Astroturf and manipulation of media messages | Sharyl Attkisson | TEDxUniversityofNevada
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Astroturf and manipulation of media messages | Sharyl Attkisson | TEDxUniversityofNevada

Translator: Marta Palacio
Reviewer: Denise RQ Consider this fictitious example
that’s inspired by real life: say you’re watching the news,
and you see a story about a new study on the cholesterol-lowering drug
called cholextra. The study says cholextra is so effective that doctors should consider
prescribing it to adults and even children
who don’t yet have high cholesterol. Is it too good to be true? You’re smart, you decide to do
some of your own research. You do a Google search, you consult
social media, Facebook, and Twitter. You look at Wikipedia,
WebMD, a non-profit website, and you read the original study in a peer-reviewed
published medical journal. It all confirms
how effective cholextra is. You do run across a few negative comments
and a potential link to cancer, but you dismiss that, because medical experts
call the cancer link a myth and say that those who think there is
a link there are quacks, cranks, and nuts. Finally, you learn that your own doctor
recently attended a medical seminar. The lecture that he attended
confirmed how effective cholextra is, so he sends you off
with some free samples and a prescription. You’ve really done your homework. But what if all isn’t as it seems? What if the reality you found was false; a carefully-constructed narrative
by unseen special interests designed to manipulate your opinion? A Truman Show-esque alternate reality
all around you? Complacency in the news media combined with incredibly powerful
propaganda and publicity forces mean we sometimes get little of the truth. Special interests
have unlimited time and money to figure out new ways to spin us
while cloaking their role. Surreptitious astroturf methods are
now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress. There’s an entire industry
built around it in Washington. What is astroturf? It’s a perversion of grassroots,
as in fake grassroots. Astroturf is when political,
corporate, or other special interests disguise themselves and publish blogs,
start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads and letters to the editor,
or simply post comments online to try to fool you into thinking an independent
or grassroots movement is speaking. The whole point of astroturf
is to try to get the impression there’s widespread support
for or against an agenda when there’s not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you
into changing your opinion by making you feel
as if you’re an outlier when you’re not. One example is
the Washington Redskins’ name. Without taking a position
on the controversy, if you simply were looking
at news media coverage over the course of the past year,
or looking at social media, you probably have to conclude that most Americans find
that name offensive and think it ought to be changed. But what if I told you 71% of Americans
say the name should not be changed? That’s more than two thirds. Astroturfers seek to controversialize
those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations
that publish stories they don’t like, whistle-blowers who tell the truth, politicians who dare
to ask the tough questions, and journalists who have the audacity
to report on all of it. Sometimes, astroturfers
simply shove intentionally so much confusing
and conflicting information into the mix that you’re left to throw up your hands
and disregard all of it, including the truth; Drown out a link between a medicine
and a harmful side effect say, vaccines and autism, by throwing a bunch
of conflicting paid-for studies, surveys, and experts into the mix, confusing the truth beyond recognition. And then, there’s Wikipedia – astroturf’s dream come true. Built as the free encyclopedia
that anyone can edit, the reality can’t be more different. Anonymous Wikipedia editors
control and co-opt pages on behalf of special interests. They forbid and reverse edits
that go against their agenda. They skew and delete information in blatant violation of Wikipedia’s
own established policies with impunity, Always superior to the poor schlubs who actually believe
anyone can edit Wikipedia only to discover they’re barred from correcting
even the simplest factual inaccuracies. Try adding a footnoted fact
or correcting a fact error on one of these monitored
Wikipedia pages, and poof!; sometimes within a matter of seconds
you’ll find your edit is reversed. In 2012, famed author Philip Roth
tried to correct a major fact error about the inspiration
behind one of his book characters cited on a Wikipedia page, but no matter how hard he tried, Wikipedia’s editors wouldn’t allow it. They kept reverting the edits back
to the false information. When Roth finally reached
a person at Wikipedia – which was no easy task – and tried to find out
what was going wrong, they told him he simply was not considered
a credible source on himself. (Laughter) A few weeks later,
there was a huge scandal when Wikipedia officials
got caught offering a PR service the skewed and edited information on behalf of paid
publicity-seeking clients, in utter opposition
to Wikipedia’s supposed policies. All of this may be why, when a medical study
