Not all Stuff readers may know what astroturfing is. Wikipedia describes it as: "a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a 'grassroots' movement".
Astroturfing is generally hated by Internet users, as being just slightly above spam on the reptilian scale.
One local example I use in talking to business audiences on astroturfing was the promiment NZ ticketing company that had someone criticise their website design on a blog. A woman commented that she thought the website was great and really easy to use, and that the blogger must just be a bit stupid if he found the website difficult.
The blogger checked the IP address of the commenter, and found that she was posting from the Auckland office of the company in question. So he exposed her astroturfing, and the company got ridiculed both locally and globally.
The Green Party brand has traditionally been the opposite of astroturfing. They have been seen to be about grass-roots activism, about substance over style, and so on. But recent events have them heading down the astroturfing path.
First they have developed an alert service where their members can be instantly alerted if a blog mentions a Green MP or issue. Presumably they will then all rush in and say how they think the Greens are wonderful, all without disclosing they have been sent there by Green HQ. Is that greatly different from what the ticketing company did?
Then there is their letters to the editor tool. Now to be fair, all political parties encourage their supporters to write letters to the editor. However, the Greens appear to take this a step further by handing out stars for achieving this "mission" and even having specific missions for specific newspapers.
In a third example, you have what happened with the Waikato Times this week, when they did a long profile of a struggling Hamilton family and how the mother had decided to no longer vote Labour but support the Greens this time. She failed to mention, even when asked, that her partner was the Green candidate for Hamilton West.
And by coincidence the candidate in question is also their social media maven, who has a hand in developing or promoting the first two examples. So this is not some rogue low-level activist.
But the change doesn't stop there. Blogger Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn is a Green Party supporter (but one who will criticise all parties when he thinks they deserve it). He labelled the Greens' recent policy announcement on jobs as "deceitful and misleading". He warns the Greens: "Deceit is not the green way, and if you use it to sell your policies, then people will start treating you as liars, just like all the rest."
This change in the Greens has been commented on for some months by Dunedin political scientist Bryce Edwards. In yesterday's edition of his very useful NZ Politics Daily (disclosure: my company Curia is one of three sponsors, along with the PSA and Exceltium, for $100 a week to pay for an assistant who helps compile it), he notes:
"The party has ditched all the extraneous radicalism as well as the amateur approach, and now looks surprisingly like a mainstream party (with business backing). The problem, of course, is that the more the party tries to blend in with the 'suburban mainstream' the more it risks becoming rather forgettable, grey, and bland. And the more the party attempts to copy the 'machine politics' of Labour and National, the more it will end up incurring stories like this one in today's Waikato Times: Green candidate apologises to newspaper. Increasingly ex-Green voters might be asking why the Green Party has sold its soul?"
That is the question I pose to readers. Has the Green Party become an astroturfing party? Should Green members and activists be concerned when even the No Right Turn blog labels their policy announcement as deceitful and misleading?
» Follow NZStuffBlogs on Twitter and get fast updates on all Stuff's blogs.
Post a comment