I was going to add this as an update to the previous post about my appearance on the John Carlson Show opposite the Discovery Institute’s Bruce Chapman, but I think it raises an entirely different subject, so it deserves a thread of its own.
Last week I wrote a short post (“Thinking about ‘think tanks’“) in which I called on WA progressives to create the kind of think tank that can rival those on the right:
No, I don’t mean some lofty institute where pointy-headed intellectuals earnestly work to develop effective public policy…. What we need are some of those fake think tanks… you know, like the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, or the Washington Policy Center, or the driving force behind “intelligent design”, Seattle’s very own Discovery Institute, which apparently takes the name “Discovery” from its concerted efforts to squash it.
The other side has these shamelessly partisan propaganda mills, and so should we. They’re very effective.
Well, my appearance today on John’s show — regardless of how well you think I held up my end of the debate — is just another example of why we need this weapon in our arsenal. I mean, really… what the fuck was I doing debating Bruce Chapman? What we should have had was some impressively credentialed fellow from some fake progressive think tank whose full-time job it is to track the Discovery Institute and refute their faith-based-media-campaign-masquerading-as-science bullshit. Instead, we had what…? The “horse’s ass” guy! Sheesh!
Now I don’t mean to be too self-deprecating; I think I did a fine job considering the circumstances. (And on other issues on which I have more expertise, I think I usually kick ass.) But I ask all of you out there in the local progressive blogosphere… all you liberal activists and media junkies… and especially you civic leaders, labor officials, party regulars and elected representatives and staffers for whom HA has become a secret, dirty pleasure… are you really comfortable with leaving it to me to be the liberal voice representing you on any issue John or Kirby or some other talk-jock throws my way? I sure as hell hope not.
And when it’s not me, the alternative is often worse. How many times have we tuned in to some serious discussion on KUOW about some serious issue, only to hear some fake-think-tank talking head like Paul Guppy taking on a respectable journalist like George Howland Jr.? Paul trots out his fake-nonpartisan, fake-academic credentials, and then proceeds to spread the propaganda as thick as shit in feeding lot. Meanwhile, George, whatever his political leanings, attempts to behave like the responsible, objective journalist he is. The result is what might sound like a reasonable discussion, but really is little more than a right-wing media op.
It just isn’t a fair fight, because George and Paul have entirely different objectives. George is trying to be truthful and informative, whereas Paul is simply trying to win.
We need to try to win too, and the only way to do this is to fight fake-think-tank with fake-think-tank. We need our own fake-fellows producing gobs of fake-research on our own syllabus of fake-issues, as well that of our fake-opponents. And we need to train these fake-experts in the ways of the media, so that the next time Bruce Chapman whips out his pseudo-science-based bullshit, we have a partisan pseudo-academic adequately prepared to publicly undress him, fake-talking-point by fake-talking-point.
Oh of course, we’ll never refer to our institute as “fake.” No… we’ll use the other guys’ euphemism: “nonpartisan.” But honestly, when like Discovery, you start with an agenda and then produce the “scholarship” to support it, instead of the other way around, it isn’t much of a real think tank, now is it?
No, but that’s what it takes for progressives to win in the real world, where we can no longer rely on the Democratic Party or organized labor to do our dirty work for us. We need to create and fund new institutions that are just as partisan, just as relentless, and just as calculating and manipulative as those on right, not because we want the rest of the nation to think exactly like us — God no… that would be boring — but because that is the only way we have a snowball’s chance in hell of fighting on an equal footing!
What will it take? Well, I’ll throw out a number… how about $750,000 over the first two years to fund start-up costs, initiate fundraising, and make a couple quick strikes to prove that we can be just as smart, just as manipulative, and just as fake as the other guys? It’s time for a few visionary progressive institutions, businesses and individuals with money to make this culture war a fair fight.