looked at medical conditions described on Wikipedia pages and compared it to actual
peer-reviewed published research, Wikipedia contradicted
medical research 90% of the time. You may never fully trust
what you read on Wikipedia again, nor should you. Let’s now go back to that fictitious cholextra example
and all the research you did. It turns out the Facebook and Twitter accounts
you found that were so positive, were actually written
by paid professionals hired by the drug company
to promote the drug. The Wikipedia page had been monitored
by an agenda editor, also paid by the drug company. The drug company also arranged
to optimize Google search engine results so it was no accident
that you stumbled across that positive non-profit
that had all those positive comments. The non-profit was, of course,
secretly founded and funded by the drug company. The drug company also financed
that positive study and used its power of editorial control to omit any mention of cancer
as a possible side-effect. Once more, each and every doctor
who publicly touted cholextra or called the cancer link a myth, or ridiculed critics
as paranoid cranks and quacks, or served on the government advisory board
that approved the drug, each of those doctors is actually
a paid consultant for the drug company. As for your own doctor, the medical lecture he attended
that had all those positive evaluations was in fact, like many
continuing medical education classes, sponsored by the drug company. And when the news reported
on that positive study, it didn’t mention any of that. I have tons of personal examples
from real life. A couple of years ago, CBS News
asked me to look into a story about a study coming out from the non-profit
National Sleep Foundation. Supposedly, this press release coming out
said the study concluded we are a nation with an epidemic of sleeplessness,
and we don’t even know it, and we should all go
ask our doctors about it. A couple of things struck me about that. First, I recognized the phrase
“ask your doctor” as a catch phrase promoted by the pharmaceutical industry. They know that if they can get your foot through the door at the doctor’s office
to mention a malady, you’re very likely to be prescribed
the latest drug that’s marketed. Second, I wondered how serious an epidemic
of sleeplessness could really be if we don’t even know that we have it. (Laughter) It didn’t take long for me
to do a little research and discover that the National Sleep Foundation
non-profit, and the study which was
actually a survey not a study, were sponsored in part by a new drug that was about to be launched
onto the market, called Lunesta, a sleeping pill. I reported the study, as CBS News asked, but of course, I disclosed the sponsorship
behind the non-profit and the survey so the viewers could weigh
the information accordingly. All the other news media
reported the same survey directly off the press release,
as written, without digging past the superficial. It later became an example written up
in the Columbia Journalism Review, which quite accurately reported that only we, at CBS News, had bothered
to do a little bit of research and disclose the conflict of interest
behind this widely reported survey. So now you may be thinking, “What can I do? I thought
I’d done my research. What chance do I have
separating fact from fiction, especially if seasoned journalists
with years of experience can be so easily fooled?” I have a few strategies
that I can tell you about to help you recognize signs
of propaganda and astroturf. Once you start to know what to look for,
you’ll begin to recognize it everywhere. First, hallmarks of astroturf include
use of inflammatory language such as “crank”, “quack”, “nutty”, “lies,”
“paranoid”, “pseudo”, and “conspiracy.” Astroturfers often claim to debunk myths
that aren’t myths at all. Use of the charged language test well: people hear something’s a myth,
maybe they find it on Snopes, and they instantly declare themselves
too smart to fall for it. But what if the whole notion
of the myth is itself a myth, and you and Snopes fell for that? (Laughter) Be aware when interests attack an issue
by controversializing or attacking the people, personalities,
and organizations surrounding it rather than addressing the facts. That could be astroturf. And most of all, astroturfers tend to reserve
all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrongdoing
rather than the wrongdoers. In other words,
instead of questioning authority, they question
those who question authority. You might start to see things
a little more clearly; it’s like taking off your glasses,
wiping them, and putting them back on, realizing, for the first time,
how foggy they’d been all along. I can’t resolve these issues, but I hope
that I’ve given you some information that will at least motivate you
to take off your glasses and wipe them, and become a wiser consumer of information in an increasingly artificial,
paid-for reality. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Astroturf and manipulation of media messages | Sharyl Attkisson | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  1. And Wikipedia still has the gall to regularly solicit donations for their website that's supposedly too pure to take corporate money

