Who is David Atkins?

I know what you’re thinking – who cares? But the answer is a little more important than you might think.


The Powerless President
by David Atkins (“thereisnospoon”)

Since I started writing here, I have been subject to numerous complaints from various Obama Administration defenders that I have been too harsh on the President. That the President is doing absolutely everything possible for progressive causes, and that bloggers like me should be more supportive.

Too harsh?

That’s a pretty astounding statement considering that the appearance of David Atkins at Hullabaloo coincides with the purging of anti-Obama voices from the comment threads.

The other day Mr. Atkins made this statement:

I was walking from my parents’ home to the office of the family business three city blocks away in a 10-story Los Angeles highrise.

An alert reader who is familiar with the area said:

My guess would be home in Beverly Hills, office in Century City

It took me about thirty seconds with Teh Google to confirm the name and location of Mr. Atkins’ family business. It’s not quite 90210 but you can see it from there.

(click to enlarge)

But the location isn’t nearly as interesting as what kind of business we’re talking about – a marketing research firm. More specifically – they do focus group testing.

But wait, there’s more!

I go over to Cheetoville and check out some of his posts there. This is what I find:

The problem is people like me, and the people I work for.  I’m what they call a Qualitative Research Consultant, or QRC for short.  Here’s my website.  There’s even a whole association of us who meet regularly to discuss ideas and tactics.  Together with the AAPC, the MRA, the AMA, ESOMAR, and a whole host of other organizations you’ve never heard of, we have more power and control than you know.  We’re extremely good at what we do, and we do it all behind the scenes, appealing to and manipulating your subconscious brain in ways that your conscious brain has little to no control over.

Give us a little money to test some things out, and we can work magic.  Our business is persuasion, and we’re very good at it.  Just watch PBS Frontline’s series, The Persuaders to get just a small inkling of what you’re up against.  We can make a company that earns a 38% gross profit margin manufacturing purely propriety products seem hip, cool and progressive.  We can take sugar water and sell it back to you as a health drink, and even Whole Foods shoppers will believe it.  We can take 30 different brands of vodka with almost exactly the same ingredients, and make you understand instantly just what kind of person drinks which brand, and how much you should expect to pay for each, without a moment’s thought.  For any given category of products, I can show you a bunch of different brands, and you’ll be able to tell me a wealth of information about each one, despite the near absolute similarity of their actual products to one another.  One exercise we QRC’s like to conduct involves actually turning a brand into a person in a group discussion; it’s called personification.  And you wouldn’t believe how effectively and universally we can tailor a brand’s image, right down to what kind of car that “person” would drive, and what music he/she would listen to.  So much attention has been paid to Naomi Klein’s outstanding Shock Doctrine, that few pay much attention anymore to her far more provocative and important work No Logo.  If all Americans truly internalized the message of No Logo, people like me would be out of work, and we could really reform this country.

When I clicked on the link to his website, this is what I found:

The Pollux Group fields a team of outstanding researchers and writers from a wide variety of fields including marketing, communications, the social sciences, politics, language and economics with over 50 years’ combined experience in qualitative market research and business development.

Truly engaging today’s dynamic market landscape requires more than outside observation–it requires special inside knowledge. Our researchers are also deeply involved in the cultures of Generations X and Y, with interests in politics, music, blogging, videogames and film that make us uniquely suited to understand the complex and ever-changing trends underlying the youth and young adult market segments.

But wait, there’s more:

I just can’t help but wonder – is there a connection between Mr. Atkins’ business and his blogging?

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55 Responses to Who is David Atkins?

  1. ooooh, you got me! I conduct focus groups for a living. And I blog about politics.

    Dark forces at work, indeed.

    And no, I have no control over or knowledge of comment moderation at hullabaloo. i’m unable to delete comments or ban users.

    • myiq2xu says:

      It must be the internet gremlins.

    • David makes sitting behind a one way window in a dark room sound so fun. Takes talent. 🙂

    • crawdad says:

      I notice you didn’t answer the question:

      is there a connection between Mr. Atkins’ business and his blogging?

    • Eigenstate says:

      Since you steadfastly refuse to address the issue at Hullabaloo, I ask you here:

      If you are not banning commenters or deleting posts, are we to infer the the “someone higher on the chain” doing this is Digby herself?

      Isn’t using Echo’s “phantom zone” blocker (which is presumably meant for foiling spambots) on unsuspecting posters exceedingly unseemly? It seems quite a dirty trick indeed to lead Obama critics to waste time and effort writing posts that, unbeknown to them, are never seen by anyone else.

