When Unity08 started out in May of 2006, the lobbyist-run anti-lobbyist corporation with designs of electing its own president of the United States let citizens post messages containing whatever thoughts popped into their heads. Boy, was that a mistake! I mean, hoo boy, did the little people ever go off message. So first Unity08 shoved citizen contributions off the front page, then shoved them off its blog, and now shoved citizen discussion on its website into a cornerrelegates them to a tiny corner, through a series of intermediate links. Even there, it deletes messages that stray too far from the corporate line.
Minimizing actual citizen participation is one thing. But yesterday Unity08 took a further step. Now that it has quieted down its followers’ authentic voices sufficiently, Unity08 is sending out an e-mail asking them to speak up again, sort of:
For this week’s 10 Minute Tuesday, we ask that you write, type, or cut/paste the following letter to the editor of your local newspaper, radio station, television station, and other community periodicals.
Here’s the text of the letter:
— Letter begins here —
America will be in trouble if it doesn’t act quickly on the crucial issues before us — the economy, education, energy dependence, the environment, health care, immigration, terrorism, and more. I am a member of a movement called Unity08 that will bring our politics back to common ground and elect leadership to the White House that will actually lead.
Politics as we know it — politics as usual — is over. Unity08 will provide access to information, discussion, and decision-making tools that will change politics forever. And, just in time. 8 of every 10 Americans think Washington is so polarized that it is paralyzed. The 2008 election is a moment of truth.
Unity08’s new approach will:
1. Enable Americans to rank our most crucial issues.
2. Force the candidates to address those crucial issues.
3. In June, empower all Americans to choose a bipartisan ticket in a secure vote online.
4. In November, elect the Unity08 Ticket to our nation’s highest office.
Unity08 combines our oldest values and our newest technology to reactivate the American community. And then, America can be a proud country again, worthy of inspiring both our children and the world.
As a member of Unity08, I invite you to learn more about our movement at Unity08.com. Please feel free to direct any questions to me or to email@example.com.
— Letter ends here —
Don’t forget to personally sign your letters!
Yep, Unity08 is asking its followers to sign their names to a letter that speaks in the voice of a dedicated follower but which its followers didn’t actually write. That’s a fraudulent act also known in the circles of we little people as a “lie.” In the world of public relations, it’s known as “astroturf” for its false grass-roots pretense. If you went to school, you’d get punished for it under the name “plagiarism.”
In deploying the astroturf tactic, Unity08 not only demonstrates a disregard for honesty in its expression. It also reaffirms its distrust of the citizens it wishes to deploy. Rather than worry about them straying off the pre-approved message, Unity08 has chosen the path of fraudulent sameness. The result is Unity, all right. But is it the kind of Unity you really want?