  2. "A Truman-esque alternative reality all around you" You hit the hammer on the nail with that one. By paying off all the sites that come up on google searches, ie WebMD, Wikipedia and even the Doctor who you found out went to a medical event to explain how a certain medication works, because lets be realistic doctors don't do their own testing of anything they just repeat what they are told and send you on your way with your new prescription… scientists are bought and paid for, scientists are the only ones that can actually do the tests but most are bought off or shunned as lunatics ie Tesla

  3. The post-truth world is so confusing. Believe nothing. Research 'deep fake' technology on your fave geek site… it's fascinating & dark arts. PS ~ Sharyl's a hottie 🔥

  4. Ok but there is also blatant misinformation and conspiracies that people buy into. Not all conspiracies are true. Extraterrestrials for example.

  5. WOW! Thank you. I have often suspected these things in my gut, but you have validated my real fears. Thank you so much!

  6. several economic pages are "fake Obama web pages made by the Obama admin" to bolster his numbers and to make people think His anti business economics works and Truckle down economics dont work. Snopes does not know any more then the rest of us.

  7. There's a new book called Barack Obama Is Afraid of Sharyl Attkisson: The definitive guide to the shenanigans of America's 44th president

  8. This might be one of the most informative/illuminating video on youtube. It surely sad, extremly sad, that this women have gotten the attention she deservers, this video is to be compared with many of Jordan Petersons. She's camly explaining a problem most people don't understand and explain why/how it was to be (
    implicitly), but as she explain the very "oppressor"/"narrator" she's talking about is most likely making this video the a tabuu , making sure people don't get to know the truth on how/why you shouldn't belive everything you hear

  9. TED: "Astroturfing is a serious concern"

    TEDx: "Astroturfing is a serious concern and vaccines cause autism"


  10. good talk, but her attacks on Wikipedia are weak here. using an example of cutting edge science of which doctors are Rxing off label, the cart is wayyy before the horse

  11. This is why there is such an extreme disconnect between the things media talk about and things regular people even pay attention to. It used to be media tried to follow the public consciousness in order to stay relevant, but nowadays they try to lead the public and thus render themselves an afterthought. CNN lives in one universe, and the American people live in another.

  12. Sharyl Attkisson is the true Wonder Woman, who is actually fighting corruption and crime, with bravery above that of most. She's definitely my hero!

  13. Just a question, when she casually drops in vaccines and autism, then you google her and find out that she is an anti-vax campaigner, is this her point? That she's found it hard to cut through the medical establishment's pro-vax "propaganda". I'm by no means an expert but either the whole world is "astroturfing" her or there is no link between vaccines and autism.

    Begin angry anti-vax comments…

  14. Here's a few more tips to ignore while here on YouTube. Be very skeptical of all caps and several exclamation points in the title. Assume bias if the title includes one person "owning" "destroying" or "crushing" another and do not even click if you see Funniest, Best, Worst or Total. Also, for the guys, think before you just click for boobs.

  15. To your point, Sharyl Attkisson, with all due respect, you are making the argument about "doing your homework" to find out the Truth in this world of disinformation (heavily astroturfed, to coin the verb:), and yet you use "google searches" to show how you found out how these "other sources/claims" were not reliable as your "google searches" revealed. I'm not trying to invalidate your point, but on the contrary, to actually confirm it by pointing out that your own very "research" may be tainted by the same web of disinformation. I may even add, to further illustrate your point, that perhaps you, yourself may be astroturfing wikipedia, trying to make it sound like a less reliable source of information on behalf of someone having to gain from a compromised wikipedia. I may have to do my own homework on you 😉

    No doubt Humanity has reached a unique time in history with the advent of computers and the internet to be so closely connected and the information so readily available, while at the same time being so heavily distorted, when the actual Reality we perceive may not be at all the Reality we live in. Unless we developed another sense to penetrate through these veils of disinformation (e.g. telepathy?) I see no other way of grasping the True Reality and we may very well have to redefine Reality as the one that we are actually perceiving INCLUDING the built-in web of disinformation and give up the illusion that an Objective Reality exists somewhere outside of this Manufactured Reality. Doing your homework to cut the BS to get to the True Reality out there is a noble quest that ultimately may only help us feel better about ourselves and what we think we know about the world we live in, not that it would actually make the reality we perceive any closer to that elusive objective Reality.