  2. Mimi says:

    Spoonie is a marketing/ad guy. Is is not appropriate that a professional shill would be the ultimate supporter/acolyte/enforcer for the ultimate candidate/president made up by marketing hacks? Obama is a product. Spoonie is a salesman. If the last week in which a president demands passage of a product (Stimuli II) that does not exist (no one in the WH could be bothered to sit down and write it, score it, critique it, proofread it, get it typeset, and stupid shit like that) does not show just how self deluded this bunch of political marketers who have nothing to sell is then the whole country is crazy. The president sounded like the Sham Wow guy but he doesn’t even have rags to sell. Spoonie signed on to sell hot air and it is increasingly difficult to find buyers since his plan was to run half of them off. Genius Spoonie is not.

  3. votermom says:

    In general I am uncomfortable with exposing or bringing to attention the real names & addresses (business one in this case) of bloggers.

    However, I can see how it would be more upfront of Thereisnospoon to have on his info page to disclose if there is in fact a connection between his business and his blogging. The way, for example, financial bloggers/pundits are supposed to disclose connections to any industries or stocks they might be talking about. We kind of expect that sort of transparency from people who are trying to shape our opinions – the knowledge of where they are coming from. I wonder how many bloggers are like that.

    (So can we call Atkins an astroblogger?)

    • Mimi says:

      While I would agree with you if this was a very private person who was a school teacher, farmer, or anything that was far away from the business of politics, Spoonie has left tracks everywhere with his, for want of a better phrase, tooting of his own horn. If I saw one iota of personal conviction, or empathy, or depth of understanding of anything, I would not be so critical. All I see is an opportunist shill who does not give a rat’s ass who he hurts or what the consequences in the long run may be. This behavior used to be anathema to the Democratic party and is proving to be ruinous.

    • Jeffhas says:

      I too am very uncomfortable with digging around bloggers backgrounds, etc… I’m a big boy, and can read for myself and decide what I support and do not based on my own set of personal guidelines – whether I’m being marketed to by a Vodka Salesperson or not… and let’s face it, as influential as he thinks all his ‘persuading’ is, he doesn’t seem to be very good at it – sure, they might’ve been able to get Brand Obama in the White House, but can they make it lead? Have good policy? get Re-Elected? – yeah, that doesn’t look so hot these days.

      I worry that the justification for tracking down who Spoon is, could be used on anyone else… and to some degree how do we know any of the bloggers we read doesn’t have the same background/agenda of Spoon? – I mean, MYIQ wears a Klown costume for God’s sake!

      I think Spoon did leave enough crumbs in his own writing to piece together who and what he is – and the conflict of those connections, but I’m still not quite sure I’m good with this direction…

      Of course, I did click on this post to find out more about Spoon and his background… so maybe I’m just a big, fat Hypocrite…. but I think there is another worthy discussion of conscience here.

      • myiq2xu says:

        There is a difference between someone who is blogging anonymously and someone who not only uses their real name but posts links to their business website.

        Also, in this case there is a legitimate question as to whether there is a connection between his professional work and his blogging.

        • jjmtacoma says:

          Yes, I wondered about that in a different thread a couple days ago. It is almost as if somebody is paying Digby to have him frontpage.

          She is taking chickenshit to a whole new level.

  4. Valhalla says:

    Yeah, if he and his company are so magical, then how come he’s such an unpersuasive writer? Maybe they get their “qualitative” results by throwing out the answers they don’t like — that’s probably where he learned to “shape” public opinion by ignoring it.

  5. gxm17 says:

    Great post, myiq! I’m glad to see this dirty little secret is finally getting some coverage. Back in 2008 I noticed that a great many obots were linking to Obamaganda “news” stories at a site called “Buzzflash.” I started digging and discovered that Mark Karlin, the editor and publisher, also runs a marketing and advertising firm. Further, at some point, he had even received funding for anti-gun activism from, IIRC, the Joyce Foundation. And guess who served on that foundation’s board? Yep. The Big Zero.

    When I mentioned this back in 2008, folks blew me off with a shrug insisting “everybody does that, what else is new.” Well, for someone who actually studied journalism, I know that early on they teach you the difference between propaganda and news. Oh, and this crazy little thing called ethics.

    Has anyone noticed that the Obama web advertising has completely blown up? Everywhere I turn there’s another damn Obama ad cluttering up the netscape. I dunno. I get the feeling the media saturation ain’t gonna work this time around. But as the saying goes: There’s a sucker born every minute.

