Thursday, January 07, 2010

Grown in Pods

Rabble excerpts Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy by Donald Gutstein. He explores how the Fraser Institute squats out far right ideologues like a factory farming operation.

The Fraser Institute launched a program in 1988 that would have far-reaching impact on advancing the corporate agenda. This program, aimed at students, is actually a half-dozen initiatives through which the institute "is cultivating a network of thousands of young people who are informed and passionate about free-market ideas and who are actively engaging in the country's policy debate," as the organization's publication Frontline puts it. The initiatives are separately funded but work together as a comprehensive package of recruitment and intellectual grooming. These programs outgun in magnitude, scope and longevity anything that the progressive left has mounted through unions and social justice organizations.

Over 17,000 students have come in contact with at least one of the student programs, the institute claims. "Developing talented students sympathetic to competitive markets and limited government" through these programs "is one important way that the Fraser Institute is working towards changing the climate of opinion in Canada." Graduates have spread into politics, academia, other think-tanks and the media.

They're especially proud of Ezra Levant, who was a student of the Calgary School's Tom Flanagan and attended his first student seminar in 1992. He was asked to join the student leaders' colloquium in Vancouver and became an intern, where he wrote the book Youthquake, which was distributed and publicized by the institute. Levant tapped into the American conservative movement as a Koch Foundation Summer Fellow in Washington, D.C., and attended various Institute for Humane Studies and Liberty Fund events. After graduating from law school and articling, he worked for several years as a parliamentary assistant to Preston Manning and Stockwell Day. From there he did a two-year stint on the editorial board of Conrad Black's National Post, which was dominated by conservative ideologues. Next, he entered electoral politics and was nominated for the Canadian Alliance in the riding of Calgary Southwest. He attracted national attention when he initially refused to resign his nomination so that party leader Stephen Harper could run. After some high-profile deliberation, Levant resigned. He practiced law briefly at a libertarian law firm in Calgary and wrote a weekly column for the Calgary Sun and Winnipeg Sun. In January 2004, along with other Fraser Institute alumni, he started the socially and economically conservative magazine Western Standard, which took over the mantle from the defunct Alberta Report.

Another star graduate of the Fraser's student program is Danielle Smith, who started her career at a Calgary student seminar. She went on to a year-long internship at the institute, publishing some of her attacks on environmentalism in the institute's Canadian Student Review. She then worked for the short-lived Canadian Property Rights Research Institute and was hired as an editorial writer for Conrad Black's Calgary Herald, arriving in the editorial office just as the workers went on strike for a collective agreement. She later became host of CanWest Global's Sunday talk show for several years. Smith was subsequently appointed the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (The Fraser Institute's former environmental director is the B.C. director.)


Mark Francis said...

I'm 3/4 the way through this book. It's a good read. Well referenced, but needs an index.

Cliff said...

I'm looking forward to reading it. Gutstein wrote one of the best -and shockingly few - 'follow the money' pieces out there about Der Institute. The kind of basic sourcing that should be happening any time the media quotes the Fraser Institute - but of course isn't.

JAMES said...

The Fraser institute is totally against any public money benefiting the non-wealthy. Just read the so-called studies they publish. There should be no minimum wage, no public transit, no publicly run post office, no health care shall I go on.

Cliff said...

Hit the 'Fraser institute' Label and you'll find a couple years worth of pieces on them here.

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