In “Think Tanks for Sale,” Slate’s Timothy Noah exclaims:
Among the many revelations of the scandal surrounding the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is the remarkable degree to which the capital’s think tank “scholars” can be bought.
It’s absolutely true. The sleaze Noah documents so well in this posting is well worth a look (and, I hope, an expression of utter disgust at what you read).
But a revelation? Not to anyone who’s been paying attention.
The practice of getting people to issue position papers, op-ed pieces and other opinion-pushing material is dishonorable when there’s no transparency, but it’s all too common. Astro-turfing — ginning up phony grassroots activity for or against some person or issue — has been going on for years, and the use of supposedly independent think tanks is part of that game.
My name for this slippery stuff is “opinion laundering” — getting others to take your positions while keeping your own fingerprints off the operation, as a money launderer does in turning illicit cash into the kind he can spend or invest openly.
One of my fondest hopes for citizen journalism is that we can, as a community, expose such activities whenever possible. The invaluable SourceWatch is always a good place to start.