In Praise of Capitalism: How the 'Social Justice' Left Uses Economic Incentives to Create Academic Propaganda

Many conservatives and libertarians think of labor unions as merely the grassroots muscle behind the progressive movement. Showing up as a swarm of purple shirts, with the forearms of a lumberjack and a penchant for terrorizing teenagers, labor unions have always been considered the rough and rugged group that intimidate their opponents through the “persuasion of power.”


But if you haven’t thought of the labor movement as a cerebral bunch, think again. Meet Peter Dreier, Donald Cohen, Nelson Lichtenstein, and their syndicate of progressive university professors – the “intellectual infrastructure” of the progressive labor movement.

It is no secret that progressives have created a self-cloning machine by hijacking our educational system. Their indoctrination efforts are well documented. But we rarely think of research institutions as propaganda factories. A Request for Proposal (RFP) — see document above — recently obtained by Big Journalism gives us a rare look at how progressives and labor unions attempt to manipulate the national media narrative.

And their process? you may ask. Use the credibility and resources of the American higher education system to create researchprop – biased collegial research papers that serve as propaganda to support political policies.

Entitled Cry Wolf, the RFP proclaims a desire to look “for faculty and graduate students… interested in writing short (2,000 word) policy briefs” that “construct a counter narrative that demonstrates the falsity or exaggeration” of conservative claims. Writers of briefs selected by the project coordinators will receive 100,000 pennies for their thoughts.

Their hopes with this researchprop is for these papers to “become the basis for opinion pieces designed to run in the mainstream media, on line, on the air, or in the press,” with the end outcome of building the following narrative in the public consciousness: that conservative objections to their policies are just the old dirty tricks of the right-wing.

If executed successfully, the “first reaction of millions of people, as well as opinion leaders, will be, ‘there they go again’,” reads the RFP – a clear attempt to label any right-leaning objection to progressive policy as another case of crying wolf.


This is what our higher education system has become – a publicly funded amplifier of progressive ideology.

If this Cry Wolf program were just limited to a few faculty members at a limited number of universities, it would be of little concern. But the project reaches into some of the most prestigious public and private schools of higher learning in the U.S., including MIT, Yale, Harvard, USC, Columbia, Rutgers, UC Santa Barbara, University of Pennsylvania, and President Obama’s alma mater – Occidental College.


Distributed by Peter Dreier, Professor of Politics and Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program at Occidental College, the request for proposal asks for help “in an important project in the battle with conservative ideas.” Drier is a frequent collaborator with the California AFL-CIO and the infamous ACORN.

The project’s union and progressive ties are seen throughout the bios of its coordinators and advisory board. It is sponsored by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego based non-profit headed by co-founder and Cry Wolf project coordinator Donald Cohen – a 25-year community organizing veteran and former Political Director for a division of San Diego’s AFL-CIO.

In fact, every person associated with this project has either spent a lifetime glorifying the work of labor unions through their writings, or has published work that supports the policies that further Big Labor’s agenda.

Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein, Professor of History at UC Santa Barbara and Director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy — and “America’s foremost Wal-Mart expert” — is also a Cry Wolf project coordinator. He is the author of numerous books designed to raise the awareness of the labor cause. While at the University of Virginia, Lichtenstein was involved in an organization known as Labor Action Group. “Our task was to insert and raise the labor question into the consciousness and politics of the university,” wrote Lichtenstein in the preface of his book State of the Union: A Century of American Labor.



Gerald Markowitz, Professor of History at CUNY’s John Jay College, and David Rosner, Professor of History and Public Health at Columbia University, are both on the advisory board of Cry Wolf. They have co-authored various books on occupational health and in their book, Dying for Work: Workers’ Safety and Health in Twentieth-Century America, they wrote:

We begin with the premise that the exploitation of labor is measured not only in long hours of work and lost dollars but also in shortened lives, high disease rates, and painful injuries.

Project advisor Janice Fine, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers, has worked as a community, labor and electoral organizer for more than twenty-five years prior to teaching at Rutgers, and has even contributed to AFL-CIO’s website.

Then there is Jennifer Klein of Yale who has written extensively on labor unions and the struggle for employer-based health care. And William Forbath of the University of Texas, who’s written about the legal struggles of the labor movement. And Tom Sugrue, Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, who won the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award. Sugrue isn’t the only recipient of this labor history award. Lizabeth Cohen, a Cry Wolf advisory board member and chair of the History Department at Harvard, also received the award for her 1990 book Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago.


These professors’ ties to the labor movement and the glorification of its struggles are indisputable – which is fine, being that their interests reside in that area. But it does lead to the question: Should these professors be allowed to use our higher education system to push their progressive political ideologies in the guise of disinterested academics?

I think most would answer simply: no. Our publicly funded schools should be institutions of unbiased research, not propaganda vehicles for a particular ideology — especially one with longstanding and well-documented ties to the Communist movement.


James P. Cannon (center) and friends

Indeed, all colleges and universities are funded by tax dollars, whether public or private institutions. Public institutions receive 80% to 90% of their funding from public sources, according to Inside Higher Education. However, private institutions are not private in the same sense as private industry – they also receive substantial public funding, especially in research areas.

In addition to the federal gift that non-profit status brings in the form of no real estate taxes and no taxes on gains (including the billions in earnings on endowments), students who attend private institutions receive federally subsidized loans for college tuition, set at an arbitrarily high price. Additionally, private institutions receive billions (upon billions) in federal research grants from the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, et al. Private and public universities exist because of public funding – they are both a public trust.

Our higher education system should be used as a battleground for competing ideas – not a fifth column for biased political talking points. Unbiased research must be its cornerstone; without valid, unbiased studies, our society cannot make grounded, well-founded decisions about public policy.

Entirely neutralizing bias in research is likely an impossible endeavor given the nature of the human mind. But an RFP of this nature, sent out from a group of educators – using publicly funded networks and the prestige of their schools – to students and faculty of publicly funded institutions, is an exercise in educational malpractice. It gives politically biased professors a rationale for a one-sided curriculum, and teaches students that it’s acceptable to infuse ideology into research.


This attempt to use our higher educational system “to give substance and scholarly integrity to this ‘crying wolf’ argument,” as stated in the RFP, is intellectual and moral subversion. The creation of this intellectual network within our school system is specifically for the purpose of constructing leftist policy “narratives.”

In a 2009 article that affixes the entire blame of the 2008 financial crisis on the failure of the free market system, Donald Cohen, sponsor of the Cry Wolf project, wrote that their network is in place to effectively push their reform policies:

Fortunately, the progressive intellectual infrastructure, more developed and more capable than even just a few years ago, is ready to drive a new New deal.

Do these prestigious institutions know that they have become part of the progressive labor movement’s “intellectual infrastructure” to create biased research? Let’s hope that if they are oblivious, they will take the appropriate action to be removed from this effort.

Stay tuned.


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