John Oliver calls out phony grassroots movements

John Oliver, courtesy of HBO
John Oliver, courtesy of HBO /

John Oliver took to Last Week Tonight to talk about companies setting up phony grassroots movement campaigns, calling them “astroturfers.”

A company holding a grassroots movement is quite a bit oxymoronic…

Last night on HBO, John Oliver dove into this subject on Last Week Tonight. He tells his viewers he wants to talk about “astroturfing,” which isn’t a new teen craze despite its peculiar nickname. Rather, Oliver says this refers to when large companies try to sell something while passing it off as a “grassroots movement.” It’s about as much of a grassroots movement as astroturf is real grass.

Oliver brings up some examples, including an ad campaign from a group called Americans Against Food Taxes. A commercial is shown demonstrating the evils of taxing soda and juice by a few pennies. Of course, as Oliver points out, this was nothing more than a front group organized by soda and beverage companies. If you watch the ad, however, it comes across more like a group of concerned citizens, a grassroots movement, if you will.

The Last Week Tonight host explains how the problem is only getting worse. Astroturfers are now at the level of using paid protestors. These hired actors will show up to town hall meetings and other events to recite lines they were paid to say, making it seem like there are a bunch of concerned citizens when these are people hired through corporate special interests.

To show the other side of things, Oliver presents his own ad about the astroturfers themselves, linking them to things like shark attacks and the deaths of puppies. You can watch the full segment in the YouTube video below!

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New episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver air Sunday nights on HBO. What’d you think of this episode? Tell us about it below!