Tag Archives: astroturf

Your Concerned Stock Photo Neighbors in Clarence

20 May

On Friday, Clarence households received yet another ultra-slick mailer from astroturf organization Americans for Progress opposing the school budget. This time, thanks to a tipster’s suggestion, I ran the images through a reverse image search. Who, exactly, are these Clarence residents and neighbors depicted on the flyer? After all, I’d love to speak with them about their concerns. 

As it turns out, they’re pricey stock photographs. 

(I have written about the 2013 – 14 Clarence school budget on two occasions; here, and here). 

This woman earnestly looks into the camera and tells us that local AFP astroturfers are conservatives and/or liberals – just like you and me! 

Except she’s as phony as the claim that “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a plucky local effort of concerned citizens with a PR department, a graphic design department and six figures to spare. 

Is she a former Maryland-based drug addict

Is she a joke in the Onion

Did she win big in an Alabama lawsuit

A reverse image search using Tineye reveals that this woman is a stock photo from istockphoto.com. She is described as “Forty Something Hispanic Woman” and if you want to use her image for your slick Clarence mailer, you have to pay about $70.  

The others are as phony as she. 

There’s hardhat guy. 

Hardhat guy has also been used on other websites.  Hardhat guy is also identified via TinEye as an istockphoto.com image, except the stock photo company that sells him describes him as “manual worker in hard hat and safety glasses.” He’s also a bit cheaper than his “forty something hispanic” female counterpart, above. 

The anti-school brigade has been especially concerned about seniors, and uses two pictures of local Clarence seniors. Who are they? 

You guessed it – she’s a stock photo, too. She’s the alliterative “serious senior woman supermarket shopper makes selection“. 

Finally, the senior on the front of the flyer – 

She is “Summer portrait of a lovely grandma”,

…and here she is in a story sponsored by Liberty Mutual

As I wrote late last week, it is critical that you vote yes for the Clarence school budget on Tuesday May 21st at the High School gym (Gunnville at Main). In order to right past wrongs and to ensure that the budget can maintain a steady course within the tax cap in years to come, these measures must be taken. 

The efforts of tea party activists using outside materials paid for with outside money, falsely asserting their “local” or “bipartisan” nature must be strongly rejected. Indeed, to compare the slick use of stock photography and glossy card stock from Long Island with a simply despicable sign that’s been popping up around town: 

That’s the sentiment, boiled down to a nutshell. It’s not as slick, and no expensive, tested PR department vetted the message or language, but it reflects the true grassroots effort to decimate the schools. 

Unlike the proud patriot with the black sign, the AFP’s effort is a form of concern-trolling; they pretend to be supportive of the schools, but bring up their “concerns”, masking the fact that they are not at all supportive. If they had genuine concerns, they could have picked four photographs of actually concerned Clarence residents. Instead, we have “forty something hispanic woman”, “manual worker in hard hat”, and “serious senior woman supermarket shopper”.  This is a sophisticated, media-savvy effort – not one that’s done in Clarence by local activists

This, on the other hand, is a genuine grassroots effort made in support of the school budget: 

The “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a group made-up and paid for by the Long Island-based Americans for Progress New York chapter, but that doesn’t justify vandalizing their signs. Not if they depict the “summer portrait of a lovely grandma” or anyone else. It doesn’t justify damaging a massive sign costing hundreds of dollars that’s conveniently sited on an abandoned eyesore motel across from the high school. It also doesn’t justify the myriad pro-budget signs that have been ripped from people’s yards and discarded. 

A teacher writes, 

Lisa Thrun needs to be exposed for what she is.  She had three children attend Clarence schools…I taught two of them …  All three then went on to higher education and have done pretty well, from what I understand …  So basically their kids had a great experience (they were all very involved in the school) at Clarence…but too bad for everyone else now?  My kids are done so now screw you?!  And then she has the audacity to say “she and her people have to remain anonymous for fear of backlash?!”  How horribly insulting I find that to the teaching profession and to Clarence…our teachers are wonderful, caring people of character …  Clarence is a small, tight-knit community…and they are destroying it…but I would never ever hold that against a student, past or present.  It goes against everything a teacher stands for.  Shame on them for those comments.

Dr. Coseo and the Board of Education also need to be called out for getting us into this disaster… so much bad decision-making and poor planning.  The Board always did pretty much what (prior Superintendent) Dr. Coseo told them to do…all “yes” people…don’t rock the boat.  

(Edited to omit identifying information)

Although the Clarence Republican Committee’s executive board decided to stay out of the school vote issue, AFP puppet Lisa Thrun has now reached out to them in a desperate cry for help. To read her own words is to be disgusted: how dare schoolkids advocate for the schools?!

From: Greg and Lisa Thrun <EDIT>
To: Greg and Lisa Thrun <EDIT> 
Sent: Saturday, May 18, 2013 3:18 PM
Subject: Your help is needed

