Friends of Coal, Friends of Coal Industry

Readers have asked us to take a look at a West Virginian organization calling themselves the “Friends of Coal.”

According to their website, the Friends of Coal is a “… volunteer organization that consists of both West Virginians and residents from beyond our borders.” Sounds all very grassroots. Just a group of citizens joining together to cheer on the glories of coal.

For a volunteer organization Friends of Coal are very well-heeled - how many volunteer groups have a sponsored race car, run television ads and send logo-ed frisbees to the troops in Iraq?

Not many.

It didn't take long though to figure out where all that money is coming from. The Friends of Coal is a thinly veiled front group of the main coal industry lobby group in West Virginia, the West Virginia Coal Association. Most obvious is the logo in the bottom left hand corner of the Friends of Coal website (but no disclosure of their involvement) and a quick domain name search finds that the Friends of Coal website is registered to the West Virginia Coal Association.

The membership of the West Virginia Coal Association is the who's who of the coal industry.

The technique is called astroturfing and it's one of the oldest public relations ploys in the spindoctor play-book. While most people inherently mistrust big industry, they do trust their neighbors and groups who do not appear agenda-driven and that's why astroturfing works.

At least it does until pesky sites like DeSmogBlog start to poke around!


I’m now leaning more and more towards the opinion the real targets of astroturfing these days aren’t the man on the street, but rather the policy-makers.

As in, if the astroturf groups make a huge enough ruckus, some lawmakers may be tempted to adjust their policy proposals in response to `popular opinion’.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Also… Kevin, thanks for your petition signature!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

I’m surprised that they didn’t think to register the website by proxy. I’ve been looking at a site called “The Chilling Effect” that looks to be an astroturfing front for the National Association of Manufacturers and although it seems pretty clear that NAM are the ones running the show, whoever registered the site at least had the smarts not to do it in their own name.

Kevin, your link took me here:
I think you meant this:
Amusing. I wonder what the EFF, et al. think of this.
Copyright war!