Astroturfing – Giving You Everything But the Truth!

Have you ever been researching something and you click on a website that looks like it has some real information and public feedback in it? You begin reading and something doesn’t seem quite right. Even though the website is supposed to have public input and comments, it seems more like a public service announcement for the company or organization you are researching. Before you leave the site, you say to yourself, “What’s up with this site?” Have you ever thought that it could be a site set up by people who are Astroturfing? Unless you are familiar with the word, you probably won’t be thinking in those terms.

So what is Astroturfing? Wikipedia defines it like this: “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.” In other words, it is an artificial site set up by the organization or company in order to promote their views. Think of it this way:  You are looking up the efficacy of a certain drug. You don’t want to go to the manufacture’s site and so you click on another site that talks about the drug. It has testimonials promoting the drug and its efficacy. Because of the statements of the people, you are inclined to try the drug because so many people are talking about the positive results they had when they took it.

What you don’t know is that the site was set up by the manufacturer of the drug and that the testimonials were not written by real users of the drug. They were written by people hired by the company in order to promote the drug and get you to buy it! Does it really happen that way? Astroturfing happens every day of the week. As the definition stated: political parties, religions, companies, and people promoting certain issues will create a site in order to skew people in favor of what they are promoting. Sounds unethical doesn’t it? But is it illegal?

On the face of it, Astroturfing is not illegal. However, once it has come to light that the site is, in fact a false front for the company or organization, it can possibly be fined for illegal business practices. Has someone suffered irreparable harm because of the information on the site? There may be a cause for action there also. 

Astroturfing, as disingenuous as it is, comes in other forms also. A company may send in their own people to a public hearing and take up all of the seats in the room so that there is no room for dissenters. It is used by organizations to stack the deck against the opposition and stifle dissent. If you look closely, you can find it in lots of arenas. 

As writers and researchers, we can be incensed about sites and information that has been Astroturfed.But when it comes to reviews, we also have to be careful that we are not Astroturfing. Reviewtracker.com defines Astroturfing this way: “Astroturfing is the practice of preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that a reasonable consumer would believe to be a neutral third-party testimonial…On the surface, this practice is simply unethical but not necessarily damaging for those reading the review, and certainly not illegal.” In other words, if most of our reviews are written by our friends and family and are not written by unbiased consumers, people will not get an objective opinion about our product. We are, in fact, Astroturfing!

In the end, whether seeking truth or disseminating it, one has to ask oneself, “Is it real or is it Astroturf?

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Predictive Prophecy

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Anyone who has gone through the University system has met many a professor who does not believe in a Supreme Being. They can be quick to denigrate the Bible and tell you that it is just an old ancient book that has no relevance in today’s society. When they say that, you may go back to your dorm room and look at your Bible and think, “Is that really true? Does it indeed not have any relevance for today?”

So what makes the Bible unique? What makes it different from any other book that has been written? How can it stand the test of time and still come out as a best-seller even in modern times? Why can we indeed depend on it as a source of truth and inspiration? Two words…predictive prophecy. The Bible claims to be the very words of God. What authenticates it and has authenticated it through centuries past? Predictive prophecy; that is what makes it different from any other source of wisdom and verifies the authority of its words.

What is predictive prophecy? Throughout the Bible, there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus, Israel, the nations, and specific people. Hundreds of these prophecies have already been fulfilled accurately. They are so accurate in their fulfillment that they cannot be denied. For example, there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus, the Messiah. During the course of his birth, life and death, he fulfilled over two hundred of them. The odds of that happening are astronomical, to say the least. We know that if these were fulfilled at his first coming, that the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled during his second coming and reign.

The nation Israel strayed from God and there were many prophecies predicting its judgment. Over and over, these prophecies were fulfilled. They were scattered among the nations and the prophecies concerning their regathering are happening right to this very day. Even the prophecy in Isaiah 66:8, “Can a nation be born in a day?” was accomplished on May 14, 1948. 

The ruler, Cyrus the Great, was named in the book of Isaiah one hundred and fifty years before he came into power. Is that some sort of coincidence? I don’t think so. In the book of Daniel, the eleventh chapter encompasses a brief history of the wars and ensuing intrigues between the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt. It is so accurate that historical scholars have a hard time believing it was written hundreds of years before the events took place.  

These are just a few of the examples of predictive prophecy in the Bible, there are many more within its pages, too numerous to count. One thing we can be sure of is this; if the previous prophecies were fulfilled, the future prophecies will be also. How could this happen? I believe that God sits outside of time and sees the end from the beginning. He inspired the prophets of old to write things that they themselves did not see or understand, things that would come to pass in the future. We can rely on the truth of the Bible, and know that its predictive prophecy is the proof of it.

 

“You’re Taking Yourself with You.”

I have a good friend who is a Christian Counselor. We were talking about how many times we think that changing our circumstances, i.e.  job, spouse or location will make us happier. She said, “We always have to remember: You’re taking yourself with you.”

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I’ve thought about those words a lot. If I am unhappy in a certain situation in my life, my natural tendency is to think, “If only  _______ was different.” I only need to fill in the blank. Would that blank be: my job, my kids, my spouse, my house, my car? That certainly depends on what problem I am facing. If only….

My friend made me realize that the first person I need to question anytime I am unhappy with a situation is myself. What is my response to what I am going through? Am I contributing to the problem? Is there something in me that is causing the problem? Am I just plain discontented with my circumstances and refusing to be thankful and content where I am?

Those are hard questions, but real ones that we all have to think about when we are evaluating our circumstances and our discontentment or unhappiness. Who is the main contributor to our problems? Not always, but many times it is really ourselves. We are the ones holding onto a bad attitude or an intractable position.  Changing our circumstances is not really going to make us any happier…after all, we will just be taking ourselves with us!