Beware Those Fake “Grassroots” Organizations

The latest tactic in America’s class warfare is the creation of “grassroots” organizations that promote the interests of wealthy special interests to the detriment of the general public. It’s at best confusing and at worst misleading, and in a country where most people are poorly informed about politics, it can cause a lot of harm.

You probably remember the Swiftboat commercials that falsely smeared John Kerry when he ran for U.S. president. Similarly sleazy tactics are now being adopted to discredit any attempt to protect the American public against predators.

It was the same kind of  “astroturf” organizers who funded last summer’s town hall protests and continue to fund the Tea Party movement.

Much of the opposition to health care reform came from “astroturf” groups funded by people like corporate lobbyist and former House speaker Dick Armey, who got paid handsomely by his health industry clients.

In the past few weeks, a new player has entered the”grassroots” propaganda game. This time, the target is financial reform legislation that’s before Congress. The campaign includes a $1.6 million ad buy, a blitz of opinion columns, and the sly perversion of arguments from respected economists to make it look as if opposition to the legislation is coming from the political left.

The campaign’s deceptive practices include launching diaries on progressive sites like Daily Kos and FireDogLake and posting columns on the left-leaning Huffington Post.

The crusade – known as “Stop Too Big to Fail” – is being run by a group called Consumers for Competitive Choice, which at first glance looks like a grassroots organization. But it’s really a front for a corporate propagandist named Bob Johnson (photo above). This Indianapolis lawyer was also responsible for such false fronts as Consumers for Cable Choice (funded by big telecoms like Verizon), which fought to deregulate the cable industry, and Consumers Voice (funded by AT&T), which opposed broadband legislation.

Through Consumers for Competitive Choice, Johnson also runs, a fake consumer website funded by the big insurer Assurant.

In America, where freedom of speech is sacrosanct, there is no penalty for lying. So it is up to the public to separate fact from fiction. This becomes increasingly difficult as the masters of manipulation refine their craft, using false fronts and misdirection to make things appear the opposite of what they are.

And the threat becomes especially lethal when unlimited funds are available. Never before has there been a greater need for “eternal vigilance” in America.