By Arthur Alpert
Albert Camus once pondered the idea, which I paraphrase, that in the last analysis, there are no villains, only victims. But only, he stressed, in that last analysis.
I use the Camus insight for self- restraint. Instead of condemning a villain or cabal for outrageous behavior I try – not always successfully – to credit them with humanity and a rationale.
Which came in handy when I happened upon an Op Ed the editors chose to publish in the Saturday, April 19 Albuquerque Journal.
Here’s the headline: “State-level think tanks are taking on unions effectively”.
Terrence Scanlon wrote it and under his byline the editors wrote “McClatchy Tribune News Service”. It’s a small point, probably a careless error, but it suggests Scanlon works for McClatchy. He doesn’t. McClatchy, via MCT, distributes material from many sources.
At the end of the essay, editors added, “Terrance Scanlon is president of the Capital Research Center in Washington and publisher of its monthly Labor Watch. Distributed by MCT Information Services.”
That is accurate and a big deal, once you identify Capital Research Center’s mission and backers. Of course, the Journal did no such thing for its readers. I doubt it was careless this time.
Scanlon, who came to CRS from the Heritage Foundation, heads an organization funded by far-right family foundations, including:
• Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
• Sarah Scaife Foundation
• Carthage Foundation
• Earhart Foundation
• Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
• John M. Olin Foundation
• Philip M. McKenna Foundation
What, no Koch brothers?
Fear not; the Koch family operates the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.
In addition to foundation support, CRS has garnered grants from corporations including (but not limited to) Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Exxon Mobil, McDonalds, Chevron, Eastman Kodak, 3M and DuPont.
The CRC was created in 1984 to combat “progressive philanthropy,” as a founder put it; foundations, that is, which backed public interest outfits working on environment, health, consumerism and other “liberal” causes.
CRC’s worldview comes clear in how it characterizes other organizations, according to SourceWatch.org.
In CRC’s assessment, the RAND Corporation was “center left.” (Naturally, given the presence of “leftists” Condi Rice, Henry Kissinger, Scooter Libby and Donald Rumsfeld.)
CRC pronounced the American Enterprise Institute “centrist.” (AEI fellows include “centrists” John Bolton, Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.)
CRC awarded itself a “conservative” badge of honor and also the (now, Weidenbaum) Center for Study of American Business, Chamber Foundation, Heritage, Hudson and Hoover.
CRC came under fire in the 1990s for studies highly critical of charities engaged in anti-tobacco lobbying, including the American Heart Association, American Lung and American Cancer Society.
Turned out that tobacco giant Philip Morris (AltriaGroup) provided CRC $50,000 in funding.
As for “Labor Watch”, the CRC publication appreciates unorganized labor.
While CRS mostly advocates for its corporate funders, it has dabbled in identity politics, boycotting the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference because CPAC allowed GOProud, a gay group, to attend.
Enough? Good. I don’t want to write a book on the CRC, just make certain you know what Journal editors hide.
But back to the column, to mull the headline, “State-level think tanks are taking on unions effectively”.
Accurate? I don’t know or – for purposes of this post – care. Will “taking on unions” help or hurt our fellow Americans? Excellent question for another day.
No, let’s confine ourselves to journalism, specifically language.
“Think tanks” taking on unions? But surely think tanks exist to study, research and, er, think. This column contends they’re doing politics. In that case, says the journalist in me, they’re not “think tanks,” they are closer to Abrams tanks manned by political cadres whose task, arguably, is overrunning democracy.
Ergo, journalists should call them something else, not think tanks.
Speaking of their donors, though, please note Mr. Scanlon’s penultimate paragraph:
“A national organization, the State Policy Network, strategically fosters the creation and growth of state think tanks by assembling customizable plans that can be adapted to a state’s political culture and issue environment.”
That’s one way to put it.
But there is evidence the State Policy Network franchises, finances and fosters “mini Heritage Foundations” at the state level, and ties them – via Koch brothers’ funding – into the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Progress and other right-wing fronts nationally.
And there’s evidence the mission is strengthening the oligarchy’s grip on the nation.
None of this evidence has appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, of course; as if to remind us it’s not a newspaper as commonly defined, the Journal doesn’t find oligarchic politics newsworthy. Management prefers to promote them on the editorial and Op Ed pages.
But please, don’t believe me.
Check out stories on the Koch political donor network in major and minor news outlets over the past several years, including Matea Gold’s exposé of the Koch political donor network in the Washington Post January 6, 2014.
Which exposé the Journal could have picked up from the Post and didn’t.
Then browse the Web to look up the Kochs, ALEC, Heritage and CATO, the Rio Grande Foundation (locally), AFP and oh, yes, today’s poster boy, Capital Research Center, the latest oligarchic front to enjoy a Journal Op Ed platform anonymously, sans info on its goals and source of cash.
Examine the Journal’s own web site, too, to see the paucity of reporting on rightwing activists nationally, in the Duke City and Land of Enchantment. While there, note the Journal’s near-total blackout of the (admittedly small) American Left.
Now factor in the preponderance of conservative and far right opinion on the daily’s editorial and Op Ed pages.
And do note the almost perfect absence of mainstream economics!
If, at this point, realizing the dimensions of the Journal’s malfeasance, you feel your rage rising to engulf your whole being, stop and recall Camus’ wisdom:
There are no oppressors, just victims. In the final analysis, that is.
Hope it helps you.