  6. honora says:

    I may be showing my age or tech ‘unsavyness’, but what does his moniker mean?? “Thereisnospoon”??? I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be an anti-born with a silver spoon thing?

  7. On the implications of the NY-9th.

    But then there’s that killer detail in polling done over the weekend by the Democratic firm PPP. It found Obama with an approval rating of 31 percent — in a district he carried with 55 percent in 2008.

  8. WMCB says:

    I believe I said before that the trick to selling Obama was not merely selling him. It was selling what kind of person you were if you supported him. And selling how awful and uncool you were if you didn’t.

    The propagandists didn’t sell the Obots the candidate – they might have picked up on that. They sold them themselves.

    Also, this may be one big reason why a lot of blue collar folks didn’t fall for it. In my experience, working class blue collar folks are much less worried about brands and status than the urban/suburban hipsters are.

    • Honk.

      Except that the bluecollar people may have been invested in a different image of themselves.

      The ones who were really immune, were bitter knitters like us. We remember who did what in the 90s, and how it worked. Before I knew enough about Obama to dislike him, I did know he was young and inexperienced and had never done anything, and the Billary Twofer would do a better job.

      • Monster from the Id says:

        Yes. Certain of us working stiffs went for that “True Amurrkan” image, which is how the “Reagan Democrats” were created, some of whom became outright Republicans.

  9. ralphb says:

    Maybe Mr Adkins could share why 10% of people seem immune to these strategies? I’d still love to know why we didn’t fall for the Obama hype while people were falling to it all around us.

  10. no, there’s zero connection between my blogging and my paid work. I do get paid to run field operations and campaign management for candidates and issues from time to time when the work is in season–but in respect, my blogging is a hindrance rather than an asset. As any blogger knows, once you take on political clients, they usually ask that you refrain from blogging.

    And the idea that I’m a paid Obama shill is just hilarious. You do know that I spend most of my time arguing with Obama defenders that the president isn’t progressive enough? People like you folks who think I’m an Obama enforcer are just hilarious. I’m considered an “emoprog” in most circles. Just freaking hilarious.

  11. I remember Atkins’ Kos article when it first came out at

    My takeaway was that Dem politicians are not just controlled by the carrot (donations) but also by the stick (fear of personal destruction). Atkins didn’t focus on this, but I see personal destruction of any successful pol who can’t be bought by the carrot: eg Goldwater, Clintons, Gore, Palin, Trump, Paul.

    To me this explains a lot. There are alternative sources of money and publicity; Palin and Gore have found them. But there doesn’t seem to be a good defense against the sort of emotional image destruction that Atkins describes (if it were applied to an individual).

    • votermom says:

      That’s the first time I’ve read that. Wow. He sees all that and his answer is to still support the guy who is part of that?

      Run, Sarah, run.

      • I’m the one who sees that fear tactic applied to individuals. Atkins’ piece talks about corporations using it against the whole Dem party if necessary. And even in 2009 he’s pretty strong against Obama selling out progressives “because he doesn’t fear you.” He wants us to make Obama fear.

        Just read the whole piece.

  12. Monster from the Id says:

    Echo malfunctions often at the Hullabazoo. I doubt either Digby or Spoony caused those comments to disappear.

    I know I was not expelled from the Hullabazoo. I fled it because some of the denizens were beginning to talk about violent rebellion as an acceptable option, and I did not want to be mistaken for one of them, lest I end up on some Double Secret Probation List in some government agency. 😉

    • Monster from the Id says:

      Echo malfunctions SO often I composed the Echo Cheer:

      Echo sucks $#!+ every day!
      Echo! Echo! Echo!
      BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!1! :mrgreen:

    • Eigenstate says:

      Echo malfunctions often at the Hullabazoo.

      Most Echo malfunctions result in an error message when trying to post. Those that do not are obvious on refreshing the comment window. The “phantom zone” is not a bug, though it is often mistaken for one. It is not a load-balancer glitch. It is a feature of the Echo software.

      I doubt either Digby or Spoony caused those comments to disappear.

      Yes, “malfunctions” “accidentally” blocked the Echo accounts of Sarah B., Che Pasa, bayville, Vast Left, R U Ready, pws, travy, and heaven knows how many others, and blocked four different IP addresses of mine.

      And every post for weeks that asked about the “disappearances”.

      And Digby surely wanted to respond to the emails Sarah B. and Che Pasa sent her asking if this is Echo acting up or if they have been banned from posting, it just kept slipping her mind. Over and over again.

      And surely Spoon has a good reason for never actually denying that commenters have been banned, only specifically disavowing having done the deed himself.

      It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

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