Astroturfing in our time

Paul Boutin breaks an interesting story: Someone’s astroturfing local newspaper editorial pages on behalf of the President’s economic growth package. Dozens of newspapers “from Boston to Honolulu,” different names (the list of papers is here). The astroturfing was turned up by Google. Same text every time:

When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership. The economic growth package he recently proposed takes us in the right direction by accelerating the successful tax cuts of 2001, providing marriage penalty relief, and providing incentives for individuals and small businesses to save and invest. Contrary to the class warfare rhetoric attacking the President’s plan, the proposal helps everyone who pays taxes, and especially the middle class. This year alone, 92 million taxpayers will receive an immediate tax cut averaging $1,083 – and 46 million married couples will get back an average of $1,714. That’s not pocket change for a family struggling through uncertain economic times. Combined with the President’s new initiatives to help the unemployed, this plan gets people back to work and helps every sector of our economy.

What were they thinking? There are no secrets in the blogosphere. How are the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe going to feel about being astroturfed? How seriously are they going to take statements from any official source who’s behind the Bush economic plan as a result?

Here’s a big clue: stop lying to us.

Busy day

Lots of stuff on the plate today. While I work, a few quick pointers to things going on elsewhere:

  • Thanks to Dave and Doc for the linkage on yesterday’s open-data release of the data growth measurements. I was going to offer a clarification to Doc calling this “the diameter of the blogosphere,” but on reflection he’s right. This measures the total activity of the blogosphere, the growth of the content being given back to the web by its users. The fact that this is both existing bloggers being very chatty and new people blogging is important; being able to break down those percentages is probably less important. —I like Doc’s characterization that this is the diameter of the blogosphere rather a lot. This is why he’s a marketing professional and I… well, I am too, but one with a lot less experience. 🙂
  • Craig is back from vacation and blogging his cruise experience. It sounds like even the memory of the cruise ship food is enough to make him lethargic.
  • George reports that the Big Dig proceeds apace, with the I-90 extension, at $6.5 billion and 3.5 miles the most expensive road ever built, scheduled to open this weekend (connecting the Mass Pike to the Ted Williams Tunnel and making it possible to quickly get to Logan from the rest of the state). George, we expect a driving conditions report when you get the chance.
  • Finally, Esta is blogging her ongoing process of applying to the Presbyterian seminary. While there are plenty of b-school admissions bloggers that I know of, I think hers is the only one to blog about seminary.