Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Anti-pod astroturf

It's been a while since I wrote on anything but intelligence, but I just stumbled across an interesting example of my old friend Astroturf. Just like you roll out fake grass when you play on astroturf, a company can roll out fake grassroots when trying to influence policy-makers or consumers.

The homepage iDon't is an interesting example. Apparently it is a youngish, hip page, flirting with the well-tried revolutionary/military iconography, mixed with a dash of techno-gothism. In other words, it could have been whatever collective of web-designers, musicians, creative hippies or others who have lauched the site. Moreover the message of the site is "Don't buy an iPod, that is conformity. You don't want to be a conformist, now do you?" - this is cutting edge anti popular culture - Apple used to be the good guys, so the first to fret on their new corporate persona are avant garde, non?

The site is really typical of the zeitgeist among radicals and cultural deconstructivists on the net: it has a blog, you can print your own stickers, it links to other sites with anti-iPod content. Some of it is a bit strained though, for example the author behind the blog "Eric aka Da Sheep Herder" (sheeps are used a lot on the site) who greets the reader as "fellow radicals". Overmuch and reeks of this guy in highschool who would get all the right clothes and say all the right things to "belong" to a fraction, but who would always overdo it and labeled a "poser", radical, goth, hip-hop, death-metal, rock n' roller by those he tried to impres. The internet of course, is home to a million of those personas.

However, when you dig through the pages you find that it is indeed another producer of MP3-players who seems to be behind it, namely SanDisk, presented as "The Alternative". This is very subtle, with only one or two links going out from to

In my view it is a good example of astroturfing - seemingly a young crowd is tired of iPod "iTatorship" and want to blow their trumpets about it. On the other hand it also shows how delicate a business it is to set up a fake front-organisation - if you are constructing your views, you don't have a connection to that real and true sentiment that drives other grass-root organisations. Your lingo becomes strained and the phoney-ness of it all shows to all observant spectators. I guess the most successful examples of astro-turfing would latch onto an existing organisation and support them in spreading a message you agree with.


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