Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.
Doesn’t that sound like it was written for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation?
Given Canadian media’s reliance on canned quotes and feigned outrage by the CTF, there are some truly basic questions that I have about this supposed taxpayer federation that claims to represent Canadians.
You have to ask yourself this question, would these federations and advocacy groups exist without big business or conservative think tanks? One only has to look at the connection of the Fraser Institute to the tobacco industry in the United States to find this answer. This is no less true of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and it’s connection to the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, a group widely perceived by anti-tobacco activists as a tobacco industry front. How is this grassroots political participation?
How can a group that has only six members claim to speak for the Canadian taxpayer? They should call themselves “Snow White Privilege and the Six Fiscal Dwarfs”. If you sign up as supporter – because many people who sign on with the CTF are operating under the assumption that they are members of the group. However, ask the CTF for a copy of their audited financial statements. As a “member” you should have a right to see those statements, but you will be told that the only ‘members’ are the board directors themselves.
How can a taxpayer federation that demands accountability from Canadian politicians when their financial statements and disclosures can be written on a cocktail napkin? How can you trust an advocate for transparency in government who refuses to be transparent about its own financial affairs?
I would love to shake the financial tree of the CTF and see who falls out, I am certain the who’s who of extreme right wing ideological organizations like Atlas, Koch, Mercer, and Munk, etc. would be included in their donors.
Why do journalists continue to legitimize this group by using them a source without asking these very basic questions of non-partisanship, foreign funding, transparency, and membership as it pertains to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This is yet another example of convenience outweighing the public’s right to know, and yet another failure on behalf of mainstream journalism in Canada.
I think it is time for a deep dive journalistic investigation to expose the CTF, and take a lawnmower to this astroturf organization.
For an excellent read on groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute, read Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy by Donald Gutstein. This is a must read book. Here is an interview with the author.