A little while ago, in a discussion of the Tea Party movement, I dismissed the oft-repeated (but never supported) charge that it was an “astroturf” movement. In that article, I listed six traits of what I consider “astroturfing” — the faking of a genuine grass-roots movement.
- Large numbers of people in identical, identifying T-Shirts
- Large numbers of identical, professional, pre-printed signs
- Big buses bringing attendees, emblazoned with logos of the sponsoring organizations and slogans
- Designated spokespeople who have their key points prepared and handouts for the press
- Schedules of speakers, along with printed transcripts of their remarks
- Central organizers who coordinate the whole thing
Well, gosh darn it if there wasn’t a liberal protest last week that just does a bang-up job of illustrating my points.
Let’s go down that little list of mine, shall we:
1) Large number of people in identical, identifying T-Shirts.
Check. It’s not that large a group, but a significant percentage have their Union T-Shirts on.
2) Large numbers of identical, pre-printed signs.
Not really. But this was a hastily-thrown-together event, and they did have time for giant puppet heads, so I’ll give his one half a point.
3) Big buses bringing attendees, emblazoned with logos of the sponsoring organizations and slogans.
Again, not really, as this was almost a spur-of-the moment thing. But they did have a limo for their giant heads, so I’ll go another half-point.
4) Designated spokespeople who have their key points prepared and handouts for the press.
Not obvious in that video, but there weren’t any press noticeably on hand. I got my suspicions about that guy in the blue shirt standing along the edge of the roadway — he’s obviously with the group, but not marching and chanting — but that ain’t conclusive. I’ll give this one a no.
5) Schedules of speakers, along with printed transcripts of their remarks.
Again, not apparent in this video, and not the kind of thing one does spur of the moment. So no.
6) Central organizers who coordinate the whole thing.
Someone had to rent the limo and order up the giant fake heads, and notice the guys in the orange safety vests? I’m betting that they aren’t there for road repairs or hunting season.
So, on a six-point astroturf scale, this is a solid 3. And if I remove #4 as being irrelevant in this case, that takes it from 50% fake to 60%.
That’s how they roll, folks. And that’s why they’re so convinced that the Tea Party must be astroturfed — centrally coordinated, with bosses and paymasters and grand strategists. Because they simply can’t imagine it happening any other way.