Saturday, January 17, 2009

The concept of the 'useful idiot' explained

Just seen this - via Justin's comments:

Early in 2001 I got a phone call from a libertarian acquaintance of long standing. He asked if I was willing to be the contact person and general front-man for an ostensibly left-wing website that would advocate some policies currently out of favour on the left, but with good deep roots in the history of the working-class movement. (Not in substance reactionary policies, I hasten to add.) This site would be maintained and paid for, and I would be paid a retainer by, a lobbying organisation for some of the companies and non-profit bodies involved in the area in question. The source of the funding, and the inspiration for the site, would be covert. Because the idea was to make it look like a left-wing initiative, independent of the existing (and, I again hasten to add, entirely legitimate) commercial interests in this policy area. Astroturf, in short. 

I said that I'd always kept all my dealings and associations out in the open, and that I wouldn't do it, thank you. End of conversation. Thinking about it afterwards, I was quite annoyed. I'd just been asked to trade on my left-wing credibility in order to do something that would destroy my left-wing - not to mention personal - credibility if it ever came out. What did he take me for?


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