Dear Clarence Republican Committeemen and Committeewomen,
I am writing you today, to ask for your help in the upcoming school budget vote on Tuesday, May 21st at the Clarence High School Gym on Main St. from 7 am-9 pm.
As you know, many in our community are very upset about the 9.8% school property tax increase and how that will affect their families and businesses.  It is not just the higher tax rate that is the concern, but the unwillingness of the Board of Education and the Clarence Teachers Association to take the necessary measures to avoid cuts to student services and teaching positions in the very near future.
The issues and solutions outlined by Citizens for Sustainable Schools (EDIT) have started the conversation about ensuring the quality of education with a tax rate we can all afford.  The path the district is on is unsustainable and measures must be taken now if we are to continue to offer a Clarence education our town is known for. 
There have been some lawns signs and emails circulating that are meant to distract from the conversation and claims that the funds for the efforts are coming from outside sources.  The truth is that we heard from seniors that are worried about losing their homes, families that are considering moving out of state because they can no longer afford to pay the high taxes, and small business owners that are concerned that a 10% increase will force them to pass the costs on to customers and make them less competitive.  They offered their services, money, and time to help educate the public about the issues and to stop this excessive tax increase.
The district and the union has been organizing for months prior to the budget being formally adopted.  An art show, an all elementary school track meet, and a chicken dinner has been lined up which will make it very difficult for others to get into the polling place.  Superintendent Hicks and BOE President Mike Lex have been holding meetings with every PTO, Booster Club and even the Post-Prom Party Committee.  They added a last minute concert where only a few songs were played but a pro-budget pitch was included.  There are PTO Facebook pages that have posts with accusations and links to articles with wrong information and have gone so far to word emails that can be construed as endorsements for specific candidates.  Now you may have received a knock at the door by students asking for your YES vote.
We do not underestimate the organization of the union or the advantage the district has with communicating with the school community.
The GOP is the party of lower taxes and limited government, understanding that those principles lead to the betterment of a community, state, and nation.  Although the executive board has decided not to tackle this issue, we are asking for all of you as individuals to help with phone banking and door to door efforts.  Your neighbors, business associates, and fellow residents are taking a stand —please join them.
We will be holding a phone bank from 5:30-9pm on Monday at an office location to make GOTV calls.  Phones are limited so please call for a time slot and location.  If you would like to make calls from home, we can email call lists.  We can also make arrangements to drop off flyers and maps.
We understand that this is a controversial issue, but how can any of us stand on the sidelines when members of our community will be hurt by this and while the education of our children will face future risk?
Lisa Thrun
H: 741-****
C: 604-****

As soon as I find out which office hosts this phone bank, I will expose it, and I will urge people never to patronize it. Guess what? Also, I suspect that our local AFP stooges vandalized their own sign in order to get on TV and make budget proponents look like thugs. AFP has spent tens of thousands – maybe more – to try and defeat the school budget. The schools are a huge part of what makes Clarence what it is. Your property values reflect that. 

Vote yes on Tuesday, and vote DePasquale and Andrews. The reasons why are here. 


21 Nov

The Buffalo News covers its policy on Astroturf letters to the editor here.

For one thing, we don’t do third-party thank-you letters, preferring to allocate scarce space to the public debate of issues. For another, the same sort of letters went to editorial pages and editors all across the country, triggering nationwide warnings of “astroturf,” our industry’s shorthand for fake grass-roots letters. One letter we got even noted that “several organizations” wanted their talking points relayed to newspapers. The mybarackobama.com site seemed to be prominent among them. A colleague at another paper got one that didn’t even bother to fill in the blanks for a representative’s name. We still consider all letters sent to lettertoeditor@buffnews.com . But letter-senders have a better chance of getting published if they’re actually letter-writers, expressing their own views in their own words. Simple agreement with somebody else’s words is not enough, even if it saves work

Hopefully this practice will end on all sides, and people who have a sincere and strong opinion on a particular contemporary topic will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write the damn thing themselves.

An Eruption of Disruption

4 Aug

As congressmen and women return to their districts during the break, they will hold town hall meetings in an effort to listen and discuss issues with their constituents, many of whom may be distressed by what’s happening in Washington.

Some of the distress will be sincere, some of it will have its genesis in dumbed-down cable news misinformation and chain e-mails, and some of it will be astroturfed.  (Fake grassroots).

While Buffalo Repat draws parallels between lefty town hall disruptions from the likes of Code Pink and the righty disruptions at health care town hall meetings,  Buffalo Geek rebuts that, pointing out that Code Pink are funded by:

“Big Peace” and “Big Non-Profit” and “Big Wealthy People Advocating For Higher Taxes On Themselves”

Remember when some woman disrupted McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention last year?  I shook my head in embarrassment when that happened.  I don’t think that these sorts of confrontational tactics work.  What war has Code Pink prevented the US from participating in?  What war has Code Pink successfully stopped?  There’s a right to free speech, and no qualification there about them having to be accompanied by good manners, but if you’re disruptive, you should be ejected.

And I thought the right hated lefty troublemakers like Code Pink.  Why emulate them?  They didn’t succeed in their aims, after all.

But with respect to the upcoming disruptions of health care town halls, the funding, initiative, and organization behind this is strictly astroturfed by Washington lobbyists and special interests who want to maintain the status quo.  Period.

For instance, the tea bagger crowd is planning to disrupt town halls that Eric Massa (D, NY-29) will be holding in the coming weeks.  But their tactics will have been spelled out for them by someone working for a lobbying group run by Dick Armey called “FreedomWorks“. (Website here).

They have a right to attend, a right to question, a right to disagree, a right to dissent.  They even have a right to be disruptive douchebags.  And the goal here is to get media coverage so that there is a perception on local TV news that there is a grassroots outpouring of disgust with “Obamacare”.

Based on what I’ve heard and read, the grassroots disgust has been mostly aimed at the misinformation being spread about the current health reform bill rather than its actual contents.   Obama’s going to kill seniors!  I’m going to lose my healthcare plan! Government takeover and socialism!  None of those things are true, so the manufactured outrage is based on a lie being well-funded by private interests who have a stake in maintaining the status quo.

I would be kind of pissed off to find out I’m just a tool in, say, Pfizer’s campaign to quash healthcare reform.