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Monday 27 August 2018

IEA - Press Ignorance Worrying

When a Greenpeace sting caused significant embarrassment to the flat earth economics brigade at the Institute of Economic Affairs, which in reality is little more than another in the alphabet soup of right-wing but allegedly “non partisan” Astroturf lobby groups, one potential consequence of the action was that the IEA might see its charitable status threatened, as Zelo Street observed in the wake of the sting.
Yet the IEA enjoys charitable status, or it did first thing this morning: the Greenpeace report is being sent to the Charity Commission. Perhaps the Commission will also consider other politically motivated IEA behaviour, like attacking the HS2 project - IEA transport “expert” Richard Wellings claimed that all the demand for freight capacity could be met by increasing the lorry weight limit and using the existing motorway network” I noted.
That the IEA indulges in what looks very much like political activity, while pretending to be otherwise engaged, is well known. Or that was what many thought, until today, when the group told their followers “PRESS RELEASE: IEA launches a series of ‘no deal’ #Brexit Fear-Checkers to help separate theoretical risks from reality”. Yeah, right. Problem is, they will need fact checking to weed out the falsehood and misinformation.
Peter Geoghegan of Open Democracy was not impressed. “Yep, this is *exactly* what a charity does”. Indeed - propagandising, which the releases are highly likely to be doing, is not the stuff that an educational charity should be indulging in.
But then came an intervention from Marco Giannangeli, who is defence and diplomatic editor for the Sunday Express. “Erm, it’s not s charity. Do some research. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a corporate funded, non-profit, right-wing libertarian and free-market think tank”. Baloney. The whole point of the Greenpeace sting was to highlight how an organisation with charitable status appeared to be indulging in political lobbying.
Geoghegan was surprised. “Wow. Sunday Express’s defence editor doesn’t know IEA is a charity. This is how IEA and similar think tanks get so much media. Journalists not doing basic checks on sources of info (and telling me to ‘do some research’)”. So what did Giannangeli have to say for himself? Well, initially, he stood corrected.
But then he came out fighting. “Well, it’s still a think tank with eminently good economists funded mainly by the corporate world. It may have charitable status but so do a host of organisations. Only reason anyone’s making a fuss, in my view, is because it sees the economic argument for Brexit”. More baloney. What “eminently good economists”? Also, the “fuss” has nothing to do with Brexit, but its political activity.
There have, as Geoghegan pointed out, been questions over the IEA’s charitable status for many years. The worrying aspect of this is that a senior journalist at a national newspaper first doesn’t believe that the IEA is a charity, and then considers it unimportant.

What Greenpeace uncovered shows the IEA’s charitable status is more important than ever - whatever one’s views on its output, and its political orientation.
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