Internet Shills: Beware of the Fake Debate. What to keep in mind before engaging with anti-gay rhetoric.
I never get tired of telling this story because I think it’s an extraordinary depiction of psycho-social manipulation. Back in 2004/2005 when we were campaigning for gay marriage in Spain, we had the wind at our backs. Public support fluctuated between 65 and 70%. Support in those under 40 was even higher. The internet and social media reflected those figures. Which is why we were so shocked when it seemed like the internet had been flooded by a tsunami of anti-gay propaganda.
To make a long story short. Two Spanish anti-gay groups called Hazteoir (make yourself heard) and the Foro de la Familia had gone to bed with American Evangelical Anti-Gay organizations. Not only were they now pushing the same tired propaganda, but they’d gone so far as to set up (as in hire) people to spread their message of hate and exclusion.
Their organization and method which helped them cause such a stir was also their downfall. Just as recently exposed by the French press in the case of the anti-gay and artificial Manif pour Tous, their message was scripted. And when I say scripted, I mean like this:
The contrived tone of their message, the propagation of debunked myths and their inability to respond to anything outside the script meant that soon enough people were onto what was going on. They were shills and puppets on one side, and on the other manipulators bent on using xenophobia to make a personal profit.
Their conniving isn’t limited to internet forums. Most recently, in the case of the anti-gay Manif pour Tous in France, they announced they were made up of the members of 37 organizations representing all sectors of French society. Le Monde took a closer look at those claims only to discover that 11 of those groups didn’t exist at all. Of those that did exist, only 15 had any sort of legal status. And of the one’s that had legal status, all were linked to religious or extremist right wing movements. So much for being representative of French society!
All of this is to say beware. Their methods are many. Astro-turfing, click-baiting, fabricating controversy et al. Their success depends on their fraudulent activities being given air-time, so my suggestion is not giving them what they want. Or at least don’t do it on their terms. If you want to respond to something, do it your own way, on your own territory. Otherwise you’re giving them a platform and driving traffic to their nefarious message.