Some Actual Backlash For Groups That Unthinkingly Sign Their Name In Support Of Telco Positions

from the policy-backlash dept

For years, we've covered how slimy DC-insiders and secretive "lobbying" firms have a list of "interest groups" that they "fund" in order to use them to support various initiatives they don't really care about. The telling quote from someone involved in these astroturfing efforts:
"You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"
AT&T has been working overtime on this front, and we've seen random groups who really are unlikely to have any interest in the AT&T/T-Mobile merger come out in favor of it, culminating in the ultimate in ridiculous arguments, from a rural education group, that the merger would help kids do better in school (yes, seriously).

Of course, this still goes on because there's almost no downside. We can call it out every time it happens, and most people just don't seem to care very much. But, every so often, actual members of these groups recognize the problems with such things, and they speak up. Broadband Reports has the news of how GLAAD's boss has been pressured into resigning after membership grew quite concerned about GLAAD's sudden endorsement of the merger -- and some connections between the company and the organization are suddenly being scrutinized. Whether or not you agree with the merger, it seems pretty sleazy to line up random interest groups in support of or against it.

It's tragic that this is the way of DC. It's not about doing what's right, or focusing on the best argument possible. It's a purely cynical land grab about who can do whatever it takes to get certain things rammed through. It's nice that, just once, there are repercussions for some of the organizations that let themselves be flat-out used in this manner.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Aaron deOliveira, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 3:47pm


    the downside is that all of the organizations that take this money and do this dirty work create a "boy who cried wolf" problem for themselves. if they ever end up in a media spotlight, someone is going to uncover all of these inane statements they've been making that have nothing to do with their core mission. there will most likely be blow-back from the press, the public or even their own members.

    after a few such organizations get burned, i imagine they will be much more careful about letting others speak for them.

    they are sowing the seeds of their own calamity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    "Sleazy" is every corporation's operating method.

    What's amazing is that some people remain in thrall to the notion of "free market" and "capitalism" in the face of continuous streams of information like this -- and all the evidence accumulating in one direction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    "the downside is that all of the organizations that take this money and do this dirty work create a "boy who cried wolf" problem for themselves"

    Since this has been going on for years (according to this article) can you give any examples of how organizations have experienced downside from a boy who cried wolf problem? Does this downside outweigh the benefits they recieve from ATT and the like?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 5:06pm

    The power of the information age, one can only hope that those things start happening more often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    txpatriot, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 5:31pm

    "One direction"?

    @out_of_the_blue: you seriously think this goes in only one direction?

    Astroturf knows no boundaries or divisions. Here is an article about corporate-funded astroturf groups that oppose the merger:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 5:52pm

    Regulatory and Legislative Capture

    There is telco regulatory capture and telco legislative capture. Regulatory capture is when the regulated organization can somehow control the regulatory bureaucrats. The revolving door is the usual technique there. Legislative capture is when the regulated organization can get favorable legislation passed and unfavorable legislation blocked. Astroturf, media campaigns and bribery are the usual techniques there. The revolving door is not used so much, because legislators are generally too old, too wealthy and too socially prominent for the revolving door to work.

    Techdirt should be distinguishing between regulatory capture and legislative capture. They are two different things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Aaron deOliveira (profile), Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 7:27pm

    boy who cried wolf

    What I described is also called a signal vs. noise problem. Each of these organizations that let other people speak for them are creating "noise" around their message. So when they want to substantively speak to their constituents, it is that much harder to get their attention and moreover their action.

    An example of this is Niger Innis'( recent appearance on Sean Hannity's program where he talked about the signal vs. noise problem among African-American political groups. He said that so often their discussions of issues facing the African-American community were derailed by "noise". Because these groups allow noise they will have the same problem when they try to mobilize their base.

    Any group that allows their messaging, brand building, community building, etc. to be co-opted by someone else is setting themselves up for failure in their own mission.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Scott (profile), Jun 23rd, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Write up at Stop the Cap

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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