Saturday, April 2, 2011

All The World’s A Stage

Every day brings a new reason to feel depressed about the state of the nation. For example, let me share with you yesterday’s misery: I read this story in the Scene and was struck by this item:
Perhaps not surprisingly, one Nashville-based lobbyist says paid "grassroots" movements are becoming a part of every major civic project. Indeed, Copeland himself has worked on at least five such high-profile projects in Middle Tennessee in the past five years. Until the fairgrounds, he had done so the usual way in this line of work — covertly.

Here’s a little tip: if you’re paying people, it’s not “grassroots.”

I’m not at all surprised or shocked, at this point I’m basically just numb to the serial manipulations of public opinion which occur on a daily basis.

Our entire system is just so corrupted. Let me run down a few examples:

• It’s been revealed that many of the “real people” who phone in to talk radio programs are actually paid actors reading from scripts.

• Candidates for office have hired temp workers from staffing agencies to hold campaign signs and look like supporters.

• Corporate sockpuppets working for D.C. lobbyists are given phony titles at made-up front groups, then write op-eds, letters, and even make personal appearances to promote their clients' viewpoint.

• Political campaigns pay thousands of dollars to promote certain candidates and positions via paid professional blog commenters.

• Campaigns routinely hire ghost writers to pen Letters To The Editor as “real citizens.”

And this isn’t even including the usual rat-fucking activities by political activists: those doctored and edited James O’Keefe videos, the “serial victims” like Phil Parlock, the fake assassination plots, even the Sarah Palin sock-puppetry. And none of this is new, either. It’s been going on forever.

Yesterday I heard this item in regards to the Nixon tapes:

Everyone knows, for example, that the Watergate scandal came to light with the burglary of the Democratic Party's headquarters by Republican operatives. But there's a tape, says Naftali, where Nixon then plans a break-in of Republican headquarters.

"They would then blame the Democrats for having broken in to the Republican National Committee," Naftali says. "The president discusses how much money it would cost, and how much damage there should be done, and what they should take."

That scheme, and many others hatched by Nixon, never happened, says Naftali, because people in the government said no, "people who received orders that they would not, could not implement.

Of course, that was the Nixon age. Things have gotten far, far worse these days. And I just have to wonder: what is the point of all this message manipulation? To influence “public opinion”? Really?

If every piece of the discourse is suspect, if every “grassroots” movement is assumed to be astroturf, if every “man on the street” is just as likely to be a paid actor as a “real person,” doesn’t that cheapen the entire idea of public opinion? Doesn’t that make public opinion completely worthless as a concept?

So why are y'all wasting your time? And money? What's the damn point?

And who, really, are these machinations directed at? Certainly not us plebes. I have a sneaking suspicion that we've reached a point where y’all are basically just talking over us and at each other. And if that’s the case, can you just get a room already and leave us out of it?


Here's a Toronto Craigslist ad seeking right-wing commenters to newspaper forums, blogs and Facebook posts. They pay by the hour and "volume of online activity." And then there's this:

Bonuses for controversial postings that heat up a topic or forum thread.


Your writing must be strong, right-wing and use supplied talking points without bogging down in too much detail. You are creating an online persona with a consistent tone. Ideally you can find or make up facts and statistics to stir controversy.

This has me wondering if the ad is for real, or if the ad was placed by a left-winger trying to discredit the right-wing. I'm mean at this point, I can't trust anything.

My commenter who observed that the point is not to move public opinion but make it irrelevant is on to something. But really, when has public opinion ever mattered? It was always a farce. It's not like the powerful class haven't done whatever the hell they wanted anyway.