Approx. 10 Min.

Published on Feb 6, 2015

In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages.
Sharyl Attkisson is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. She is currently writing a book entitled Stonewalled (Harper Collins), which addresses the unseen influences of corporations and special interests on the information and images the public receives every day in the news and elsewhere. utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20171028Z1_UCM&et_cid=DM163345&et_rid=100100928 (Excerpt of Mercola’s article below.  Please go to link for entire article.)

Story at-a-glance

  • Ninety percent of news media are controlled by six corporations. As a result, the vast majority of what you read, see and hear is part of a carefully orchestrated narrative created and controlled by special interest groups
  • “Astroturf” is the effort on the part of large corporate special interests to surreptitiously sway public opinion by making it appear as though it’s a grassroots effort for or against a particular agenda
  • Wikipedia is astroturf’s dream come true. Many pages are controlled by anonymous Wikipedia editors on behalf of special interests who forbid and reverse edits that go against their agenda

Who’s Who and What’s What?

The extent to which information is manipulated is enormous. Let’s say you hear about a new drug for an ailment you have, or your doctor recommends it, and you decide to research it to be on the safe side. Ultimately, you conclude it is safe and effective because everywhere you look, the information seems to support this conclusion. You feel good knowing you’ve done your homework, and fill the prescription. What you don’t know is that:

  • Facebook and Twitter pages speaking highly of the drug are run by individuals on the payroll of the drug company
  • The Wikipedia page for the drug is monitored and controlled by a special-interest editor hired by the drug company
  • Google search engine results have been optimized, ensuring you’ll find all those positive sources while burying contradicting information
  • The nonprofit organization you stumbled across online that recommends the drug was secretly founded and funded by the drug company
  • The positive study you found while searching online was also financed by the drug company
  • The news articles reporting the positive findings of that study sound suspiciously alike for a reason — they’re reiterating information provided by the drug company’s PR department; hence, you will not find any contradictory information there either
  • Doctors promoting the drug and making derogatory comments about those who worry about side effects are actually paid consultants for the drug company
  • The medical lecture your own personal doctor attended, where he became convinced the drug is safe and efficacious, was also sponsored by the drug company

How to Identify Astroturf

Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The extent of the control and manipulation goes even deeper than this. Even the U.S. government, regulatory agencies and public health organizations are colluding with industry in a variety of different ways.

So, what can you do? How can you possibly decipher the truth when the truth is so well hidden beneath layers of astroturf? As noted by Attkisson, recognizing the telltale signs of astroturf is key. And once you know what to look for, you’ll start to recognize it everywhere you look. Telltale signs and hallmarks of astroturf include the following:

  • Certain key message lines repeatedly crop up. For example, the line “talk to your doctor” is highly suggestive of a PR message for a drug, even if what you’re reading doesn’t look like an advertisement
  • Use of inflammatory and derogatory language. Keywords to look for include crank, quack, nutty, lies, paranoid, pseudo and conspiracy
  • Astroturfers will often claim to debunk “myths” that are not myths at all
  • They will attack people, personalities and organizations rather than address the facts or concerns in question
  • Astroturfers are skeptical of those exposing wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoers. As noted by Attkisson, rather than questioning authority, astroturfers question those who question authority


Recently, Dr. Paul Offit, the face behind the “Vaccines are Safe” movement was exposed as the “Skeptical Raptor” internet troll and science bully:

Offit has co-authored articles on debunking pseudoscience on Wikipedia, a site founded by a Porn King using monies from running porn sites for men.  Evidently, he finally slipped up by giving his alias of Skeptical Raptor in emails.

Offit  invented the RotaTeq vaccine that according to the Merck’s vaccine product page, contains two strains of a deadly pig virus called circovirus which has killed pigs in China.  While the medical industry claims this disease is not transferable to humans, no one has tested the safety of injecting it directly into the human body.  You’d think dead pigs might be a warning shot over the bow…..

According to the article, Offit is a frequent moderator on Wikipedia and states MSG and high fructose corn syrup are safe and actually promotes DDT.

More on Offit:

Then there’s David H. Gorski, a.k.a. “Orac,” also called “Respectful Insolence” who defames anyone who questions chemotherapy and vaccines.  He encourages followers to create fake emails and fake identities to abuse families on medical messaging boards who post injuries from vaccines, chemotherapy or pharmaceuticals.

He also regularly assassinates the character of holistic doctors.

April, 2012: Gorski trolls the internet, impersonating disease-injured families on comment boards:

Use emotional warfare on anti-vax blogs. Tell emotional stories full of tears and sobbing and unbearable grief and terror, about people in your own family or people you read about, who were sick with or died of terrible diseases. Don’t hold back details about bodily fluids and suchlike: the more gross the better. This stuff has a way of infiltrating the minds of readers and subtly influencing their decisions, in a manner similar to advertising.

Go in there and “agree with them” and then say things that appear thoroughly delusional, overtly nuts, blatantly and obviously wrong even to nincompoops, etc. Occasional spelling and grammar errors are also useful but don’t over-do. The point of this exercise is to create an impression that drives away undecideds who may come in to check out these sites. It helps to do this as a group effort and begin gradually, so the sites appear to be “going downhill slowly.

But it is useful to have an email address that can’t be traced back, for certain legitimate and ethical uses, just as it is useful to have a mail box at say the UPS store. 

… The way to fight it is by sabotaging the anti-vaxers with crazy stuff that drives away undecideds. The way to fight it is with emotional narratives that undermine the ones that the anti-vaxers are pushing.

At one point, Orac wrote this on his own blog, describing himself:

Yes, in the case of a true ‘shill’ who does not reveal that he works for a pharmaceutical company and pretends to be ‘objective’

Gorski also blogs and pretends to be a woman named “SoCalGal”

Also, refer to “Unmasking ORAC

This has been a public service announcement to help Americans avoid psychotic doctors.

This trolling happened to me recently on LinkedIn when a child/adolescent  psychologist told me I was scientifically illiterate, a fear-monger, and a fringe nut because I reposted an incredibly important article on Microbiologist Judy Mikovitz’s discovery of vaccines being contaminated with retroviruses for 30 years:

Doing my homework, I looked the good doctor up to discover his license expired in June, so I reported him for masquerading as a licensed doctor and for abusive comments.  Within about 15 minutes his entire profile came down.

Imagine being a vulnerable child in that man’s office.

Bullies beware.  We are on to you and we are calling you out.












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