In fact, I have been working on the draft of this post for quite some time. It is one of the most important topics relating to the movement for Internet Voting, or any other grass roots movement for that matter.
Internet Voting could benefit society in countless ways, by increasing voter participation to levels we could only have dreamed of before the Information Age.
Any changes, however, that benefit the greater good will usually also impact some special interest in some way. In general, the more it will affect the general population for the better, the stronger the resistance will come from those special interests.
There are certainly plenty of important examples of this: The electric car, Green energy and even something as straightforward as climate scientists warning us about climate change, which they tell us has been brought about by industrialization and our overdependence on fossil fuels.
Internet voting is no exception. The very concept of voting online has many detractors because the result of Internet Voting would impact special interests. Special interests generally do not like democracy. Fascism by definition is rule by the corporate state.
Pushback by special interest comes in many forms. One of the most common ways today is through “Astroturf”, the formation of fake grass roots organizations that claim to be advocating FOR something, but really exist just to trash the thing they are against.
The best example of Astroturf for me is the “60-Plus Association“. They claim to be a grass roots organization of “concerned seniors”, collectively advocating for seniors in the political realm. 60-Plus is widely considered to be pure Astroturf, a fake organization created by and a tool of some very large and powerful special interests. It has been alleged that it is funded by big PhRMA, but overall it’s funding source is a mystery. One thing is not mysterious to me – 60-Plus cares NOTHING about the true interests of our seniors. Last year, 60-Plus played a major role in ousting many Democratic US Representatives by spending huge amounts of money on attack ads, targeting the senior vote, claiming that these Representatives were bad for their senior constituents. 60-Plus claims to be nonpartisan, yet almost EXCLUSIVELY supports Republican candidates.
In today’s world, Astroturf manifests itself in the blogosphere to a huge degree. Do you ever wonder, when you read blog posts, who actually has the time in their lives to do nothing but go online and vociferously trash something again and again? The answer is that they often aren’t real, average people. They are Astroturf. They either represent special interests directly or are more often simply writers who are paid a few pennies per post to write specific diatribes about specific subjects.
So how can the reader tell the difference between writing that is Astroturf and contributions from real grassroot advocates? This is a good question, because Astroturf is clever, and it is important to know the difference.
Perhaps I have good “Astroturf-dar”, because I can usually spot fake blog writers a mile away, but I think the best way to discern that a comment online is not in good faith is if it seems to be FOR nothing, but only AGAINST something.
Astroturfers are existentially “Againsters”. They exist to trash. Now they don’t want to be outrightly seen this way, so they go to certain lengths to portray themselves as really being for something.
In the case of Internet Voting, Againsters usually portray themselves as being for “election integrity”, when they are really just Againsters. They always claim that their interest is in ensuring that election results are “verifiable” or “secure”, as if they truly care about our democracy. But when you speak about how Internet Voting can do away with voter disenfranchisement, as well as do away with the corrosive effect of money in our elections, or any of the things Internet Voting promises, they could care less. They are one trick ponies. They will talk ONLY about how unsecure Internet Voting is. They are usually completely over the top.
Average people, the type of people who make up real grass roots organizations, don’t always talk this way. You will see more give and take in their discussions.
In fact, Internet Voting is identical to the issue of climate change when it comes to the strategies that Astroturf use against it. It is real standard stuff.
One of the best articles I have ever read that points out the strategy of Astroturf is by Jeffrey Masters, PhD, a climate scientist who writes for weather undergound (The weather website). Using the history of the battle over CFCs as an example, he points out the methods and strategies used by Astroturf to muddy the debate over climate issues.
The SAME THING occurs in the “debate” over Internet Voting. “Critics”, who NEVER, EVER, EVER make any attempt to establish their own credentials on things like cyber-security, attack the science, offering alternative views of “computer scientists” of their own, clouding the debate.
The other thing that many online againsters do without fail is display extreme arrogance about the subject, portraying advocates as “naive”. Again, the arrogance is rarely accompanied by any offer of their own credentials for the reader to judge.
But what about these “Election Integrity Advocates”? Aren’t any of them for real? Actually, I believe many of them are. Some of these people actually do care about our elections. The problem is that, when it comes to Internet Voting, they refuse to consider it’s promise because they believe Internet Voting is “linked” to the problems with electronic voting machines used today. The “Diebold link” (Surely a subject for another post) is all they see when they hear Internet Voting. They refuse to even entertain the thought that secure, server based, online voting is not an extension of Diebold, but actually the ANSWER to the issues they have with Diebold. They don’t even want to hear it. They are DOGMATIC in their view that this link exists. These folks are different than Astroturf, in that I do hold out some hope that they could, individually, open up their minds more to the promise of Internet Voting. But these true Election Integrity advocates need to realize that they, by their unwillingness to waver from their insistance that Internet Voting is bad, are allowing themselves to be willing tools of interests who care NOTHING about election integrity. Despite the often well-meaning motivation of many of them, they stand as againsters themselves.
So if you are an average citizen, looking to learn more about Internet Voting (as I was when I first approached this subject) I beg you to be continually aware when you are reading that some are speaking in good faith, and some are not. How can you tell the difference? It’s easy, just beware the againsters.