Anyone out there happen to know the etymology of the expression “to be in the tank for”? As in “Fox is totally in the tank for Bush,” or “the friendly coverage suggests a lot of reporters are in the tank for Obama”? It’s apparently a sufficiently wonky (or recently minted?) expression that the usual online sources don’t give any explanation.
I’m especially curious because it seems like there are a huge number of possibilities, though of varying plausibility. “In the [fish] tank” as in “like a domesticated pet”? “In the [Abrams] tank” as in “going to battle for”? “In the [gas] tank” as in “acting as fuel for”? “In the [drunk] tank” as in “besotted with”? “In the [septic] tank” as in “prepared to get dirty on behalf of”? Or something else I haven’t thought of? Presumably I could just ping some veteran journo acquaintance and get a definitive answer, but in a way I’m as curious about how people have been interpreting it—or whether it’s a dead metaphor with no concrete image associated—as I am in what the right answer is.
Addendum: Commenter Lex suggests another possibility: “tank” as in “to tank a fight.” I see from includes the locution “in the Tank” for boxers who would deliberately “tank” or throw a match. Dictionary.com gives us:
go in the tank, Boxing Slang. to go through the motions of a match but deliberately lose because of an illicit prearrangement or fix; throw a fight.
So the derivation here—and this makes a whole lot of sense—is from the idea of being complicit in a rigged contest, of covertly helping your supposed opponent (or, in the journalist’s case, subject). Of course, that leaves the further question of where that expression came from, but my time is more bounded than my curiosity.
Belated Update: See this new post.