Religious astroturfing

By June 4, 2021Society

Astroturfing is the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where such support is not common. This is often manifest online and can take the form of multiple identities and, occasionally, fake pressure groups or organisations. These are used to mislead the public into believing that the position of the astroturfer is the commonly held view1. A common practice of the astroturfer is to set up a front organisation that is purported to represent one agenda whereas in reality it serves another party or interest group. The latter party or group is often completely hidden or is rarely mentioned2.

As you would expect, organisations like the CIA use front organisations to hide their activities2. In Australia we have several organisations who act as fronts for political organisations. The Australian Environment Foundation is a front group for the Institute of Public Affairs3, a climate change denying organisation funded by big mining companies and overseas climate change denying companies and organisations; much of their funding is secret. The Bennelong Society is named after “a famous Indigenous Australian — one of the Wangal people — who had a close relationship with the early colonists”, and despite being named after an Aboriginal, the organisation is against land rights and self-determination for Aboriginal people4. Timber Communities Australia is a national front group funded by logging companies and the lobbying organisation the National Association of Forest Industries. When it was originally formed the organisation had the gall to call itself the ‘Forest Protection Society’. It apparently decided this might be going a bit too far5.

There are numerous religious organisations who use fronts as well. The church of Scientology uses the Citizens Commission on Human Rights to hammer the psychiatry profession. The Family Council of Queensland is a lobbying organisation which promotes “family values” and aims to “strengthen marriage and the family unit in society”. Of course, all of its members are religious organisations, and include the Australian Family Association, Salvation Army, the Catholic Church and funnily, the Endeavour Forum, which was set up to counter feminism6. The Australian Family Association (AFA) itself is a front group for the ultra-conservative National Civic Council, and acts as a lobby group for social conservatism. Like many of these front groups AFA claim that they represent the interests of the majority of Australian families. This is largely equine ordure as it has been estimated that its membership runs to less than 3,0007.

In Australia you can bet that when an organisation has the word ‘family’ in it, it is backed by one or more churches or other religious organisations. This is true of Family Voice Australia. Up until 2008, they were known as the Festival of Light. They are a conservative Christian association, opposed to same-sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia, decriminalisation of marijuana, decriminalisation of sex work, decriminalisation of abortion, and just about any other advance in society. They recently spat the dummy over the full frontal male nudity in Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell satirical show on the ABC on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. The show started with a warning that there would be coarse language and nudity, and the offending section was a skit about defamation laws and censorship. Yet Family Voice Australia stated, under the heading “ABC is now morally bankrupt”, that “The TV show Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell surprised viewers last night with a glimpse of male nudity”. How could you be surprised, when there was a warning at the beginning of the show? Then bizarrely they claimed “Despite the episode’s rating as M, with a warning for coarse language and nudity, it does nothing for families with children watching the show in good faith and expecting a standard of viewing that is acceptable to all mum [sic] and dads”8. Given that there was a nudity warning, one wonders what people were thinking if they were so outraged at nudity, when they decided to watch it. Was it so that they could be outraged?

It is funny that these religious nutters are outraged by the sight of a todger, trouser snake, or bed flute, when almost half the population has one, while they campaign for the religious freedom bill which would entrench religious bigotry9,10, campaign for immunity from vilification law suits10, campaign against voluntary euthanasia10, against hormone treatment for children who require it10, and against abortion. However, you never hear them speak up about the mistreatment of asylum seekers, the aged, or the disabled. I have never heard groups like Family Voice Australia speak out against the over three years of incarceration of two little girls on Christmas Island. The youngest, Tharunicaa, is almost four and has spent the vast majority of her life in immigration detention, while her elder sister Kopika has spent over half her life there11. These religious sex-obsessed people complain about seeing a bloke’s dick on television, but not about the treatment of these little girls. That epitomises the sickening priorities of the religious and makes me long for the complete disappearance of religion from the planet. 




  • Keryn booker says:

    Yes religion is a scourge around the world

  • Mark Dougall says:

    This is funny. Micallef must be in stitches. It seems to me that there is no way that these people would ever normally watch Micallef. I don’t watch things that I think I won’t like, and so do most people. They must have some appalling Mary Whitehouse types who ardently view all programs likely to offend their pathetic idea of morality. It is hilarious to imagine these pitiful people scrutinising every program, looking for things they regard as filth, expressing their holy outrage, feeling pious, getting all worked up. I remember when the same loons got upset at the Life of Brian. A really funny film, and much closer to the truth, I am sure, than anything seen, or said, on any of the the religious nut bag programs that proliferate on the digital channels of commercial TV stations on Sunday mornings. You know the type of sickening thing where American style preachers stand there turning the pages of the bible, quoting passages that say we will all go to hell unless we repent and give ourselves to Jesus, and give a lot of money to the church/preacher. Foul hypocrites all. Religion is what is really disgusting.

    • admin says:

      I think Arthur C. Clarke was spot on the money when he said something along the lines of ‘one of the great targedies of history is that religion hijacked morality’. I find most of what passes for morality in the religions I have seen, sickening. It is all about bigotry and an obsession with sex. Weird stuff.

  • Jon says:

    As we’ve discussed on many previous occasions, for reasons best known to themselves some religious puritans – aka “family organisations” – have a manic pre-occupation with other people’s bodies AND their sex lives. So manic that they apparently have no time for real issues – like the long term incarceration of men, women and children who have committed no crime. Fomo, jealousy of the freedom of others, and a need to control other people probably explains their obsession but psychiatrists would still have a field day analysing why it’s a common trait in these organisations. We might laugh that off in certain cases but when they get into the dangerous manipulation of others – gay conversion therapy and poking their noses into things they know nothing about like complex gender fluidity/identity for example – then they deserve to be pilloried and lampooned.

    The bigger problem is exactly what you’ve outlined though. These hypocrites are nowhere to be seen when abuse is found in their own ranks and they’re CULPABLY silent when basic human rights are egregiously abused by the conservative governments they support. They’re a disgrace to the christian teachings they purport to uphold imo. As I’ve said before, if Hell exists then their reservations are already confirmed.
    PS – I’m surprised you didn’t find a spot for the ACL.
    PPS – good to see Micaleff and co giving it to Richard Colbeck. If the Rudd government was responsible for the deaths of 4 workers then any unbiased enquiry should also find that Morrison and Colbeck were similarly responsible for the deaths of nearly 700 people in aged care. This of course quite wrongly lets the private sector and selfish individuals off the hook, just as Abbott’s RC into home insulation did.

  • Jim Billings says:

    Such a great piece. No not the “roger” the article. It reinforces all that I experienced growing up as a Catholic. Not a care at all about injustice or suffering. Just about moralising , inflicting fear guilt and shame to control. True Christianity surely is open and transparent not disguised. True Christianity supports those who struggle without judgement or condemnation.

    • admin says:

      Thanks. One of the most perceptive quotes in this regard came from Arthur C. Clarke, who said: “One of the greatest tragedies in mankind’s entire history may be that morality was hijacked by religion.” They have subverted it so that morality as they see it is very much about sex and very much about the control of women. Compared to that bit of ‘morality’, there is very little content regarding human rights, mostly because they have been transgressing these rights ever since their origin..

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