Ok, maybe not the first thing you think of when you think of marine mammal conservation, but its seems ‘astroturfing’ is actually a PR technique. I learn something everyday - as I thought it was something you played football on.
This weeks New Scientist magazine reports that commercial interests are creating groups that purport to be the genuine "grassroots" and that 'the creation of such fake groups "astroturfing" - named after the plastic grass used on some sports fields and defined in New Scientist as "the practice of disguising an orchestrated campaign as a spontaneous upwelling of public opinion"’
New Scientist says that it ‘recently stumbled upon the website of a public relations firm called "Policy Communications", which boldly boasts of delivering "some extraordinary successes for our clients".
One of these successes is a "Grassroots Power Network", of which Policy Communications says: "We developed and now manage one of the nation's most sophisticated electronic grassroots advocacy networks..."
Another success is "Partnership for the West", described as "one of the West's largest and most active pro-growth grassroots advocacy networks". ‘
New Scientist goes onto say, ‘An illustration of the kind of common-sense policies favoured is a national "grassroots" campaign to "save" the polar bear from being put in the "regulatory 'jail'" of the Endangered Species Act. It's possible that the only link with Policy Communications here may be Sims himself, but we're in little doubt that the oil and gas exploration and production companies mentioned in the "Our clients" section of the Policy Communications website are delighted that the CEO is involved in this particular "grassroots" campaign.’
Now don't get me wrong. Plurality of views is always a reality and often welcome in informed debate, but when it comes to passing yourself off as a 'grassroots' campaign does this not imply that there is a public desire to see that particular objective achieved? Shouldn't commercial interest groups simply represent themselves rather than as something else?
Otherwise one might think that they are a little unsure of their arguments in light of real public scrutiny