Most consumers are unaware off the mainstream media's dirty little secret. Think tanks are increasingly taking advantage of tight news budgets to influence the press agenda in favour of their sponsors.
Decades ago, these outfits generally operated as policy advisories. Although, some were comfortably enumerated 'retirement homes' for distinguished public servants or intellectuals. However, in modern times, they have become indistinguishable from lobbying firms. With the budgets to match.
On the Russia (and broader Eastern European) beat, think tank influence is becoming increasingly dangerous and malign. And it's leading to a crisis in journalistic standards which nobody wants to acknowledge.
Two cases this week highlight the malaise.
Right now, Hungary and Ukraine are embroiled in a standoff regarding the rights of ethnic Hungarians in the latter country. The disagreement is entirely local, with roots in the 20th century carving-up of Budapest's territory after it found itself on the losing side in both World Wars. As a result, lands were dispersed into other nations - former Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.
There are tensions, to varying degrees, between Hungary and pretty much all the successor states housing its lost diaspora. Especially since nationalist Viktor Orban started handing out passports to compatriots stranded on foreign soil.
Until recently, most of the focus was on disagreements with Slovakia, but now attention has switched to Ukraine.
Let's be clear. This is a mess of Kiev's making. In a bid to appease "patriotic" fundamentalists, it began moves towards restrictive language laws, which has especially alienated the small band of Hungarian speakers on its western frontier.
Predictably, Budapest rushed in to defend its "people," and now we have a nasty little imbroglio with headbangers on both sides entrenched.
One thing it's not about is Russia. But Western media, egged on by think tank "experts," keeps banging this drum. And here is a case in point this week. ...
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