In an online fight between a few thousand military bloggers and fifty communications professionals, who will win?
If Fenton Communication has their way, PR will come out on top.
The latest dust-up is over a a group that hired Fenton to do their public relations work called Appreal for Redress — an organization that milbloggers are suggesting is nothing more than a manufactured front group for anti-war zealots (underwritten by groups such as the Fourth Freedom Forum).
The concept for the site is that there is a number of troops who believe that we should not be in Iraq. Supposedly, this grassroots collection of troops has organized in support of the following statement:
As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.
Milbloggers say that this PR campaign is astroturfing (using false and artificial means to create the appearance of grassroots support without a sincere community uprising).
From Mudville Gazette:
This post originally appeared at MilBlogs in October, 2006. While some of the information uncovered herein has since made it’s way into smaller media outlets, most major mainstream media sources are still reporting this effort as a “grass roots” campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, the milbloggers have a point. There have been an estimated 500,000 service members who have deployed to Iraq since the invasion in 2003. Only 1200 have signed the Appeal for Redress on the Web site. Also, the Web site does not list the names of those who have signed the appeal, so there is no way to verify how many people who submitted their name are actually current servicemembers.
Clark Stevens is a Fenton Web guru and maintains a blog here (with a surprisingly military soundin name). I wonder if he can shed any light on the work they have done and/or provide any evidence that this is truly a grassroots effort.
So what is your take? Is this astroturf? And why hasn’t Fenton responded to the criticism of their tactic?