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Scaling Clean

Cross posted from The Great Energy Challenge.

Just as the traditional news media began its current freefall of layoffs, staff cuts, closures, and substitution of ideology for journalism, The New York Times, thank goodness, decided to double down on good (albeit not perfect) journalism.

That's why it’s baffling to see a dirty energy front group operative, Robert Bryce, getting a seat last week next to Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof on the Times’ opinion page, with a piece of pro-dirty energy propaganda, without having to say if he’s paid by dirty energy.

I remember from journalism school that opinion pages are run separately from the news pages. But is it really that hard for someone on the Times’ opinion page staff to ask Bryce where his host organization, the Manhattan Institute, gets its money? Don’t Times readers deserve to know that the Manhattan Institute gets a significant amount of money from dirty energy?

I’m not even expecting that the Times actually demand a factual grounding for the opinion pieces it runs. That seems to have gone out of style a while ago. The Washington Post demonstrated this new normal with its tortured sidestepping of questions about why it let columnist George Will demonstrably lie about the wide and deep scientific consensus around global climate disruption. Basically, it seems that you can lie without consequence on the nation’s most influential opinion pages.

But Bryce got away with something much more preventable: pretending he’s some sort of intellectually honest thinker when his organization has ties to dirty energy money that no one bothered to note.

The ease with which intellectual burglars like Bryce can break into the major media’s house of standards is why dirty energy underwrites dozens of PR firms masquerading as think tanks. And they have done so for decades, going back to the call to start farming these groups in the 1971 Powell Manifesto. The result is what can be described as a Front Group Industrial Complex for polluting industries, a network including the Manhattan InstituteCato InstituteCompetitive Enterprise InstituteCitizens for a Sound Economy, and the Institute for Energy Research.

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