Flogs (fake blogs) and astroturfing

Several major companies have created flogs (fake blogs) or otherwise engaged in astroturfing. Examples include Sony, RealNetworks, Ask.com, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Comcast, and even Microsoft, which tried to benefit from a fake grassroots letter-writing campaign, using the names of at least two dead people and sending one letter from a city that doesn't exist. Commenting on what Microsoft did, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch said, “It's sleazy. This is not a company that appears to be bothered by ethical boundaries.”

I encountered a nut on Facebook who said he worked for Ralph Lauren and created a “dozen accounts daily” that he used “for marketing and advertising purposes.”

Astroturfing is used by some political parties, and certain notable public figures have been accused of creating fake online identities “to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one's self, allies or company,” such as John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Hiltzik, author John Lott, writer Lee Siegel, Peter Ragone (the press secretary of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom), and a top staffer for then-U.S. Congressman Charlie Bass (R-NH).

Venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky, author of the blog Infectious Greed, “said he thinks that business people are increasingly resorting to sock-puppetry. 'I'm convinced it's broader than anybody knows. [...] I'm convinced this is the tip of the iceberg.'

Media Matters accused me of doing that, too, suggesting that I created various fake online profiles to hype my books. I did not do what they claimed, but I can certainly understand why they thought that. Those profiles were actually posted by one of my readers.

Huh? Years ago, I mentioned in my books that I would be willing to put more effort into expanding them if my sales were high enough to justify my enormous investment of time. I've spent up to an entire week researching whether to include a single word in The Science of Sex, to see if there was enough scientific evidence to support it. I relied on word-of-mouth testimonials from readers to market my books, plus I mentioned them in my many websites, where it was very clear that I was the one discussing my books—not some sockpuppet.

Contrary to what Media Matters would have you believe, all of my websites have always been free. They range from ones that primarily serve as informational resources to give people an idea of what it is like to be a doctor and to help students achieve their educational goals (ER-doctor.com and ERbook.net), to various free online utilities such as MySpamSponge, BalanceBraces, Keyword-List-Tool, track-this.info, MyProfileWriter, and ContactMeFree. I also have several others.

If you're skeptical that readers would go to the trouble of creating online profiles to hype my books, I don't blame you. However, they've done even more than that without me asking. Readers who already paid for my books repeatedly sent me letters and FedEx packages stuffed with cash, sometimes because they wanted me to answer a specific question, but sometimes simply because they wanted to encourage me to write more. I treated that money as income, not a gift, and reported every dollar of it on my tax returns for the past several years, so it is easily verifiable.

spot a typo?
If so, please tell me about it.

My readers tend to be very intelligent people, and many of them are eager to see my many upcoming additions, which I offer at no additional cost. Acting on my hint and hoping to motivate me to write more, some readers have engaged in their own marketing strategies to increase my book sales. Their tactics have ranged from low-key references in relevant online discussions to things that were on the other end of the flamboyant spectrum. That wasn't in line with the way I want to market my books, so I've been updating my books and websites to ask people to stop. With several books, dozens of websites, and some website pages longer than a book, it isn't easy to recall every instance in which I previously asked readers to help with marketing. (If you spot one, please tell me about it so I can remove it.)

Media Matters professes to be horrified when online postings are used to sell something, yet they don't seem to be concerned when major corporations do things such as paying bloggers to hype their products. A Google search for “companies hiring bloggers” currently returns 14.5 million results—lots of the usual Google chaff, no doubt, but lots of wheat, too.

As mentioned above, some of the largest corporations and countless smaller ones have used paid bloggers, yet I've never heard Media Matters grumble about that. An even greater irony is that Media Matters pays countless bloggers to sell their often-twisted ideas to the public and to quasi-journalists and bloggers who are too lazy to do their own research and writing. They get the daily spin from Media Matters, copy and paste a few paragraphs, change a few words here and there, and—presto!—an article in five minutes or less to impress their readers who are too lazy to think for themselves.

Judging by how Media Matters distorted the truth in bashing me, their motto seems to be “anything goes.” When those quasi-journalists and bloggers parrot Media Matters, it's garbage in, garbage out. Credible journalists would contact someone before trashing him, to see if there were another side of the story, but Media Matters does not want facts or exculpatory evidence to get in the way of their smears. Various media outlets, including NPR and MSNBC, called me at home, hoping to broadcast what Media Matters dredged up. After I spoke with them, they realized that the Media Matters portrayal was so misleading that they couldn't discuss it without tarnishing their reputations.

Media Matters went to extraordinary lengths to take things out of context and attempt to ridicule them (an Alinsky tactic from Rules for Radicals) even when they were things I never sold or marketed—just cute craft projects I worked on years ago, such as my Mosquito Motel and Insect Inn. That's a clear-cut sign of desperation on their part—or mental illness.

Mosquito Motel
I made the Mosquito Motel for my Mom as a Mother's Day present. By ridiculing it, Media Matters was clearly jumping the shark: so desperate they resorted to absurd content.

This is one part of a series of articles exploring how far-left smear merchants use ad hominem attacks and character assassination when they can't substantively counter their opponents, which range from ordinary liberals to independents, libertarians, and conservatives. The far-left is at war with the world, facts, and reality.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
— Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, quoting someone he termed an "unknown sage" in The Saturday Evening Post article "The World of the Uneducated" (November 28, 1959)

“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
— Margaret Thatcher

“One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.”
— Thomas Sowell

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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