Journalism and Astroturfing

by Henry on March 27, 2014

Back when Nick Confessore broke the Tech Central Station scandal, another journalist wrote a “very good piece”:http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/–98649 about the problems that you got when journalism merged into astroturfing.

bq. For years — literally years — I’ve been writing about Astroturf organizing and that trendsetting operation in the trade, DCI — home of that Johny Appleseed of the plastic and the green, Tom Synhorst. Simply put, Astroturf organizers are in the business of creating phony grassroots support, or rather the appearance of grassroots support, for this or that cause. You got the money and the cause? They’ll bring the front groups, the push-polls, the oped payola, you name it. …The secret of ‘turf is a simple one. Advertisements and paid spokesman may influence us to some degree. We hear their opinions, see them on TV and such. But because they’re paid, because they’re essentially advertisements, we also tend to tune them out, or at least bracket them off in our minds. … For years, the trendsetter in Astroturf has been DCI. And a couple days ago, if you were watching really closely, a tiny sentence changed on an out-of-the-way page on the TechCentralStation website. The sentence that read … “Tech Central Station is published by Tech Central Station, L.L.C.” now reads … “Tech Central Station is published by DCI Group, L.L.C.” It wasn’t an accident. It was because this article — ‘Meet the Press’ by Nick Confessore — was about to be published by The Washington Monthly.

That journalist was Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo. Today, as part of its “very cool new section … which is being sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America,” Talking Points Memo published this piece about “the data sharing effort to cure cancer.” [click to continue…]

Anyone Remember Tech Central Station?

by Henry on March 27, 2014

“Josh Marshall”:http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/introducing-idealab-impact tells us that he has wonderful news.

bq. Today I’m really excited to announce that we’ve launched a very cool new section to our popular Idea Lab vertical called Idea Lab: Impact, which is being sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. I’ve wanted to take Idea Lab in this direction for some time. Ideal Lab focuses science, cutting edge technology, the tech industry and the economics, policy and politics that surrounds those issues and sometimes on the gizmos we all use everyday. Idea Lab: Impact will have a different focus. How is science and applied technology affecting real human lives? How is it impacting people and communities living on the margins of global wealth and on the margins of the technological transformations of the 21st century – whether that’s in subsaharan Africa or Appalachia or in congested great cities of the world. Basically, how is and how can science and technology change the lives of people in their every day lives – not only with their gadgets and not only for people who command great wealth, but real world impacts for everyone.

People who’ve been blogging as long as I have may remember another website with PHrMA funding which set out to tell us about the awesome innovating power of innovative innovation, the unlamented Tech Central Station. TCS “dished out money to Glenn Reynolds”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/11/20/flack-central-station/ and other bullshit merchants in the marketplace of ideas to provide cover for a whole variety of “unsalubrious corporate agendas”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.confessore.html. Josh Marshall isn’t Glenn Reynolds – the sponsorship is public and I imagine that there’ll be some quality control. But still, PhRMA’s agenda on innovation involves some very, very shitty stuff indeed. There are a whole bunch of big sleazy lobby groups on Capitol Hill, but PhRMA is arguably the sleaziest.

And in that spirit, I’d like to introduce a very cool new non-sponsored section myself, “Bullshit Lab: Impact,” focused on the very cool ways in which PhRMA lobbying is affecting real human lives and impacting people and communities living on the margins of global wealth and on the margins of the technological transformations. Except maybe losing the “impacting,” since it isn’t a verb ever seen outside corporate press releases. How, for example, is PhRMA lobbying advancing the ball on “shovelling”:http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/03/13/tpp-lobby/ “insanely demanding”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2013/11/18/the-united-states-is-isolated-in-the-trans-pacific-partnership-negotiations/ IP requirements into international trade agreements? What are the impactful ways in which PhRMA is “impacting high drug prices”:http://pharmacycheckerblog.com/pharmas-legal-hypocrisy-defending-high-drug-prices? What are the “cutting edge techniques”:http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2014/01/new-drug-war-continued in which PhRMA is pushing back on patent reform for AIDS drugs in South Africa (with the lobbying help of James Glassman, whose name devoted readers may recognize from previous episodes of sponsored hackery like, well … Tech Central Station). Feel free to treat this post’s comments sections as an opportunity to provide further examples, and unleash the real world impacts of innovative lobbying innovations!!

Update – see the comments below for responses from and debate with Josh Marshall, and “this follow-up post”:https://crookedtimber.org/2014/03/27/journalism-and-astroturfing/ for more discussion.

ICANN Public Forum Bingo

by Maria on March 27, 2014

Here in Singapore at the ICANN Public Forum, we’re at the end of a brutally busy week talking about how to run the Internet naming and numbering systems. It’s an event comprised almost entirely of ritual, and to understand what’s going on you need to be able to translate some of the long-loved incantations. Here are a few:

When someone says: I’m going to simplify things.
They mean: Be confused. Be very, very confused.

When someone says: I’m going to back up here.
They mean: I’m going to make up some history, now.

When someone says:I’m going to name the elephant in the room.
They mean: My next observation will be startlingly banal.

When someone says: Speaking on my own behalf. As the VP of Blah for Blah Blah Corporation, ….
They mean: I don’t want you to think about who’s paying me to be here, but you better listen because we have a lot of money, customers and power / votes, ministries and battleships.

When someone says: We need to show leadership.
They mean: I should be in charge.

When someone says: There needs to be a bottom-up process.
They mean: Nobody asked me about this.

When someone says: I want to talk about process.
They mean: Hold up. I need to consult my boss.

When someone says: I realise I’m what’s standing between you and lunch / dinner / drinks
They mean: I know you won’t like what I’m going to say. Please don’t throw anything.

When someone says: We are fixing the plane while it’s in flight.
They mean: I don’t understand what’s going on, but I know I don’t like it.

When someone says: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
They mean: Ignore everyone else’s ideas and just use mine.

When someone says: Any other comments on this?
They mean: Will everyone please, for the love of all that is holy, STFU?