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Manhattan Institute

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The Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research is a neoconservative think tank founded in 1978 by neoconservative William Casey, later to become Reagan's CIA director, and UK libertarian Antony Fisher. Economic analyses by the Institute tend towards the Austrian school of libertarianism, particularly those of Friedrich Hayek.[1] David Frum, who coined the Axis of Evil term, came to the Bush administration from the Manhattan Institute in 2001. Several neocon icons such as William Kristol are on their board of trustees.

In 2013, a research paper characterized (with an analysis period of 2003–2010) the Manhattan Institute as one prominent institution opposed to action against climate change.[2] The Institute has published the quarterly magazine City Journal since 1990.[3]

The Manhattan Institute's City Journal have published transphobic articles authored by Christopher F. Rufo, Kay S. Hymowitz, Colin Wright and others.[4][5][6][7][8][9] Similar to Quillette, City Journal is obsessed with criticizing "wokeness".[10][11][12]

Conservative crankery[edit]

Fellow George L. Kelling introduced the broken windows theory of policing along with James Q. Wilson (of the American Enterprise Institute) in 1982.[13] Rudy Giuliani received considerable backing from the Institute during his failed 1989 campaign for New York City mayor as well as his successful campaign in 1993 when he used the broken windows theory as part of his campaign.[14]:121

George Gilder, a Program Director for the Manhattan Institute, and also a co-founder of the Discovery Institute,[15] has been a promoter of pseudoscientific supply-side economics and the associated Laffer curve. He wrote the 1981 supply-side book Wealth and Poverty[16] that was considered the "Bible" for the Reagan administration's economic policies.[17]:76

In 1994, a Manhattan Institute scholar named Betsy McCaugheyWikipedia (under the name Elizabeth McCaughey) wrote a scathing critique of Bill Clinton's health care planWikipedia in The New RepublicWikipedia magazine. The article claimed that Clinton had proposed a system that would lock people into government-run care, and raised fears that jail time would result for violating this. This "factoid" was immediately picked up and reprinted by conservative commentators like George Will. Some commentators feel that this article was a major reason why the plan failed to pass Congress.[18][19] In January 1995, James FallowsWikipedia wrote a scathing report in The Atlantic regarding the failure of this health care plan, and specifically addressed the large amount of disinformation about it. Among many other points, he pointed out that McCaughey's article was complete and utter bullshit.[19]

The Manhattan Institute was a favorite source used by Dubya's team during his 2000 presidential campaign. Many of Bush's proposals floated during the 2000 presidential debates came from the Manhattan Institute.[20][21]:4,29-35

During the Trump administration of 2017-2020, the Institute was oddly silent about the crony capitalism that drove the administration's policies,[22][23] something anathema to the Institute's free market values.[24] Longtime City Journal writer Sol Stern was dismayed by both Trump's election and the unexplained censorship of any writing critical of Trump within City Journal.[25] Stern surmised that the censorship was due to the Institute's chair, Paul Singer, changing from anti-Trump to becoming a major donor to Trump ($1 million just to the inauguration), as well as Institute trustee Rebekah Mercer also becoming a late Trump supporter and donating $450,000 to him.[25]


Anti-tobacco activists have documented that the Manhattan Institute received funding from tobacco companies from the 1990s until at least 2015, and had consistently supported campaigns that supported tobacco industry stances. The Manhattan Institute even hosted a meeting on junk tobacco science organized by Philip Morris InternationalWikipedia in 1995.[26]

Fellow members from the Manhattan Institute have been criticized for spreading misinformation about climate change and shilling for the fossil fuels industry. In March 2018, the Manhattan Institute published a paper by Oren Cass called "Overheated: How Flawed Analyses Overestimate the Costs of Climate Change".[27] Cass, whose climate science "qualifications" include a prior career as a management consultant and a policy director of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, asserted that "temperature studies do not offer useful predictions of the future costs of projected human-caused climate change". He justified this position using undocumented assertions about Americans migrating to warmer climates in the southern US, and insisted that people will adapt to a warmer climate using air conditioning.[27] This was seen as a laughable argument (which over-focused on rich individuals that could afford to adapt) by outlets that reported on climate change news and misinformation.[28] In September 20 2020, a senior fellow named Mark P. Mills[29] posted a video to PragerU that complained about purported problems wind and solar energy. In March 2021, these arguments that Mills made in this video were lambasted in an article by the senior science editor of Ars TechnicaWikipedia at the time (Jon Timmer) as "pure nonsense", along with a detailed point-by-point explanation as to why it was such.[30] Robert Bryce,Wikipedia who was a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute from 2010 to 2019, wrote several articles during this period attacking wind energy with wildly exaggerated claims,[31] and also contributed several other anti-clean energy op-eds to many newspapers.[32] According to The Intercept,Wikipedia the fossil fuels giant ExxonMobilWikipedia contributed nearly a million dollars to the Manhattan Institute between 2008 and 2018.[33]

