Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Are Senior Citizens Really Quitting AARP And Rushing To The Conservative American Seniors Association?

What CBS didn’t report is that ASA is currently offering a promotion to get AARP members to switch their allegiance. As Dissenting Justice reports, if seniors send in their torn AARP membership cards, they receive a two-year ASA membership for the price of one year.
ThinkProgress contacted an AARP spokesperson who said that while the organization is 'concerned' about the 60,000 members who have left the organization, the number needs to be put into perspective. The organization generally loses 300,000 members a month just due to membership lapses and death. But since July 1, AARP has had 1.5 million people renew their memberships and 400,000 new members sign up.

Past campaigns like the ASA one have been largely unsuccessful. Earlier this month, the American Family Association (AFA) urged its supporters to call and cancel their AARP memberships. According to an AARP spokesperson, just 15 percent of the people who called were actually even members in the first place.

Read it all at Think Progress.

More on the subject from Media Matters:
CBS News "has learned" that "up to" 60,000 people have cancelled AARP memberships? Well, that sounds awfully fishy, doesn't it?

"Up to 60,000 people" could accurately describe 60,000 people, 50,000 people, 30,000 people, or two dozen people. Generally, people use the phrase "up to ____ people" when they want to focus your attention on a large number they don't know is actually true. If CBS actually knew there were 60,000 cancellations, they'd just say "60,000 people," without the "up to" wiggle words.

So, since CBS apparently has no idea how many people have cancelled memberships, how have they "learned" about this? It seems rather obvious that CBS "learned" this not by gaining access to AARP's records, or from an AARP official, but from the American Seniors Association, a right-wing fundraising organization featured in the CBS report. ASA is urging seniors to mail them torn-up AARP membership cards, which ASA will reward with half-off membership.

There's no reason to take ASA's claims about AARP's membership seriously -- they are not in any position to know, and have a clear interest in inflating the number of cancellations. That's almost certainly how CBS News "has learned" about the AARP membership cancellations -- ASA told them. And, since ASA has no idea how many people have actually cancelled AARP memberships, and ASA has a clear motivation for inflating those numbers, CBS had to include the "up to" wiggle words.

So, who is American Seniors Association? According to Attkisson's report, ASA is a plucky underdog conservative alternative to AARP, benefiting from spontaneous mass disgust with AARP and fighting valiantly for seniors.

But if you do a Nexis search for "American Seniors Association" -- or their previous name, "National Association of Senior Concerns," it seems they appeared virtually out of nowhere, just in time to get a profile on CBS News. Prior to the last week or so, they had sent out a press release about immigration, and announced plans to hold a Republican presidential primary debate (a debate that never happened.)
Go to ASA's "History" page, and you'll find nothing more than a few paragraphs ostensibly written by former Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall -- paragraphs that don't say much of anything beyond "We want to represent your values to government. We don't want to represent government's values to you."

Which values are those? What does this mean? Who knows! But send your check today!

What kind of organization is ASA -- a charity? A foundation? Is it a nonprofit, or a for-profit business? Who knows! ASA's web page doesn't say, and Attkisson doesn't tell us. But send your check today!

This story has also been well covered by Darren Hutchinson: CBS News Continues Misleading Reporting of a Backlash Against AARP

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