Buying Consensus

The recent buzz has been about powerful moneyed interests buying laws banning the free speech of other powerful moneyed interests, and how that same law might be applicable to private citizens who oppose those same groups.

So now we learn of professional protesters who don’t know anything about the issue they’re protesting. That’s not hyperbole, either; it’s the phrase the protesters used to describe themselves. They even admitted to not knowing who the object of their protest was.

Short-term, these kinds of things work. But long-term, they only have an effect as long as people continue to have faith in the institutions being manipulated, and as time passes, the secret becomes harder and harder to keep under wraps. Once the secret does come out, the damage can be quite serious; just ask Dan Rather.

To use another example, can anyone claim to take The American Prospect seriously anymore, after learning that they allowed an entire issue to be bought by a special interest group without disclosure? How is this any better than the Armstrong Williams fiasco? (For extra irony, note that the previous condemnation of Williams comes from The American Prospect itself.)