Opinion

Author responds to Media Matters’ attack

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Ryan Young
Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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      Ryan Young

      Ryan Young is the 2009-2010 Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His writings communicate ideas from economics and classical liberal political theory in layman’s terms. His articles apply the economic way of thinking to issues from airplane baggage restrictions to fiscal stimulus to salary caps in baseball. He has been published in Politico, Investor’s Business Daily, Real Clear Markets, and other outlets. He also writes the popular “Regulation of the Day” feature for Open Market, CEI’s staff blog.

      Ryan holds an M.A. in economics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a B.A. in history from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was previously Fellow in Regulatory Studies at CEI, and worked in the Cato Institute’s government affairs department.

One of the best parts of getting published is getting feedback from readers. Some point out supporting arguments I may have missed. Others make opposing arguments challenging my position. This kind of engagement has led me to facts, data, and sources that made my subsequent articles better. Knowing that readers will pick even the smallest nits keeps me on my toes.

That’s why I was glad to see that Jamison Foser from Media Matters blogged about my July 12 Daily Caller piece about the cell phone cancer scare—until I read the post. Foser didn’t address a single argument I made in the piece. I have no idea if he agrees or disagrees with my stance that cell phones don’t cause cancer. His post was nothing more than a personal attack on me personally, as well as CEI.

That was quite a letdown. Media Matters is one of the top progressive groups in the country. And they were going to critique one of my articles! What would they agree with? What would they think that I got wrong?

Who knows? I sure don’t. I don’t even mind so much when people call me names. But I was hoping the ad hominems would be paired with some substance.

The only point I could glean from Foser’s piece is his suggestion that CEI’s acceptance of corporate donations makes all of our work suspect. That is a cop-out from having to address my arguments. The presence or absence of corporate funding has nothing to do with whether those arguments are right or wrong.

It is also hypocritical. Media Matters itself takes a great deal of corporate money. Executives from the Progressive Corporation, Real Networks, Esprit clothing, and other corporations have all made substantial gifts to Media Matters.

By Foser’s own logic, he should attack his own employer as a corporate shill. Fortunately for him, Media Matters’ donors don’t determine the organization’s positions.

If anything, Foser gets the direction of causality wrong. Donors give to groups they agree with, not to groups they disagree with in hopes of making them see the light. For example, I personally favor legalizing gay marriage (CEI takes no stance on the issue). No sane person would expect me to donate to Focus on the Family in hopes of changing its position.

Like Media Matters, CEI gladly accepts funding from anyone who will respect our independence. And if a donor doesn’t, CEI tells them, “no thanks.” One assumes the same of Media Matters.

For example, our work on climate policy changed not one bit after ExxonMobil stopped funding us a few years ago. And corporate donors aren’t even our main source of funding. We are fortunate to be supported by over 3,000 willing, private, donors worldwide. The median gift to CEI is $100.

CEI is often accused of being pro-business. We’re actually pro-market. That’s an important difference. We oppose oil subsidies, despite receiving some energy industry support. That’s because subsidies are corporate welfare. They are not capitalism. They are crony capitalism. They are a way in which government picks winners and losers. That’s a job for consumers, not government.

Media Matters’ fixation on corporate funding avoids genuine intellectual exchange. Still, I wish to thank Jamison Foser for writing about my article, and for linking to another Daily Caller piece of mine, “Regulations, regulations, everywhere.” If nothing else, hopefully he got more people to read them, weigh the arguments, and maybe even provide me some substantive feedback.

Ryan Young is the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.