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October 12, 2003

Astroturf from Iraq

They're at it again. From the The Olympian Online and GANNETT NEWS SERVICE:

WASHINGTON -- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as 'The Rock,' in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters. "

I've written about this earlier this year here, here and here. This is a PR trick now known as Astroturf, a form of fake grass roots support. Even if the soldiers agreed with everything in the letter (which might not always be the case) this action by our government warps the purpose of the letters to the editors pages and makes us all more cynical about what we read there. In the long run, this is bad for democracy. Unfortunately these guys think only as far ahead as the next election.