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Astroturfing

Lessons From January 6th: An Inside Job

Over a year after the harum-scarum storming of the U.S. Capitol, there is ample evidence that it was an inside job. Not only was the security detail intentionally minimized to the extreme, but decisions were made at the highest levels of the chain of command to allow a right-wing mob to rampage through the building. At the forefront of this antidemocratic horde, as we shall see, there were fascist or semi-fascist organizations whose leadership has multiple direct ties to the military and intelligence agencies. All of this raises fundamental questions regarding the true nature of the U.S. government and its relationship to fascism. Unfortunately, two false narratives concerning January 6th dominate the corporate media.

Gas-Backed Front Group Spreads Misinformation About Electrification

A group of natural gas companies and utilities in Colorado formed a front group to oppose the state’s push towards electrifying homes and businesses, spreading misinformation about the cost of electric heating while also promoting false solutions to lock in the ongoing use of natural gas. The group, “Coloradans for Energy Access,” is made up of a coalition of gas companies, real estate interests, utilities, and other energy trade associations, including Atmos Energy, American Public Gas Association, and the Consumer Energy Alliance. Announcing its formation in an op-ed in the Colorado Sun, Coloradans for Energy Access decried what it calls “forced electrification,” a reference to a growing movement in Colorado and around the country to discourage or prohibit natural gas connections in newly constructed homes and commercial buildings in an effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Is The California Coalition Fighting Subsidies For Rooftop Solar A Fake Grassroots Group?

In the fight over California’s rooftop solar policy, a coalition that claims to represent low-income, senior and environmental leaders is running ads warning about a cost shift that forces consumers to subsidize solar for people who live in mansions. This message, by Affordable Clean Energy for All, is trying to influence the debate as California regulators consider rules that would sharply reduce the financial benefits of owning rooftop systems. But Affordable Clean Energy for All is not a grassroots movement. It is a public relations campaign sponsored by big utility companies that stand to benefit from policies that hurt rooftop solar. Many of the 100-plus groups that make up the coalition have received charitable donations or other financial support from the utilities.

Secretive Right-Wing Nonprofit Plays Role In COVID-19 Organizing

A shadowy right-wing nonprofit is helping coordinate coronavirus response strategy and promoting the lockdown protests. Working alongside close allies that have helped coordinate the protests, including Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks, Council for National Policy Action (CNP Action) has been hosting conference calls and publishing action memos around reopening states’ economies. CNP Action is the 501(c)(4) nonprofit affiliate of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a coalition of far-right political advocacy and think tank figures that has worked largely behind the scenes since its founding in 1981. CNP’s membership includes conservative Republicans and right-wing extremists who work together to shape policy. Trump allies, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former chief adviser Steve Bannon, were CNP members as of 2014. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow has also been a member, according to a recently published book by Anne Nelson.

Healthcare Workers Block Denver ‘Reopen Protest’

As tensions continue to boil over amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has placed large swaths of the nation at a standstill, a small group of health care workers blocked hundreds of protestors in Denver on Sunday afternoon, resulting in a dramatic showdown. Alyson McClaran, a photojournalist based in Denver, said the medical workers stood in the street to counter hundreds who had gathered at the Colorado capitol in an event dubbed “Operation Gridlock.” The event was meant to express frustration with Gov. Jared Polis’ (D) stay-at-home orders as coronavirus continues to infect tens of thousands of people around the country. HuffPost has not been able to identify the health care workers seen in the photographs, but video taken at the scene showed one man dressed in scrubs standing calmly in front of a line of cars as a woman holding a banner reading “Land of the Free” screamed at him.

Corporate Astroturfers Push For Bayou Bridge Pipeline & Criminalization Of Protesters

A key public relations tactic that the fossil fuel industry uses to advance its interests is the creation of fake grassroots campaigns that support its oil and gas projects. The way this often works is that companies or industry associations pay communications firms to run commercials, publish op-eds, commission reports, and prop up so-called “consumer” groups. All this creates the appearance of popular backing of controversial fossil fuel projects. These efforts are a problem because, even as they distort the truth and lack transparency, they shape media narratives and offer cover to industry-backed elected officials who are trying to advance corporate interests.

Groups Not Aware They Were Members Of Telecom Front Group

What do an environmental group in Ohio, a small military radio program, and a network of rural hospitals in Texas all have in common? They appear on a list of coalition members for a group pressuring the government to abandon net neutrality—rules to prevent broadband providers from creating internet fast and slow lanes—but claim they did not intend to sign up for any such advocacy. Last week VICE reported on a number of groups, funded by the cable and cell-phone industry, purporting to represent consumer advocates while lobbying the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to allow the creation of a two-tiered internet. Broadband for America, one of the groups we profiled seeking to prevent the FCC from reclassifying broadband as a public utility, claims to be a broad "coalition of 300 internet consumer advocates, content providers, and engineers." Not only is Broadband for America largely funded by a single contribution from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA)—the trade group that represents Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable, and others—but a closer look at their member list reveals an almost random assortment of companies and community groups, many of which say they never intended to sign up for an anti-net neutrality coalition. Bob Calvert, the host of TalkingWithHeroes.com, a radio program listed as a Broadband for American member, told us that he is not familiar with the net-neutrality debate. "My program is a nonpolitical program supporting our men and women who serve and who have served our country and their families," said Calvert, in response to an inquiry from VICE.

Cable Companies Astroturfing To End Net Neutrality

Consumer advocates everywhere are demanding that the Federal Communication Commission continue down its current path for shelving net neutrality and allowing a two-tiered internet. That is, if cable company-created front groups and other industry-funded organizations are to be believed. The controversy, at the moment, rests on a legal distinction. A federal lawsuit filed by Verizon has forced the FCC into a corner by creating a standard under which effective net-neutrality rules­­—which ensure all internet traffic is treated equally—can only be reached, according to most analysts, by classifying the internet as a "common carrier," or in other words, a public utility. Such a distinction would allow the FCC to demand that internet service providers, like Comcast or Verizon, are not allowed to create internet slow lanes and fast lanes. To the surprise of probably no one, ISPs are enraged at the prospect of being classified as a utility and are fighting back. But the attacks are not fully transparent. Many of the organizations protesting a move toward classifying ISPs as a utility, which is the only likely option for enacting net neutrality, are funded by the ISP lobby.
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