Thursday, 5 January 2012

Think Tanks

Recently I've been writing about propaganda and the way vested interests use it to influence the media. Chomsky refers to, Bought Priesthood, the technocrats, columnists, pundits, university professors, intellectuals and business lobbyists  who benefit from the political status quo and use their position to defend and support it.
These, according to the Chomsky propaganda model, provide the media with large amounts of ready-to-print material to support the needs of special interest groups. So who are the people providing this material? 

I've previously mentioned: Global_Climate_Coalition This now defunct lobby group took financial support from BP, Esso, Ford and General Motors. Although this group eventually folded, as the evidence for Global Warming increased, the denier propaganda  that they disseminated in their heyday is still being repeated today. 
One group that is still very much in business is Policy Exchange. This organisation describes itself as an " independent, non-partisan educational charity".  A look at the testimonials dotted around the Policy Exchange website will give you some idea of how non-partisan they are. Even Boris Johnston recognises that they represent the interests of the centre right:

They produce, apparently 'a torrent of ... media scoops', I think Boris probably means press releases than can be reprinted by the media at no cost. The print media, worldwide, are all having huge financial problems. No one has come up with a financial model that allows them to make a profit in the face of so much free, online competition. Therefore, anything that can reduce their costs, by allowing them to fill the pages with zero effort, is hard to refuse.
The kind of article that gets sourced from the material produced by Policy Exchange is thus dailymail/Green-taxes-treble-2020-costing-taxpayers-16bn-year     
This article opens with "Taxes to pay for contentious climate change policies are set to treble over the next decade, soaring to more than £16billion a year." 

Another think tank is the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Today they picked up on the BBC interview with Steven Hawking, where Hawking repeated his warning that climate change, or nuclear war could mean the end of the human race. GWPF came up with an item, Scientist criticise Hawkings doomsday hype, quoting another BBC interview.
So who are these scientists? One was Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, UK, who was, apparently, highly critical of the reported remarks. The second was Sir Arthur C. Clarke!   
Now it turns out that Dr Peiser actually runs the Global Warming Policy Foundation, so no surprises there. More improbable was the snippet from Sir Arthur C Clarke who was quoted as saying,  "I am surprised Professor Hawking didn't mention the danger of an asteroid impact which is inevitable sooner or later. Admittedly, this is most unlikely to wipe out the human race, but it could send us back to the Stone Age."
Well ACC was a great SF writer and asteroid impact on Earth was one of his plot devices. Quoting him on this can hardly be considered criticism of Steven Hawking, but somehow GWPF makes it seem so. BTW, Global Warming Policy Foundation have to go back to a news item from the year 2001 to find the quote from Clarke. (Unsurprisingly, as Sir Arthur died in 2008)

Policy Exchange and the Global Warming Policy Foundation are both registered charities. Last year Policy Exchange turned over £2 million yet it enjoys the tax advantages of a charity. Global Warming Policy Foundation is rather smaller, it has 3 employees and turns over a mere £500,000 a year. 
The thing about charities is, they are supposed to be non-political. UK based organisations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth can not be considered charities in the UK because of their political positions. Given this, it seems nothing short of astonishing that the likes of Policy Exchange and Global Warming Policy Foundation, which are little more than a neocon propaganda units, should have the status as a charity.

"Think Tanks. . . phoney institutes where ideologue-propagandists pose as academics ... into which money gushes like blood from opened arteries to support meaningless advertising's suffocation of genuine debate". (John Chuckman)


  1. I always thought it would fun to be part of a think tank, but I thought that they actually brainstormed solutions and explored options. More and more when I see the words "think tank" they are associated with a political agenda. So sad because this is potentially cutting off solutions by not being open minded and focusing on finding real ways to deal with problems.

  2. I agree, think tanks sounds like a great idea but the ones in Britain seem to be largely conservative propaganda units.

    I'm gathering more on this subject and I'll probably have another blog soon looking at specific think tanks, their status as charities, and who the trustees are.