Julian Sanchez header image 2

photos by Lara Shipley

Journamalism!

October 28th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Via some outfit called VoIP News, I’m intrigued to learn that my insidious paymasters at Cato number among the 15 greatest enemies of net neutrality. Scary!  Turns out Cato is a “hired voice of reason” which, along with CEI “seems to draw its funding from a smattering of every major corporation ever to fund lobbyists.” Damning stuff!  And these guys are Totally Serious Journalists, so they did some kind of due diligence and fact checking, rather than just pulling this stuff out of their asses, right?

<crickets>

Well, hey, no, I mean, I’m sure Cato is totally shady about its funding sources—how could they possibly check this stuff?

What’s that? Annual report? Freely available online, you say? Well, and so we get tons of our budget from… Huh? One percent from corporations? None from telecoms in 2008?

Now, obviously serious reporters wouldn’t just utterly fail grade-school level fact checking. Clearly, some devious ISP must have blocked them from reaching this easily accessible information!  Further demonstrating the need for Net Neutrality!

Update: Megan links and several commenters complain that I’m not accounting for individual donors who either work for or hold stock in telecoms. No doubt there are some of those. There are probably also donors who work for or hold stock in large corporations that have lobbied for neutrality. I assume the same is true of any think tank that accepts individual donations, whatever stance they have on net neutrality. I have no idea what the balance is for Cato, but neither do I have any reason to think it’s weighted heavily to one side or the other.  To be sure, if anyone ever told me that I really ought to write about issue X, I’d ask whether some donor interest had anything to do with the request—but since that hasn’t happened as yet, I remain blessedly ignorant. If the VoIP guys have some special knowledge of the proportion of our donors with interests on one side or another, they’re welcome to share it.  But I’m betting they just figured the claim had to be true and didn’t bother with any kind of research.

Update II: Let me be a little blunter here: Though I’ve been occupied with PATRIOT and surveillance stuff—you know, the issue where I opposed retroactive immunity for telecoms?—I’m one of three Cato people who are likely to write on net neutrality. Mostly for the reasons articulated by my colleague Tim Lee, I think it’s probably not a good idea to move on codifying the principle in regulation at this point, though I have no problem smacking down companies that are deceptive about their management practices—selling 8 Mbps access and then quietly degrading certain sites, which is just fraud. Aside from what’s in that annual report, I have no idea who we get money from who has an interest pro or con in this issue. I have never been told what position I ought to take on it, and as I hope will go without saying for regular readers, would refuse if asked. I assume exactly the same is true of the many extremely smart folks on the other side of the issue who work with tanks that get substantial funding from executives or foundations linked to pro-neutrality firms. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised that Google would want to support the work of brilliant supporters of neutrality regulation like Sascha Meinrath or Tim Wu. But if anyone were to imply that this means their views are “for hire,” I’d consider it an outrageous slander. Is it so hard for people to accept that there’s just sincere disagreement here?

Tags: Journalism & the Media · Tech and Tech Policy


       

 

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mike farmer // Oct 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I don’t know if this is silly or scary.

  • 2 Eric // Oct 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Umm, it says:

    “The Cato Institute is a think-tank based in Washington that aligns itself with “pro-libertarian” beliefs and backs a completely free market. The institute serves as a hired voice of reason during political debates, because of its pseudo-academic affiliations. Its involvement in this debate is expected, given present company”

    You’ll have to point out where it mentions Cato’s corporate funding, I can’t see it.

  • 3 anon // Oct 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    @Eric:

    Check the blurb about CEI two entries below Cato’s, which begins, “Like the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is a politically driven, free-market think tank that holds libertarian viewpoints. Also like the Cato Institute, CEI seems to draw its funding from a smattering of every major corporation ever to fund lobbyists.”

  • 4 Eric // Oct 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks anon, I saw that literally ten seconds after I hit submit.

    All comment sections need an edit function!

  • 5 Henry // Oct 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Julian Sanchez really disappointed me. He really protests too much. That not of the corporate sponsors are telecomms does not mean that telecomm money does not flow into Cato. The Foundations? What do they have their fund invested on? The Individuals? Where do they work? What are they business interests?

    It may be the case that no money at all comes from that industry. But really, this argument is ridiculous.

    What’s that? Annual report? Freely available online, you say? Well, and so we get tons of our budget from… Huh? One percent from corporations? None from telecoms in 2008?

    We weren’t born yesterday you know?

  • 6 Shelby // Oct 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Henry, isn’t it up to those lobbing accusations to show some shred of support for them? You’re reduced to hypothesizing that there might potentially be some facts somewhere out there that could conceivable provide support. Doesn’t that suggest to you that the accusers should, I don’t know, do their damn job?

  • 7 mike farmer // Oct 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Insinuation, association and accusation are all that’s needed today.

    I live in the south. I have blue eyes and blond hair. I am a male — therefore, I’m a racist and a right-wing fundamentalist.

  • 8 RickRussellTX // Oct 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    “That not of the corporate sponsors are telecomms does not mean that telecomm money does not flow into Cato.”

    Maybe I’m getting too old to understand the language of the kids today, but this triple-negative sentence makes no sense to me.

  • 9 andrew h // Oct 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Plenty of people who support Cato work for The Man himself–are we still guilty by association? :-)

Leave a Comment