Blogging without accountability in the heartland

There's been a lot of talk about blogger ethics lately in light of the death threats posted the other week to technologist blogger Kathy Sierra's site. It has raised all sorts of blogging issues, including the important issue of accountability.

The writing here on DeSmogBlog is considered by some to be controversial and with controversy comes an even higher expectation of accountability. We stand by every single word we write. Period. If we write something incorrect, we do not distance ourselves from the mistake, we take ownership and correct ourselves in a timely fashion.

I came across a site yesterday called “From the Heartland,” (FTH) that claims to be the Heartland Institute's “unofficial blog.” On the site you will find frequent posts by Heartland President Joseph Bast and a DNS search shows that the site is registered to the Heartland Institute's address in Chicago. The FTH “About” section is simply cut and pasted from the Heartland Institute's “official” website.

Strangely though, on the home page of the “unofficial” FTH it states: “no opinion posted here should be taken to represent an official view taken by The Heartland Institute. All opinions, insights, discoveries, revelations, observations, and profundities herein are solely those of their respective authors.”

So you have a blog registered to the Heartland Institute, with postings from the President of the Institute, yet somehow it is not an “official” blog of the Institute and we should take nothing from the site to be representative of the Institute. So why have a blog at all?

I am guessing that the Heartland's justification may have something to do with their charitable status, in that many think-tanks shy away form the open format of blogs because of the IRS requirement that registered charities remain non-partisan. However, if that is in fact the case, then one may be inclined to think that by putting the word “unofficial” on a site registered to your organization you can effectively avoid the IRS requirement to remain non-partisan.

This is speculation of course and since we now know that Joseph Bast and others at the Heartland are DSBlog readers, I look forward to hearing their explanation.

On the issue of accountability, it would be great to think that an organization can simply air their views, but conveniently distance themselves from those views with a simple phrase like “unofficial,” but that's simply not the case. If you're going to write something, anything at all, you need to be held “officially” accountable and to do anything less makes what you say all that more suspect.


Many of the things this site purports can be looked at is inaccurate as well. Its spin. You have your spin they have theirs. Having a bias is fine as long as you have credible information to back it up. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they are not accountable. People get so hard charged today over calling the other person out, taking cheap shots, and trying to demonize the other side. Why can’t people have a different view? There is a reason the old saying goes never talk about money, politics and religion. Everyone believes their perspective is correct and the moral one on top of that. We all have studies and facts and figures and people in our camp that are willing to back us up on a point of view. DeSmogblog does nothing more than this. You take a perspective–push that as the correct one (Liberalism) denounce all other options and demonize those that do not share your perspective. I have news for everyone out there. If one way was the total correct method we wouldn’t be having this debate. There would be overwhelming support for it and the other perspectives would die. Apparently that is not the case. Engough people think Heartland makes good points to continue funding them and reading their material. Oh and I know they are in the pocket of big oil and tobacco the same way left or liberal groups our in the pocket of George Soros. Oh and by the way corporations are made up of people and they are no more evil than bloated fat governments. Governments in many cases are far worse at spending money, and sometimes far more “evil” and corrupt than corporate America. At least with business you have a choice whether or not you want to spend your money with them. The government doesn’t give you that option. Let’s all agree to disagree at times. Do this please in a mature and respectful manner. Do not attack Joseph Bast. Heartland should not attack DeSmog personally either. What ever happened to civil discourse. Your comment on Joe Tobacco Bast was inappropriate and immature. I hope to see a better dialouge in the future and see a lack of mud slinging. Peace!