FDD op-eds and quotes followed a similar formula: Express outrage on behalf of the protesters, applaud Trump for his hypocritical defense of the right to protest, and push for increased sanctions against Iran — often while taking a swipe at the hated Iran deal.
FDD’s pro-Iranian people posture was rarely accompanied by an explanation of their ideological project. The outfit — funded by big-name pro-Israel billionaires like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus (who has said that “Iran is the devil”) and Wall Street speculator Paul Singer — are largely presented as bespectacled academics calling balls and strikes without a particular agenda beyond their self-proclaimed “defense of democracies.” (The name ought to provoke some skepticism, given the group’s eagerness to enlist the hereditary dictatorship Saudi Arabia in its anti-Iranian crusade.)
This problem is not unique to FDD; as FAIR has noted before, the overreliance by the media on deeply conflicted think tanks that present as neutral but are, in reality, glorified lobbyists for a political cause or corporate cohort misleads readers on an institutional scale. (In FDD’s case, it’s Israel’s right wing; for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, it’s weapons contractors.)
FDD, it’s worth noting, also worked closely with the Trump administration and CIA to curate documents implicating Iran in the 9/11 attacks, as part of a broader anti-Iran strategy that rogue Department of Justice lawyers spelled out in November in leaks to the Washington Post.
Occasionally, editors will note that FDD spokespeople are “conservative” or “hawkish,” but the group is mostly presented as a quasi-academic and impartial observer. The average reader, for example, would probably be surprised to find out the FDD “fellow” expressing concern for the Iranian People™ in the Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht, has long joked about wanting to bomb these same Iranians. As Eli Clifton noted in LobeLog, in 2010 Gerecht quipped: “Counted up the other day: I’ve written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran. Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.”
Shouldn’t someone so self-admittedly obsessed with killing Iranians be disqualified from posing as their protector in a major U.S. newspaper? Failing that, shouldn’t readers be alerted that Gerecht was the director in the late ’90s of the Middle East Initiative at the Project for the New American Century — the most prominent advocacy group for the invasion of Iraq, a war that left 500,000 to a million dead?
Think-tank addiction for overworked and often myopic reporters and editors has rendered such glaring questions unaskable. FDD are the “experts,” and the experts are needed to drive the bulk of commentary, regardless of their well-documented ulterior motives.