MSNBC and Heartland Institute: two great tastes that go great together?

If you’re MSNBC, who do you get to provide the anti-FCC net neutrality position for fairness and balance?

As usual, while there’s a kerfuffle over major issues I’m down here in the weeds wondering at peculiarities. For instance, with net neutrality being a significant chunk of the current 24/7 news cycle fodder thanks to the FCC’s recent decision, I could focus on the pros and cons of net neutrality, so-called or otherwise, but I’m honestly a bit torn. For the moment, I’m content to wait and see what the wonks have to say about the full 300+ pages of the FCC measure when it’s eventually released. There’s cause for caution when advocates for net neutrality are holding their noses over this latest development.

What I’m struck by at the moment is a piece over at MSNBC by one Ryan Radia. As opposition pieces go, it makes as reasonable a case as I’ve seen against a regulatory solution to the hazards posed by fast lanes and paid prioritization. Unsurprisingly, the opposition piece has a strikingly libertarian tone. Now, where do I know Ryan Radia from? MSNBC’s stable of libertarian talking heads? No. Regular contributor to MSNBC? No. This article appears to be his only piece there. For that matter, apart from dragging in the occasional GOP wonk to beat up on (fairly or otherwise), when do we generally see MSNBC offer a platform to the opposition? I guess when its parent, Comcast, needs one. Comcast has declared war, after all.

Okay, so I get it. Comcast owns MSBNC like a cat owns a litterbox, and it will shit in it when it damned well pleases. Stop looking! So they need a mouthpiece. Naturally, Ryan Radia comes to mind! No. Again, Ryan who? Oh, it must be this Ryan Radia, Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That explains the libertarian edge. But isn’t this also the same Ryan Radia, “policy advisor for telecom and technology” at the Heartland Institute. Heartland Institute? Yup. That one.

Granted, net neutrality opposition isn’t industrial climate disruption denial. I’m trying really hard here to not simply leap to ad hominem, but I confess it’s terribly difficult at the moment. Maybe Ryan Radia is one of the prettier offerings from CEI’s Chicken Ranch-style of politics. Or maybe he just brings in the hot towels and leaves the happy endings at Heartland to the climate change denialists, ever content to massage science and wallets alike. In either case, Radia still serves the dubious interests of Heartland’s and CEI’s most notorious johns, the Koch Brothers. That doesn’t necessarily make him wrong.

But doesn’t that make him absolutely the wrong choice for Comcast/MSNBC when it comes to presenting the opposition to their audience? Did MSNBC really need to grant even this thin a veneer of credibility to Heartland?

3 replies »

  1. i find it absolutely delightful that someone has industrialized “shilling.” for many years, this has been a cottage industry (and a much bigger one than we think,) dominated by academics who got gratuities (in the form of grants) for doing a soft shoe shuffle on command. now the pro’s are taking over. just like every other industry, the pro model pushes out amateurism.

    frank, you really spot some interesting stuff, brother.

  2. Strange things catch my eye. This time the mismatch of MSNBC + generic anti-Obama position gave me an itch that needed scratching. Weird what comes up when one peeks. One thing that’s refreshing is the number of commenters on the MSNBC piece that caught the connection between Radia and Heartland.

    Instances like this really make me wonder what MSNBC’s decision makers think when they consider their brand. Selling “neoliberalism for the oligarchs” with a thin left wing candy crunch is one thing. This kind of stunt, however minor, just points at brand that no longer means anything at all. Where’s their audience if they strip off the candy coating?