DIY Think Tanks?

Continuing the discussion from Revealed: the hidden web of big-business money backing Europe's pro-TTIP "think tanks":

There has been a strong synergy lately between things on my mind, and topics on BB as of late. Hence, another bifurcation in the garden of forking paths:

What is the deal with “think tanks”, policy institutes, etc. ? By which I mean, the ones I usually hear about are the usual square, corporatist, bourgeois, etc lamestream politics. I rarely hear about socialist or progressive ones. Are there some which exist, but are just underground? Are they difficult for people to DIY? Or are there reasons why most activists don’t bother trying this sort of thing?

I really know very little about this sort of thing, and would be interested to read of others opinions and experiences.


This is an exciting thread idea though I should make sure I understand. What do we mean by think tank? Can we talk about stripping the idea to the metal if the traditional version isn’t suited to our purpose? Whatever that turns out to be.


They seem to be non-profit organizations which are privately funded, and ostensibly get experts, intellectuals, and others to strategize domestic and foreign policy ideas for government. Maybe kind of like old-style lobbying, but done by intelligentsia rather than corporate interests. Put a bunch of smart people together on a campus, get them to solve problems, and get politicians to act upon them.

In the US, the ones I have tended to hear about range from centrist to the fringes of the paranoid far right. Some focus upon areas such as specific kinds of social issues, economics, defense, trade, technology, etc.


That sounds good, and I wonder if boingboing threads could count as a think tank? Until there’s more funding for the more traditional version, communicating in a thread reminds me of a cross between a think tank, a salon and tapping on the radiator pipe in a prison cell.

How should the question be chosen?


In its plain understanding “think tank” generally implies a capitalist leaning, at least in the US. The understanding is smart people are paid by someone to be smart and publish position papers. There is an implication that these smart folk will be paid well for their smarts as well.

Contrast this with France where famous leftist intellectuals can get paid for books, talk shows, etc. in the US all I can think of is miserable old lonely men like Chomsky.

OTOH in the US the implication is also that a think tank can be a dirty word when used by Doctorowites and fellow travelers. Or maybe it’s like some crazy future think tank like Kurzweil style?


Non-productive, unhelpful, deleted.

Like one of these?


So, I’m not the brightest of the bunch. So take everything I say with a boulder of salt.

If you want to start a think tank, you need two things. The ability to Argue from Authority, and obfuscate your sources. Yes, that is a cynical attitude, but even if you are correct with your position you need those two attributes.

How else does Frum stay employed.


That’s what I was thinking. Whenever I hear what a thinktank has to say on NPR, I always notice that they never cite their sources or explain their reasoning. It usually is just an executive summary of proposed policy and that’s-that.


The whole “citation needed” this nag is an artifact of Internet arguments and frankly often does more damage to a conversation than good.

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I agree that it certainly can detract from conversations out in the real world. But it still would make sense (for example) for “Americans for a Freer America” to explain why they think a national flat tax would benefit the poor in their policy recommendation announcement. Rather than just asserting it.

It’s important to back up claims with evidence, otherwise you’re asking for trust. And I don’t see why I should trust some group of policy wonks just because they ask me to.


Emphasis on the crazy


Considering you heard the tax advocate, I’d figure if you wanted to know how they came to their conclusion you might check their website or write to em. It’s not the sort of material suited to a radio show.


Fair enough.

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Patrick Farley explaining what is the deal with think tanks:

What is new and unique about these past 8 years was the rise of the Conservative Think Tanks. To explain who they are, how they operate, and what kind of mischief they’ve caused, is to try and throw up the mother of all cannonballs.

Think of the Conservative Think Tank system as a parody of the university system; a network of “institutes” all founded to support an ideology, whose “scholars” write “reports” and conduct “studies” which surprise! – all re-affirm the correctness of their institute’s ideological premise.

If you’re thinking of “Creation Scientists” whose papers are “peer-reviewed” by other Creationists, you already understand how Think Tanks operate. It also helps to picture a crowd of lunatics clustered together, peeing down each others’ legs.


Perfect example of how the term gets treated as a dirty word. That description is basically a smear, an example of polarization and disrespect for those with different ideas.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if radio shows cited sources though? I wonder how they might do that in this day and age. www…


How about applying some context?

The author says right there in your quote, ‘conservative’ think tank system - in an era when ‘conservative’ stands for batshit crazy insane (granted, that may be a little hard to spot from a country steeped in essence of batshit crazy insane for decades).

Trying to explain what was wrong with the Bush Era feels like trying to vomit up a cannonball. I don’t think my jaw can stretch that wide.

Seriously, where does one even begin? Abu Ghraib? Ahmed Chalabi? Mission Accomplished? The “Battle of Iraq?” Valerie Plame? No-bid contracts? The billions of dollars the Pentagon can’t account for, and apparently never will? The Department of Justice firings? The blue Iraqi flag? The staged press conference? The fake Thanksgiving turkey? Terry Schiavo? Freedom Fries?

I can at least say this for Bush: he didn’t plant any WMDs in Iraq.

But really, Bush himself wasn’t the problem. Bush was a cipher, the perfect vacuum at the center of a perfect storm – an ideological superstorm which rotated, like some slow, sick, wobbling hurricane of raw sewage over America for 8 years, like some brown, shitty version of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. This Neo-Conservative Superstorm, as I’ll call it, had three major sources of energy feeding it:

a) a panicked population in need of a Protective Patriarch,

b) a Republican party crowded with brazen and reckless ideologues,

and most significantly:

c) A network of Conservative Think Tanks with deep pockets and a fearsomely coordinated army of media pundits.


Back in the day we had these things called “transcripts”

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Obviously you and I don’t agree on politics of much of anything else as I recall but this right here is my concern. Why does an ideological opposition need invectives?

This thread started out wondering about socialist or other left type think tanks, by now you know that’s not how I swing but does it forward the discussion if I’m insulting of the idea or the thought systems?