Meme Watch: “Stink Tanks”

I like this new phrase, “stink tanks” — organizations masquerading as think tanks but which don't pass the smell test.

Bruce Kushnick, Nieman Watchdog, Corporate-funded research designed to influence public policy, It is clear that we are in the age of “stink tanks,” in which corporate-funded think tanks and well-paid, credentialed academics are hired to make corporate arguments and give the appearance of being independent experts.

The think tanks often describe themselves as non-partisan, independent, free-market, free-enterprise, limited-government, or market-oriented. Their expert witnesses often bear credentials such as “professor of” or “former” FCC, FTC, state commissioner, Congressman, staffer.

Some have good reputations for serious studies on economic, political and foreign policy issues, albeit perhaps with an ideological slant. But good reputation or no reputation, when it comes to the telecoms and such issues as broadband, often these groups are nothing more than consulting firms that pursue the goals of the large corporations that are their clients and financial supporters.

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2 Responses to Meme Watch: “Stink Tanks”

  1. noblinders says:

    “free-market, free-enterprise, limited-government, or market-oriented”

    These are all code words for “conservative”. However, the “tank” moniker has been exploited by both conservatives and liberals. It is no different from others such as “policy institute”, “research institute”, or “consultant”. No offense, but I include “professor” in that list, as there are quite a few out there who are happy to give interviews on subjects far afield from their academic “expertise”. John Kerry was one of the worst exploiters of these groups, and Al Gore has made a mint doing it. But Bush jumps on when necessary, most often when fighting his own party elements that disagree with him.

    Frankly, this ploy is nothing new to your readership, which is (if nothing else) generally skeptical.

  2. Michael says:

    As I understand it, the “stink tanks” moniker applies to paid experts and especially institutions who are keeping the identity of their paymaster secret, not to the broader set of people talking nonsense.

    As for the liberal/conservative divide, if there’s a distinction to be made, perhaps it’s that the opportunities to sell out for money are so much more limited and generally less remunerative when arguing for liberal causes.

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