"astroturf" as euphemism?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Aug 9 16:05:27 UTC 2009

 From a posting by Patricia Murphy at the "Politics Daily" blog,
regarding the national health care "debate":

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office sent out a fact sheet to
reporters Tuesday afternoon, calling recent demonstrations at
congressional town hall events "Astroturf," the Washington euphemism
for a corporate public relations campaign disguised to look like a
grass roots citizen movement.

Pelosi said that while Democrats are putting forth proposals to
reform health care, "those not interested in health insurance reform
are disrupting public meetings and not allowing concerned
constituents to ask questions and express their views. Many of these
opponents who are shutting down civil discussion are organized by
out-of-district, extremist political groups, and industry-supported
lobbying firms."

I always thought "astroturf" in the political sense, as in "astroturf
campaign", "astroturf movement", etc., was a clever coinage to refer
to (what are represented by the speaker, and here the Speaker, as)
faux-grass-roots efforts on behalf of a position or a candidate, but
if it's a euphemism I'm not sure what it's a euphemism for, and whose
feelings are being spared by its use.


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