"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." --Bishop Desmond Tutu

Sunday, April 05, 2009

When a think tank lacks any actual thought...

One of the primary supports of the right wing echo chamber is the so-called "think tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute. Founded in 1943, it is often seen as a conservative counterpoint to the Brookings Institution. But in recent years, it has become a hotbed of neoconservative "thought." In a lengthy posting over at Daily Kos, Devilstower does an excellent job exposing the apparent lack of thought happening over at AEI. He concludes

The truth is, the American Enterprise Institute isn't a think tank, not in any conventional sense. The thoughts of its members were frozen a decade ago, and no amount of evidence will cause them to change one jot or tittle of their rigid ideology. AEI is a booking agency. A PR firm tasked with providing Republican "names" to fit any gap in your programming schedule.

For a media producer, AEI means you don't have to find someone who really knows a subject, or someone who has something new to say, or someone who might provide an unconventional angle. Why bother? One press of the speed dial, and AEI will deliver faster than Tony's Pizza. They'll give you someone who you already know is an experienced talking head, so you don't have to worry that a knowledgeable economist or teacher or scientist might turn out not to be a sparkling "on air personality." They'll deliver familiar talking points, so you know your host and other guests won't be challenged. They'll deliver reliably pro-corporate hard-right content which will serve to "balance" any program where the facts start to have that devious liberal slant.

In simple terms, AEI is an excuse for producers to be lazy. Calling them means that you place a higher value on filling time than providing information. It means ignoring the many connections that the unscholarly "scholars" have to other organizations and corporations. It means not minding that you're balancing progressive views with views that are simply and demonstrably wrong.

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