Friday, December 02, 2005

Astroturfing*, The Media and the Credibility slide...

Read this story about how the government planted stories in the Iraqi media and you'll get a feeling for just what's wrong with the words "Free Press".

Is the press truly free in a democratic society? If companies can post press releases as articles, if they can pay people to write phony letters to the editors of newspapers -- if they can pay people to plant letters to representatives to falsely lobby in their favor -- is it a truly "free press" -- or is it a press for hire, falsely painting pictures in exactly the same fashion that dictatorial "controlled" presses operate?

The technique the pentagon employed here is not new -- corporations have been doing it for years. Maybe they learned it from the military first. One of my good retired friends at the local McDonalds was involved in similar tactics during the Vietnam war -- he described similar things, anyway. Military propaganda is simply another tactic used to win a war. When lives are on the line, lots of shady things go on.

The sad fact, however, is that stuff like this makes our democracy look flimsy, and it shouldn't -- We're supposed to be better than this, and damnit, it's sad that most of the population simply doesn't understand the bottom end of the moral slide we've landed in.

The slide is happening slowly, daily. Microsoft, the big drug companies -- the pentagon (our government) -- they have lowered the standard of what it means to do the most simple basic functions of human existence.

To quite simply, tell the truth.

Society is based upon simple things like people telling each other the truth. It's what keeps the field of transactions most level. It's what makes people trust each other. It helps when sharing knowledge. Slowly, inevitably, if we win the war on terror, but we do it by lying our asses off, we've lost overall.

We have to have our society in tact, and things like this make America (and by association, our democratic principals) look bad. We have to be better -- we, as a country, have to define the moral high ground.

I'll be swinging all of this together for an editorial (on soon. Keep the thoughts together, and if you have comments, please post them. I feel the topic at hand is ripe for discussion.

*Astroturfing: The practice of generating "false grass roots" campaigns via techniques describe above. I have been, in the past, been directly involved in exposing the behavior.

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