Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fake think tanks: A growing problem

This post is not about drone attacks. But we'll begin there.

Corrente directs our attention to this excellent article on sudden-death-from-above drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obama has radically stepped up these attacks, even though the corpses often turn out to be civilian.

Various groups have sprung up to convince the public and policy makers that the victims are, in fact, legitimate military targets. One such group is, or was, something called the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy.

The purpose of this group was to promote a study "proving" that the drone attacks did not increase anti-Americanism in the region. In fact, we were told that the locals liked drone attacks and wanted to see more of them.

The Aryana Institute receives prominent mention in this New York Times report, which gives the impression that a highly-respected team of international scholars conducted this research. The group's Wikipedia page (obviously written by Aryana itself) says that Aryana's findings have been "widely quoted by national and International news media" because "Its researchers go deep into FATA into areas not accessible to other journalists." (FATA refers to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, site of many drone attacks.)

But if you click on the link for Aryana's website right now, you'll see that they are gone, baby, gone.

As Al Jazeera noted:
Its conclusions were found particularly agreeable by proponents of drone escalation and the label of an "institute" gave them an ostensibly academic pedigree. Few wondered why the survey's claims were so at odds with known public opinion in the wider region where, according to a Gallup/Al Jazeera poll conducted around the same period, only nine per cent of people showed support for the drone attacks. Those who did wonder, such as the journalists I spoke to in Peshawar, were universally dismissive. But the Institute had served its purpose and, typical of many LHOs, it vanished after a year (Web Archive shows that its website only existed between 2008-2009).
Despite a rather grand mission statement, the only known member of the organization is a woman named Farhat Taj, who operates out of Oslo, Norway. One cannot help but wonder how much time this woman spent hiking around the tribal areas to conduct her poll. Of course, I would never suggest that she simply pulled numbers out of her ass, even though other researchers have reached sharply different conclusions.

(By coincidence, Olso is also the home of the mighty Seixon, subject of previous posts. He's the "Democratic" researcher who published studies proving that Saddam really did have WMDs.)

In short and in sum: The Aryana Institute seems to be yet another fake organization pushing fake research for political purposes.

We have been seeing a lot of this crap lately. Not long ago, we exposed the National Inflation Association, an out-of-nowhere group which quickly became a Fox News favorite -- even though the NIA is really just a front for penny stock con artist Jonathan Lebed. Before that, we looked at the Heartland Institute, which has greatly impacted the debate on global warming -- even though the Institute does no science, and even though its "science director" is a disgraced jailbird without credentials.

It doesn't take much money to create a slick-looking website which gives a bogus group a veneer of prestige. These groups exist to publish fake data which gets fed into the mainstream media.

These fraudulent organizations are a serious and growing problem.
Fake think tanks? Take a look at the American Clean Skies Foundation

which sponsors the 'educational' film

In other words, clean skies = fracking.
You should fix your site so that when a link gets posted to Facebook it actually shows a piece of the article. thanks.
They've been used for years...trying to remember the name of the one guy who fronted the "fuel efficiency causes death" meme. He wrote letters to all the newspapers on that one topic and was the Grand Poobah of some stink tank...
They only get away with this because the print and broadcast media allows it. When was the last time you watched a news report or read an article in the paper about government contract cost overruns?

If you are a large corporation that relies on government contracts buy a media outlet or the "journalists" that work there and your troubles are gone.
Mr. Mike,

You are nailed on right, and this is why Taibbi and Ames back from Russia are starting to make a name for themselves. They tell you the stuff staring you in the face, that you wouldnt talk about cos the sponsors wouldnt like it. I think they used to call it "journalism". I dont even think those guys are so good. Much better when their beat was Moscow hookers and the stuff you could buy legally in aptekas (pharmacies). But they are the only people out there calling "bullshit" today.

Shame on the people, and on this institutions. Dont ever look down on the Russians again! I laughed at them when I lived there and called them sheep. But they have more fight in them than the America I am living in now.

one that drives me crazy is the "60 plus association", whose president in her early 30s.
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