Fake Think Tanks Fuel Fake News-And the President's Tweets - 2017-01-24
Fake news isn't just Macedonian teenagers or internet trolls. A longstanding network of bogus "think tanks" raise disinformation to a pseudoscience, and their studies' pull quotes and flashy stats become the "evidence" driving viral, fact-free stories. Not to mention President Trump's tweets.
These organizations have always existed: They're old-school propagandists with new-school, tech-savvy reach. They've been ginning up so-called research for everyone from shady corporations to anti-LGBTQ groups to white supremacists for decades—they're practiced, and their faux-academic veneer is thick and glossy. Which makes them harder to brush off than your garden-variety liar. "Fake think tanks use a mix of selected truths, half-truths, and downright fabricated stuff in order to manipulate people," says Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City College of New York and author of Nonsense on Stilts: How To Tell Science from Bunk. "We don't live in the age of post-truth. We live in the age of internet-enabled bullshit."
So phony think tanks are hard to spot, let alone discredit and combat. Their mix of pseudoscientific camouflage, long-held political connections, and social media gets them influence—and a whole lot of clicks.