The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. --Joseph Schumpeter
Modern liberals and progressives have never been able to come to terms with the fact that some people just don't embrace their worldview--that is, that the state should be the primary instrument of social change. Advocates of limited government see centralized power as dangerous--not only in terms of threats to human liberty, but in terms of economic decline. Like Madison, we know that men are no angels. Progressives, on the other hand, cannot imagine a world without elites running things. Higher education - a cloister for "progressive" thinking - has always been the place where Utopian plans are conceived before being passed to the pamphleteers--and then tossed into the sausage grinder of government. But their methods are changing. There's a new twist on an old m.o. Call it "manufactured consensus."
In that same vein comes the newly discovered "Cry Wolf" project, a merry band of progressive academics who have decided it's more effective to "construct a counternarrative" (read: make up a story) than to look for anything resembling truth. BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com have broken stories about them here, here and here. But here's the gist from Patrick Courrielche:
It is no secret that progressives have created a self-cloning machine by hijacking our educational system. Their indoctrination efforts are well documented. But we rarely think of research institutions as propaganda factories. A Request for Proposal (RFP) — see document [below] — recently obtained by Big Journalism gives us a rare look at how progressives and labor unions attempt to manipulate the national media narrative.
And their process? you may ask. Use the credibility and resources of the American higher education system to create researchprop – biased collegial research papers that serve as propaganda to support political policies.
Entitled Cry Wolf, the RFP proclaims a desire to look “for faculty and graduate students… interested in writing short (2,000 word) policy briefs” that “construct a counter narrative that demonstrates the falsity or exaggeration” of conservative claims. Writers of briefs selected by the project coordinators will receive 100,000 pennies for their thoughts.
Their hopes with this researchprop is for these papers to “become the basis for opinion pieces designed to run in the mainstream media, on line, on the air, or in the press,” with the end outcome of building the following narrative in the public consciousness: that conservative objections to their policies are just the old dirty tricks of the right-wing.
In this you'll find calls for conscious confirmation bias and selection bias among others. But more importantly it's a bald admission that their ends justify their means. They want to spin a tale around an ideology, but currently they have no evidence to support their claims (so vague as to be untestable, anyway).
Universities should be angry. Why? This is not merely academic malfeasance, but a call by credentialed scholars for budding academics also to abandon standards of research and reasoned discourse. That such abandonment is at the foundation of this scheme, though not surprising, is certainly disturbing. Are groups like this going to undermine academia as a source for credible research by letting the ends justify the means? I don't want to be accused of 'crying wolf,' but couldn't this weaken our trust in academics as subject-matter authorities if this sort of thing continues? We know who controls academia right now. And leftish academics are using their authority to its fullest advantage. No conspiracy theory necessary: The "Cry Wolf" RFP you see here is proof--and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the things you'll find in classrooms that you pay for with your tax dollars.
So what's this "counter narrative" they want to make up?
It is composed of parts, such as: a) how wonderful the progressive agenda is, b) how said agenda doesn't and hasn't historically create serious unintended consequences for the economy, and c) how historical events 'prove' that progressivism didn't utterly destroy the economy as conservatives predicted (a straw man).
Conservatives and libertarians have always argued that a permanent progressive agenda would slowly cripple the economy and lead the U.S. to decline. The progressive economics of the New Deal did tremendous harm, for example, (real evidence of which we can cite of course). But it didn't bring about Armageddon. They'll claim that the fact the Republic didn't fall with the New Deal or Great Society is evidence that conservatives have "cried wolf." Never mind that left-wing policies have created a class of dependent supplicants and special interests that have caused economic sclerosis. And now it's leaving this generation and next with both the bill and the burning credit card. None of this, of course, is a great legacy or a good thing. But no, the process of progressive decline is not sudden or catastrophic. It's slow and grinding. Luckily entrepreneurs and markets create mitigating factors that counter the ill-effects of interventionism. Luckily there have been periodic market reforms from both parties -- including tax cuts under Kennedy, balanced budgets and welfare reform under Clinton/Republican Congress, and supply-side policies under Reagan.
Here's my cry: it will take something serious in the way of reform to tame the coming fiscal tsunami created by the federal government's promised entitlements.
The academia-gate progressives concede that conservatives are "winning the economic debate." But this is framed as if the torpid post-stimulus economy - with its attendant debt - is something we are simply making up. Limited government types need not pull a page from their play book. Indeed, we aren't so much winning the argument as people have common sense and eyes in their heads -- "counternarratives" notwithstanding.
This is Part One in a Two-Part Series. Stay tuned for Part Two.