their ability to organise a vote was more advanced than that of the Monarchists. They achieved a one hundred precent vote in favour of "a" republic at the Summit, which is ridiculous when opinion polls show that their support base in the population is just 45 percent.

However, their performance was a wakeup call for the Monarchists. The loyal supporters could certainly learn from the grassroot skills of the republicans of this country who like so much signing their posts with "Viva la révolution!". In doing so they not only mix Spanish and French in one senctence, but also show how little they know about the Australians.

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