In the U.S. we have these fake advocacy groups running TV commercials, the mom who doesn’t want a tax on soda, the people who want “clean coal.” Of course we know it’s bullshit. These are slick campaigns from fronts for industries that don’t want their businesses affected. In the less sophisticated sectors of the world, we have plenty of astroturfing and fake protests happening. A couple years ago in China there were all these “spontaneous” protests against the French for something or other. The target, the only real “French” presence in Beijing et al, the Carrefour big box stores. Turns out of course the groups of “angry” students were all bused in by the government. Beijing does this all the time and organized angry violent mobs to protest something about the Japanese a few years ago too. From my first-hand experience (had a bunch of Japanese classmates in another Asian country) all this did was scare Japanese off ever visiting China.
A couple years ago, U.S. beef imports became a big astroturfing issue in Asia. There were protests and even “riots” in South Korea against the importing of U.S. beef. Riots against meat? Doesn’t that seem excessive and a bit far-fetched, couldn’t people simply decline to buy the offending meat, you ask? You are right. It is ridiculous and it was totally invented. Not content with simple (and probably effective) pressuring and boycotts, the local Korean beef industry wanted to get maximum publicity for their cause. So the organized (and paid for) these protests against beef (still makes me laugh to write that).
Not to be outdone, the tiny schizoid island of Taiwan is up in arms over beef. To try to counter the import of our offensive meat, trade groups there have organized similar “protests” (see here: Taipei Times). Now, a logical, intelligent person could see these publicity stunts and say “gee, isn’t it odd that ‘regular’ people are so inclined to get riled up and protest about something as small as a product being sold in their country?” When is the last time that you marched to stop Thai shrimp from being sold here (much of the shrimp we eat in the U.S. is from Thailand)? That’s right, never. Because you are an intelligent, perceptive person and you know that if you were so adamant about not consuming a product you would simply NOT CONSUME IT. But the problem is that not everyone in the world is as sophisticated and intelligent as you or I. Some of my Taiwanese friends are completely unaware that these anti-U.S. beef protests are complete astroturf, fakery and fiction. There is the problem. We have seen in the U.S. with things like Sarah Palin and George Bush that there are lots of stupid people here who accept whatever they are told. There are tons of folks in Asia as well who believe whatever they see on TV at face value and will think that there really is huge public anger about our meat.
In short, Astroturfers, and anyone who preys on the lack of intelligence of others, are the WORST PEOPLE.
Thanks for reading!