Award-winning American investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson defines astroturf as a multi-billion dollar industry which disguises propaganda to look as though it has grassroots origins, when in fact it is orchestrated by corporate or political interests. The goal is to marginalise those who do not share a proclaimed single source of truth.
In the climate of Covid-19 astroturf was used effectively to diminish the opinions of many eminent experts in pandemic-relevant specialities, from clinical leaders such as intensive care/pulmonology expert Dr Paul Marik and cardiologist/epidemiologist Dr Peter McCullough, to public health luminaries such as Dr Scott Atlas, Professor Jay Bhattacharya and Professor Martin Kulldorff. Doctors and scientists at NZDSOS report similar experiences of censorship and derision.
During a speech at the United Nations in September 2022, PM Jacinda Ardern spoke of her support for the globalisation of pandemic preparedness which is opposed by many with very good reason. In the same address she referred to free speech using upside down language (implying benign or altruistic motives whilst obscuring the real intent), suggesting that online speech is a “weapon of war” with the potential to “threaten the security of others“.
It therefore surely came as no surprise that a few short weeks later the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) announced the publication of a new guide (Know the Signs), aimed at helping members of the public identify “potential terrorists“. In announcing the publication release, Director-General of NZSIS Rebecca Kitteridge stated that we could save lives by identifying “a hot mess of ideologies and beliefs fuelled by conspiracy theories“.
Speaking of weaponising language, Sharyl Attkisson has specifically described the origins and intent of terms including conspiracy theory and anti-vaccine, as very effective propaganda tools used to marginalise people. So we are left wondering, using the government’s own terms of reference, if we should report Ms Kitteridge and Ms Ardern based on our recognition of the signs?
We are also reminded of times in history when regimes used propaganda to maintain authoritarian control. A range of examples are provided by Australian journalist John Pilger in Silencing the Lambs – How Propaganda Works. He quotes Nobel Prize winning playwright Harry Pinter, as saying “If we don’t recognise propaganda, we may accept it as normal and believe it“. In today’s age of mass media control it is essential to look beyond a proclaimed single source of truth to the broadest sources in order to determine an independent perspective. The very essence of democratic values is the right to form opinions which diverge from political leaders and from each other, and to debate those opinions openly.
Suppressing divergent views was a highly effective tool of tyranny during East Germany’s communist regime from 1957 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Their Ministry for State Security, known as the “Stasi”, maintained control over the masses through the use of a network of civilian informants who “spied on and denounced colleagues, friends, neighbours, and even family members“. There was one Stasi officer for every 180 citizens and up to one in three citizens acted as an informant.
Why would citizens of a free democracy ever agree to turn onto the path of a surveillance state? It would surely never be a willing choice, and would first need information control such as astroturf strategies from a politically motivated source that aims for fear, paranoia and obedience. History teaches us that the way to avoid this path is to recognise propaganda in all its forms, including astroturf and silencing of dissent, so that we can reject it and open our minds to all available information. Only then can we establish a reasonable opinion which holds true to our personal values. We must then find the courage to defend them.
We recommend, if you have not already, reading our August 2022 article Deceit, Duplicity and Dangerous Delusions as “Anti-Vaccination Groups” are Targeted. In particular the excellent short video by Coronavirus Plushie If There’s A Terror Attack in NZ, Blamed On “Anti-Mask, Anti-Vaxxers”, Remember This Video.
Watch: Sharyl Attkisson on Information Control and Astroturf
In December 2021 Sharyl Attkisson spoke about astroturf and information control at the Corona Investigative Committee.