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Matt Stoller

Right-wing philanthropy focuses on communication strategies as well as policy development. It's also worth mentioning the philanthropic support of such communications organs as the Washington Times, the New York Post, Townhall.com, etc.

In other words, the idea formation, and policy building of the right is linked to a communication development infrastructure and communications distribution system.

So even if the left had good ideas, we couldn't explain them, and even if we could, we wouldn't have a chance to.


This comment applies more to conservative thinktanks than philanthropic associations, but it seems like effectively changing public policy requires the foundation to help change public opinion and create a demand for their policy prescriptions. It also seems to me that the conservative foundations (like the Heritage Foundations, American Enterprise Instutite, etc), are pretty savvy at promoting and branding themselves as an institution. Specifically, they promote themselves as instituations that you can trust and once they develop that trust with their audience, they can sell them just about anything because most of the policy "studies" they conduct are on topics people normally don't know anything about (and hence, require trust). Everything from the names (like the "Heritage Foundation", that just screams "Wholesome!"), to their constant appearances in a media that rarely points out the degree of their partisanship help create a long-standing image of wisdom and trustworthiness for their "brand" of thought. They're like celebrities endorsing a product where you have no particular reason to assume this celebrity's opinion is particularly valuable in this area, but somehow they make you feel better about whatever they're selling.

People instinctively distrust strangers telling them what to think (politicians being the most prominent example), but they do seem often willing to trust people that come from an organization they know of, even if they only vaguely know of them - corporations are another example of often-untrustworthy organizations that build long-standing trust for their brand - just as they'll distrust people representing organizations they've grown to distrust... like members of the "liberal media".

So maybe it would be useful to explore how the progressive foundations can more effectively build up their own brand-name for the purposes of influencing public opinion.

Since it appears that a lot of the prominant thinktanks have a simple and powerful ideological theme (smaller government interfence in the marketerplace for example) that I'm guessing really helps develop an intant rapport with their audience, I'd like to see a discussion on possible themes for progressive foundations. Here's one example: I wouldn't mind seeing a progressive instituation that is dedicated to honesty in our public debate because it knows how important honesty is to a functional democracy. I want a foundation that will send out representatives that can attend talk shows or interviews and just call a lie a lie no matter who says it. There are lots of other possible themes, and the "honesty in public debate" theme might be too tough a sell, but I'd sure like to see it.

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