Astroturfing The Web

Occasionally it is advisable to return to basics.  To go back to first principles.

Even the best and most steadfast of us, over time, and under the powerful influences that surround us in this age of who knows what, tends to stray from the path that we set ourselves or to relax our guard even though it may be for only the briefest of moments  …and that can be disastrous and personally devastating.

And so, I dig out, dust off, and polish up, my first principle of living:

Trust No-one

I do the same with my second principle:

Believe Nothing

I examine both of these gems of wisdom, carefully and resolutely.

Trust no-one.  Who can I trust anyway.  No-one, not even myself initially, until each person has come to earn that trust.  Even that trust, at whatever level, even when earned, is an on-going thing that can so easily be lost again.

In order to be able to trust yourself fully, takes a lifetime of work, although much can be achieved through careful self-examination and observation, both in the early stages and as an ongoing process.  But by the stage of life that I have reached, I know myself pretty well.  I am aware of those parts of me that  I can trust without question and those parts of me that require constant scrutiny.  The same goes for those that are close to me and those that I have met briefly along the way.

I do not need to revisit that trust gaining process over and over, unless it has somehow been revealed as being misplaced, other than to keep a watchful eye through all that happens as time goes by and to re-evaluate if necessary, based on those things.

The same cannot be said for those persons, groups, organisations and other entities such as web sites and/or social media identities that I have just met or are yet to meet, or have read about or have been told about or referred to or who have been recommended to me.  Each of those relationships needs to be evaluated from scratch if I am to maintain the integrity level of the trust that I have bestowed.

A good piece of advice is:

Do Not Make Friends Easily

Make each of them earn your friendship.

Believe Nothing.  I could expound on this until the cows come home, but I want to get on to the matter I started this post for, so I will just use the quotation that is placed first in my list of favourite quotes on this site.  It is attributed to The Buddha.

Believe nothing, merely because you have been told it or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it.  Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher.  But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings, that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.
~ The Buddha

The “due examination and analysis” that the Buddha admonishes us to take in relation to anything that we are asked to believe, must be our own and no-one elses.  Of course, before we can do that examination and analysis we must be able to trust ourselves.  This is why ‘believe nothing’ is the second principle and not the first.

Astroturfing

I expect that most people reading this would already know that astroturf is a synthetic form of matting which resembles mown grass.  It is used as the playing surface, mainly on sports fields, where allowed and/or where real grass is difficult to cultivate and maintain.

That is not the sort of astroturfing I am talking about, although it does lend its name to that phenomenon.

That is enough talking from me.  I will let others tell you what Astroturfing The Web is all about.  First, take a look at this YouTube video  which I came across on the home page of What Does It Mean (which you may find interesting):

So far, so good?  Well, personally I don’t trust much of anything that is said on TEDx these days.  A lot of it is Astroturf.  But you decide for yourself.  I do think that this piece is genuine though.

Here is an excellent wiki type definition of astroturf.  Notice that I didn’t choose to take the Wikipedia definition (especially after watching that video).  This one is from CMD – The Center for Media and Democracy, which may itself be astroturfing us.  I don’t think so at this stage but you never know.  ‘Stay frosty’ as the Marines say.

I will finish with an excellent Aussie example of astroturfing, caught out and brought to light in our Senate proceedings.

Astroturfing, of course, is much more prevalent than that.  Much of what you read of social media, many NGOs, many lobby groups, many journalistic or ‘expert’ opinion pieces, are explicitly set up for, or are guilty of the practice of, astroturfing.

You, and I, are often their target.  They do not want, or they are paid to prevent, us from learning the truth.  We are to be kept in the dark like mushrooms, or are in other cases to be allowed to wander around in the fog of deception and misrepresentation about what is really going on in our world.

Have you been astroturfed today?

 

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