I don’t know if you notice, but it seems that hardly a day goes by without a newspaper publishing something a political Think Tank has announced. The press extends the reach of the Think Tank PR and makes sure all the money that corporations have donated to those Think Tanks is working hard.
At long last, the war on Think Tanks has begun. George Monbiot savages their secret ways, and highlights how they kill off democracy.
We know that to understand politics and the peddling of influence we must follow the money. So it’s remarkable that the question of who funds the thinktanks has so seldom been asked.
On Twitter, Monbiot encourages us to contact Think Tanks in the UK or elsewhere in order to find out which companies – banks, media conglomerates, food giants – are giving money to them in order to peddle their agenda, saturating the airwaves, and skewing public opinion inline with how they want people to think. For example (an easy target, I know): the Daily Mail gives 5 times more space to a particular, climate denier Think Tank (one famous for peddling lies) than any other source on climate news. You know, like climate scientists, who actually know about climate science. It would be nice to know who funds such lies.
Meanwhile, phenomenal documentary maker Adam Curtis has put together a massive and magnificently tangential essay, featuring archive footage, to show the original motivations behind creating Think Tanks and the reason for their introduction into UK politics:
… in reality they may have nothing to do with genuinely developing new ideas, but have become a branch of the PR industry whose aim is to do the very opposite – to endlessly prop up and reinforce today’s accepted political wisdom.
If you have the time, do check out some of that footage. Next time you read or hear a story centred on the ideas of a Think Tank, remember to ask just whose interests are being served, whether or not some streams of news are more about creating some kind of fictional narrative. Maybe if we all muck in to question the process, journalists will become more aware.