  16. Kids, be smarter…the whole purpose of the talk seems to be to discredit Wikipedia, not to give you inside info. Try and answer this, what is more "dangerous" to the establishment: a) huge corporations/interests paying companies to SEO fake blogs, change wikipedia pages, open FB accounts or b) a tool like wikipedia which lets ordinary people (that includes researchers and professionals who don't get media attention as well as just people who are interested in a certain topic) to contribute to an online source of knowledge which is and can be updated and corrected by the minute? There will always be veiled interests and shady people trying to manipulate information, but if you discredit wikipedia you might as well go back to just trusting corporate media. The Roth incident is funny but you shouldn't diss the closest we have to a Universal online encyclopedia because of minor details. I bet 99% of the Roth page is accurate and was written by dozens of contributors. Ok, let's diss a major effort for human knowledge like Wikipedia just because a person who made a career in corporate media woke up one day and decided to join the "good guys". I've worked in both advertising and media all they want is to sell you something, from products to ideology. Wikipedia is not perfect but as far as I'm concerned is a great source of knowledge and information.

  17. It is evident that the value and possibility of apprehending truth are rapidly decaying. That truth lacked value for most is nothing new – that most acknowledge this to be the case is a revolution. Certainty was always impossible. To be human is to be uncertain.

    But civilization depends on our faith in appearances. The king is only as regal as he is spectacular: the
    glitter and pomp and music and costumes distinguish him from the pauper.

    With the advent of the zoetrope, a pea-sized lump emerged on the pancreas of history.  It grew and
    metastasized for over a century.

    Now we have YouTube. Artificial intelligence will soon be ubiquitous. History is terminal:

    Soon, no fact will be verifiable. A recording of flesh-and-blood people will be indistinguishable from its
    computer-generated imitation.

    The Last Sitcom will be born.

  18. I know this is old, but she didn't said anything new.
    Everybody knows that most of the stuff that comes out of Journos are fake, and one should read both sides and actually do the work.

  19. the reality of the situation is that pretty much every single news outlet engages in astroturfing. Including those I once valued as truth seeking.

  20. Wow, this describes to a T the “ pro-vaccine movement “, including all the people who are calling for vaccine safety are called quacks, and labeling the “ anti-vaxxers “, which in reality are a bunch of ex-vaxxers. Scary world we live in:(

  21. This is why Trump makes such a big effort to convince people any criticism of him is 'Fake News', though nine times out of ten HE IS the fake news.
    He's the establishment who claims to be anti-establishment.
    Only time he doesn't like the establishment is when it gets in the way of his agenda.
    Clinton isn't to be trusted either.

  22. 3:44 oh boy… she's one of those people pushing the whole Vaccine-Autism link? sigh. Well she seems to have her head screwed on otherwise, very accomplished journalist, it's a small blip on what looks like an awesome career.
    Why is she now working for Sinclair Broadcast Group tho? Arn't they exactly the sortof problem she spent her career uncovering?

  23. Sorry, but Sharyl Attkisson mind has veered into X-Files land… First, we all know that there is such a thing as media bias.. and establishment and government propaganda. This is real. Where Sheryl's motives betray her is that her focus appears to be exclusively on those of the Democrats' side, hence her focus on Obama spying on her, Clinton conspiracies, her criticism of how journalists and news stations somehow have lost there way just as Trump became President, and her belief in the deep state. She talks about conflicts of interest that Mueller has that should have led to his recusal, but she says nothing about the massive conflicts of interest with Trump, Ivanka, Jared (nepotism), and all of the rich and corporate interests installed within his administration. She also speaks about how when you hear the media all use common phrases or wordings, that is an indication of a conspiracy of sorts to spread fake news. Yet her focus is on liberal messages and she doesn't really comment on right wing messages. She also doesn't make a peep about the Zionist Zealots that spread their anti-Semitic accusations in an attempt to divert attention from the real issue of Israel's inhumane oppression of Palestinians and the inevitable drift towards Apartheid, even as it's a widely adopted vast media conspiracy because the powers that be are either pro-Israeli agenda, religious nuts who believe this is fulfilling prophecy, or Zionist Zealots installed into roles as news hosts on these shows and perpetuate lies.

