November 19, 2003

Paid Lobbyist Advertisement

Nick Confessore writes that every Tech Central Station article should carry a little note at the bottom saying, "paid lobbyist advertisement."

"Meet the Press" by Nicholas Confessore: ...Nowhere is this more apparent than on TCS, where Glassman and his colleagues have weighed in on everything from which telecommunications technologies should be the most heavily regulated to whether Microsoft is a threat to other software companies.

But TCS doesn't just act like a lobbying shop. It's actually published by one--the DCI Group, a prominent Washington "public affairs" firm specializing in P.R., lobbying, and so-called "Astroturf" organizing, generally on behalf of corporations, GOP politicians, and the occasional third-world despot. The two organizations share most of the same owners, some staff, and even the same suite of offices in downtown Washington, a block off K Street. As it happens, many of DCI's clients are also "sponsors" of the site it houses. TCS not only runs the sponsors' banner ads; its contributors aggressively defend those firms' policy positions, on TCS and elsewhere...


UPDATE: Joshua Micah Marshall writes:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: November 16, 2003 - November 22, 2003 Archives: For years, the trendsetter in Astroturf has been DCI. And a couple days ago, if you were watching really closely, a tiny sentence changed on an out-of-the-way page on the TechCentralStation website. The sentence that read ... "Tech Central Station is published by Tech Central Station, L.L.C." now reads ... "Tech Central Station is published by DCI Group, L.L.C."

I think that this is a significant problem for TCS.

First, of all, when the organization one is writing for is a lobbying organization like DCI Group, it is nice to be told this in advance. You can ask for semi-serious $$$$$ if your view on an issue happens to be in accord with the view that the lobbying organization wants to advance. For something with the resources and payscale of a lobbyist to be holding itself out as something different is very bad manners.

Second, working for something that is essentially a lobbying organization is something that requires extra careful thought: you need tothink hard about whether this is in fact an organization you want to mix your reputation with. For it to hold itself out as something different from what it is is, once again, very bad manners.

Posted by DeLong at November 19, 2003 07:50 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Who would have thought anything could be more damaging to one's credibility than Dow 36,000!, or the linked 2001 column denouncing the dangers of budget surpluses?
http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/glassman032201.asp Please click the link!

Now he has ruined the credibility of anyone who has written for TCS as well. If I were Arnold Kling, I would be furious with Glassman ( not to pick on you Arnold, but you are someone I associate with TCS).

Posted by: theCoach on November 19, 2003 08:52 AM

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Who would have thought anything could be more damaging to one's credibility than Dow 36,000!, or the linked 2001 column denouncing the dangers of budget surpluses?
http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/glassman032201.asp Please click the link!

Now he has ruined the credibility of anyone who has written for TCS as well. If I were Arnold Kling, I would be furious with Glassman ( not to pick on you Arnold, but you are someone I associate with TCS).

Posted by: theCoach on November 19, 2003 08:58 AM

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...and speaking of credibility being shot, De Long has forfeited his ability to write credibly about software technology with the comment system that this site is running. (My guess is that a preview before posting double posts, but who knows?)

Posted by: theCoach on November 19, 2003 09:03 AM

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This is sort of like giant capitalist conglomerate General Electric owning NBC -TV, isn't it? GE owns it, AND they buy advertising for themselves on it.

So, it's all part of the vast right wing conspiracy. The facts that GE also buys advertising elsewhere, and NBC also sells advertising to GE's competitors, can't occlude the simple fact that "must see TV" is in the pocket of Jeff Immelt. You can't believe any of it.


Posted by: Pouncer on November 19, 2003 10:17 AM

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Pouncer: Right, and of course we all remember the scandal that erupted when "NBC, L.L.C." was exposed as a shell company controlled by GE.

If you're going to set up straw-man analogies, use a better grade of straw.

Posted by: Dave L on November 19, 2003 10:50 AM

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So there we have it: TCS has sponsors and it sometimes defends the position of there sponsors. So they are unthrustworthy. A class M-argument, as Arnold Kling would say. Speaking of Arnold Kling, applies this class M-argument also to him? Or for other contributors as Michael Totten? Or the "highly intelligent and usually very thoughtfull" Daniel Drezner?

Posted by: ivan janssens on November 19, 2003 11:51 AM

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Thanks Coach!

Posted by: jd on November 19, 2003 12:39 PM

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Here's my "inside" perspective.

If you want to write for TCS, I suggest writing like a philosopher. I think that Nick, the editor, has a soft spot for writers with a philosophical bent. Where else could I publish an essay entitled "The Sect of Austrian economics" starting out with a quote from Ernst Troelsch on the nature of sects and cults?

James Glassman is more the fundraiser/face of TCS. I don't think he has any hands-on role. I wasn't sure he knew who I was until I went to an event a couple of months ago where I saw him. I introduced myself, and he said, "Oh, yeah...I've seen your picture on some articles on TechCentralStation." That's all the interaction we've had.

I'm glad that TCS gives me a platform. See if you can guess which sponsors prompted me to write my last three essays:

on the sect-like behavior of Austrian economists;

on the issue of government funding for research, including criticism of the Bush hydrogen funding idea;

and on the issue of the trade deficit, where I argued that policies should not focus on trade barriers but instead on national saving, including reducing the Budget deficit.

When you've got it sorted out, tell me. And let me know which sponsor cares about my next essay, on the Kasparov vs. machine chess match.

