The anatomy of a John Locke Foundation report is at once complex and simple. Complex in its obfuscation of the truth, simple in its structure. A key to unlocking the code lies in the footnotes, the Achilles heel of every John Locke report. The secret lies not in the footnotes themselves but in the source from which they are cited, invariably out of context, frequently inaccessible for verification or, fabricated by the author (1).
The body of a report or a “spotlight” knits together disparate fragments of language and data, apparently building a case for pre-determined policy issues, decorated with a daisy chain of footnotes.(2) The JLF method appears to search for shards of information that can be pieced together into something resembling a scholarly article (without peer-review) just long enough to turn it into a PDF file and issue a press release. Few have the time, the resources (of Art Pope) or the inclination to verify the facts and reveal the distortions.(3) Those that do risk spinning their wheels or raising their blood pressure instead of doing something more constructive.
Summaries and abstracts put a spin on the content consistent with JLF policy. The title and subtitle provide the partisan lens through which to view the trigger words and phrases embedded in text. And finally John Hood will make reference to the “findings” or a “new analysis” in a column or speech and the spin is at large as Republican talking points and rarely held accountable for the truth.(4)
Even when the facts of a text belie the JLF message a headline can spin the opposite message. In a recent Carolina Journal article on Green Building the JLF headline was:
It's Not Easy Being Green, Schools Find
Red tape and bureaucratic mazes add thousands to cost of schools
The article talked about the cost of green “certification” which I agree is costly and not essential to creating green public buildings but the actual example in the article:
..did indeed recoup the extra costs in energy savings over the first two years.
In other words, after two years this building was costing less to construct and operate than comparable standard buildings. Obviously JLF doesn’t want a more efficient government, they just don’t want to be governed.
(1) Unsubsantiated phrases like “calculated by author” without method or data.
(2) I read footnotes.
(3) I track down sources.
(4) More to come.