The Billionaires’ Tea Party

The Billionaires’ Tea Party

In Summer 2009, something stirred in America. After Barack Obama and a Democratic congress swept to power promising a new era of hope and change, out of nowhere the emergence of a citizens protest movement called the Tea Party threatened to derail their agenda. Was this uprising the epitome of grassroots democracy? Or was it, as some said, an example of “astroturfing” - the creation of fake grassroots groups, designed to put corporate messages in the mouths of seemingly independent citizens?

Fascinated by this concept of astroturfing, and curious to find out if these accusations were true, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham hopped on a plane to investigate. Going undercover as a curious onlooker, his month-long journey took him over 5000 miles, six states and right to the heart of the “American Dream”. As the investigation turns to whether it is mere ideology or corporate investment driving these groups, Taki uncovers startling and unnerving evidence that the Tea Party movement’s formation had been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big businesses - in particular the secretive oil barons Charles and David Koch.

The Billionaires’ Tea Party is both a journey through a unique moment in American history and a thoroughly researched piece of investigative journalism. Through an examination of astroturfing and disinformation, we see how citizen democracy has been captured by powerful corporate interests that threatens not only the heath of American democracy, but that of its citizens and the planet as a whole.

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The Billionaires’ Tea Party (AKA Astro Turf Wars) in Mainstream Media

During the US mid-term elections in November 2010, the film gained increased exposure and was the subject of a George Monbiot article in The Guardian (‘The Tea Party Movement: Deluded and Inspired by Billionaires’), in which Monbiot claimed that the movement was “one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history.” The piece written on 26th October became the most read article on the Guardian website and was shared by over 3000 users on Facebook.

The film has also received media coverage on MSNBC, Australian ABC radio, and in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.