Posted by: Arnold Kling on November 19, 2003 01:51 PM

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What this all proves, of course, is not that TCS articles are automatically worthless, but that we had better read them with somewhat more salt -- and more cross-checking -- than we've been doing up to now.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on November 19, 2003 03:01 PM

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"...but that we had better read them with somewhat more salt..."

As opposed to blindly swallowing what you get from sources you're ideologically aligned with? I'm hoping this is not the case, for your sake.

I question everything. And it's not as if it's a total mystery what Glenn's political proclivities are. Likely you could say the same for Glassman and Kling. If you're unsure, just ask them.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on November 19, 2003 03:09 PM

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The article implies that Glassman's viewpoint, at least, is for hire (telecom, MS).

Posted by: Barry on November 19, 2003 04:11 PM

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How convenient. That way he nicely avoids having to address anything that Glassman actually says. I think that's known as "Poisoning the well".

Posted by: Slartibartfast on November 19, 2003 04:36 PM

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wouldn't you want to poison the well that contributed to the market bubble at great personal profit by very loudly making an arithmetic error?

Posted by: wcw on November 19, 2003 05:18 PM

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"wouldn't you want to poison the well that contributed to the market bubble at great personal profit by very loudly making an arithmetic error?"

No. Not that I have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on November 19, 2003 05:51 PM

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What I meant is precisely what I said -- that the fact that TCS is not what it has claimed to be is reason to add an additional degree of skepticism about the views expressed in its columns, at least until such time as one can find other ways to check the accuracy of every statement they make (which is frequently impossible in any practical terms). We all use exactly this reasoning routinely in everyday life.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on November 19, 2003 06:03 PM

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working for something that is essentially a lobbying organization is something that requires extra careful thought: you need tothink hard about whether this is in fact an organization you want to mix your reputation with. For it to hold itself out as something different from what it is is, once again, very bad manners.

I think it's very generous for you to suggest that sophisticated political pundits like those Tech Central Station has hired from the blogosphere - hey, at least one of them is a lawyer, and they're pretty much always right, so they say - didn't know who they were mixing their reputation with.

Myself, I'd say it's more likely they didn't think anyone else was going to know.

Posted by: julia on November 19, 2003 07:31 PM

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"What I meant is precisely what I said -- that the fact that TCS is not what it has claimed to be is reason to add an additional degree of skepticism about the views expressed in its columns, at least until such time as one can find other ways to check the accuracy of every statement they make (which is frequently impossible in any practical terms). We all use exactly this reasoning routinely in everyday life."

Makes one wonder why you bothered to comment on it, then. Given that it's so routine, and all.

I think we've been here before, but you should always check facts. The flipside of that is, the fact that they're funded by DCI doesn't invalidate one syllable written by the various authors. Next bit of pointlessness, please.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on November 19, 2003 11:10 PM

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As a frequent commenter on TCS, I can say that having fact-checked many, many, many TCS environment columns I find that they are invariably full of sh*t.

I have full access to all e-journals. My general rule is if I fact-check an environment article on TCS I can expect it to have cherry-picked a source.

Oh, and yes - this comment system needs to be fact-checked too.

D

Posted by: Dano on November 19, 2003 11:11 PM

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" police (who are controlled directly by the Home Secretary) were forced to allow today's large protest demonstration to go past Parliament,"

I confess some interest in the quantification of the term "large" in the above report. A million man march? 100,000? 10,000? As many as protest the abolution of fox-hunting? As many as have died of Mad Cow Disease? (uh, as many "people" as have died of MCD -- if the number of protestors equals the headcount of the livestock slaughtered in UK epidemic-controll measures, the crowds were "large" indeed ... )

I thought the bit in Bush's speech about the U.N. -- "the UN has no stronger supporter than your prime minister " OWTTE, -- strongly suggested that Bush was (much?) less strong a UN supporter. Which isn't exactly news, mind you.

As a citizen of "the most dangerous nation on Earth", I find my own attitude toward the UN to has lately become extremely Marxist. As Groucho said, "I can't see myself joining a club that would have ME as a member."

Posted by: Pouncer on November 20, 2003 07:46 AM

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Dano,
I agree, the quality of many TCS articles is junk.
I find it rarely worth visiting.

On the general topic, it is a site that is occasionally mentioned by print publications, usually pointing to a piece of junk slanted their way and mentioning that something is being discussed or heated, etc. as to imply that TCS is the place to go for information.

I've wonder how often a litte salaried birdie put that idea of checking on TCS into the head of someone in the newspaper world. Maybe never, but wny would anyone flog the junk that shows up there?

Posted by: J Edgar on November 20, 2003 09:19 AM

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BTW, Arnold Kling has claimed over on Crooked Timber that many MIT alumni find Krugman's articles daft (http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000858.html).

I've asked for names.

Posted by: Barry on November 20, 2003 10:09 AM

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BTW, there's a controversy raging over at Crooked Timber (crookedtimber.org) about this.

Posted by: Barry on November 20, 2003 12:03 PM

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"BTW, Arnold Kling has claimed over on Crooked Timber that many MIT alumni find Krugman's articles daft (http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000858.html).

I've asked for names. "

And I supplied some. I only wish I'd saved more of the emails that I received.

Posted by: Arnold Kling on November 20, 2003 04:36 PM

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