    She claims to be unbiased, but actions speak louder than words. Plus, anyone who's truly honest with themselves wouldn't say they are unbiased. Her focus on attacking and criticizing Democrats and liberals betrays her. She's a right wing journalist who votes and lives Republican, a MAGA supporter and Trump lover who tries to pretend to be an unbiased journalist. This is why she's off CNN and CBS and has moved on to FOX NEWS, where she belongs with the Hannity, Jeannine Pirro and the like.

  24. May 2019…. It has become known that the MSM (main stream media) have been guilty of acting as unregistered foreign agents. Their business model no longer relies on ratings to set advertising prices . Instead they use their reputation as authorities of the truth to sell propaganda stories. These favorable stories or pieces are bought buy foreign governments or corporations for 10's of millions of dollars each. This system has become so profitable they no longer need to focus on ratings and advertising.
    The news outlets justify the subterfuge by rationalizing that at the core of the news business is entertainment not truth. As such news is no longer about the whole truth but rather extrapolations of truth parsed out to extend interest, divert attention , build false outrage and propaganda.

    Special prosecutor Mueller 's prosecution of Paul Manifort has opened the gates to investigations of any and all entities that might have run a foul of the FARA laws. If they new AG Barr decides to prosecute theses crimes, the world will explode. So many people will go to jail.

  25. "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you're misinformed." -Mark Twain


  27. fodder for the conspiracy nuts who take this grain of salt and make giant leaps of logic to confirm their preexisting beliefs LMAO

  28. Brilliantly true. However the name astroturf is NOT self-explanatory, which is a BIG downer. It will not last.
    It's paid lobbying for Wallstreets megacorps- mis-advertising!

  29. Excellent talk!! Sadly the world we are living today, it’s being like this for a while, but today it’s so obvious that it’s shameful!

  30. Read everything.Listen to everybody.Believe nothing until you can prove it with your own research.A hero of mine taught me that 20 years ago.William Cooper.

  31. For an incredible example of Astroturf, see the video "The Cancer Cure Cover-up, Real Stories", and you'll be shocked at how the FDA, the Cancer Industrial Complex, Big Pharma, and anonymous individual & organization trolls tried (and are still trying) to destroy the brilliant MD, PhD who has cured more people of cancer than any cancer doctor, Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski of Houston, TX.

  32. This is excellent! Thank you Sheryl Attkisson; very enlightening and elicits terror in me as I perceive so many Americans have been "astroturfed."

  33. Skepticism is healthy, but there is healthy skepticism and just gullible adherence to, yes, quacks, conspiracy theorists, pseudo-scientists, and the like. She sounds almost as if she's subtly defending these, as if there are no such positions, and every conspiracy someone comes up with in the internet is someone genuinely alerting the world against some real wrongdoing.

  34. she is one of the few journalist today who actually do research but whether she is allowed to publish it is another question. all mainstream news these days are full of special interest propaganda; that's why they are fast loosing support by smart people who turn to other sources.

  35. Her "Full Measure" TV program syndicated by Sinclair is the only show that had Dr. Andrew Zimmerman the FDA expert witness who recanted his testimony that vaccines (the MMR in particular) did not harm some children, also the author of "China RX" regarding the massive (unlabeled) outsourcing of pharmaceutical production to China. She is virtually the only independent voice in TV journalism–and NO station in the SF Bay Area carries it.

  36. She sounds like a conspiracy pseudo-quack. She makes some valid points, but I get the impression she's a nutter. And no, I'm not paid by big pharma. Edit, I just looked her up… she thinks her computer was hacked by FBI but it actually turned out to be a stuck backspace key lmfao. She's a crackpot. But yea, be careful about what you read on the net.

  37. Note to self: 1. Go deep. A superficial look alone is misleading.

    2. Go after what really matters to you. Disregard seeming "authorities" and realize your own inner authority.

    3. Any "false" authority questioned will fight back with the questioner. Therefore, get ready for inner turbulence where something in you will insist that it knows where it doesn't.

    4. Be comfortable not knowing. Remember the idea of Socrates: Know that you don't know and make your peace with that.

    5. Keep looking. What you really need is only the deepest Truth. In you. Where else?

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