Christopher Rufo[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Christopher Rufo
Rufo in 2022 from a video interview with Reason TV
"If conservatives want to protect the American way of life, they must be willing to lay siege to the institutions, and reorient them according to their own values. Whatever the odds, it’s never too late for counterrevolution in our time."
—Christopher Rufo[34]

One of the more prominent members of the Manhattan Institute is Christopher Rufo (1984–). Rufo is an anti-LGBT culture warrior,[35][36][37][38] and senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute. He is also an intelligent design advocate and former director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty.[39][40] He has falsely claimed to have a degree from Harvard University, when he has only a degree from the open-enrollment Harvard Extension School.[41]

Playing both sides[edit]

According to Brian Doherty, in Radicals for Capitalism, the rule of thumb around the Manhattan Institute is don't ever use the "libertarian" label around here because it will alienate conservative supporters.[42] Yet despite this and their neoconservative orientation they keep a foot in the libertarian camp as well, mainly through work with the network of laissez-faire think tanks funded by Koch Industries, and such libertarians as eugenicist Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, who was with the Manhattan Institute when he wrote his first book, Losing Ground. The Manhattan Institute receives Koch funding as well as the other usual sources: Richard Mellon Scaife, the Olin and Bradley Foundations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (no, really), and the tobacco industry.

On immigration: one of the leading voices in support of a "path to citizenship," Tamar Jacoby, and one of the leading voices against same, Heather Mac Donald, are both from the Manhattan Institute.

Likewise, they play both sides on environmentalism, where they eschew the overt denialism in favor of some truly wonky think tank work. The Manhattan Institute sponsored two books by Peter Huber, Hard Green[43] and The Bottomless Well.[44] The former book proposed that conservatives adopt a partially pro-environment position by claiming the mantle of Theodore Roosevelt while opposing the "soft" environmentalism of Al Gore. The latter book is a slick but confusing snow job on energy — essentially trying to make a case that waste is a virtue and the more energy wasted leads to greater energy independence — with such chapters as "Saving the Planet with Coal and Uranium" and numerous charts and graphs which would be a field day for someone to deconstruct.

They even court Democrats; linguist John McWhorterWikipedia is their go-to guy for token criticisms of affirmative action and the non-existent Cloward-Piven strategy. McWhorter loves using anecdotal evidence.[45]

All in all, Manhattan Institute is a confusing and often contradictory think tank, but perhaps symptomatic of the contradictory makeup of American conservatism. It's no wonder that Bush and Giuliani liked them.

Cancel courts come for Cancel Watch[edit]

On 5 July 2023, an anonymous far-right SubstackWikipedia blog titled "Cancel Watch"[note 1] published a bizarre article claiming Oliver D. Smith (User:Aeschylus) an ex-editor of RationalWiki, was actively involved in manipulating the site to cancel race and intelligence researchers from their employment.[48] This is despite Smith having lost his admin rights in 2019 and being banned from RationalWiki in September 2020, with any known edits of dubious nature by Smith having been scrubbed or rewritten by different editors. The Cancel Watch post accused Smith of creating attack pages against proponents of race and intelligence research from a pro-hereditarianismWikipedia point of view such as Emil Kirkegaard, Edward Dutton, John Fuerst, Heiner Rindermann, as well as attendees to the London Conference on Intelligence.[48] The blog post also accused Smith of being responsible for Emily Willoughby's Lanzendorf award being revoked and the sacking of Noah Carl and Bo Winegard. A few days later, the City Journal published an article about Smith, written by David Zimmerman (a presumed pseudonym) copying most of the text from the Cancel Watch article with the same unsubstantiated allegations.[49] The Cancel Watch blog post describes the City Journal article as its "companion" suggesting the authors of both are connected. At least one of the allegations made against Smith is demonstrably false: the individual who contacted Winegard's employer was an American, who was using a Twitter handle named "@AfroSapiens_44", who had also used the pseudonym Theodore Desmond to send emails to the Psychology Department at Marietta College.[50]

The City Journal article on Smith cited numerous unreliable sources: for instance taking most of its information from the troll website Encyclopedia Dramatica; Joshua Conner Moon's stalker forum Kiwi Farms; Moon's website Lolcow Wiki (also deleted) and white supremacist, neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.[49] It is is evident from this that the editor did not properly check sources of the article before publishing it. The article also only cited archived versions of the RationalWiki webpages showing Smith's work, rather than the current scrubbed versions,[49] possibly indicating (in the most generous interpretation) some ignorance by the author about how wikis actually work. The article was ultimately removed from City Journal less than two weeks after publication; this happened a few days after Smith sued the publisher in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.[51]

There is evidence City Journal coordinated with Cancel Watch to try to compel Smith to remove RationalWiki content, with the threat of the publication of the City Journal article if he did not comply.[52][51] The author of the Cancel Watch article may be associated with Emil Kirkegaard, as the article contains personal information about Kirkegaard such as claiming that customs authorities searched his laptop for child pornography when he travelled between Europe and the United States.[48]

The City Journal article on Smith was also copied to various far-right and white nationalist websites including VDARE, 8chan, Steve Sailer's blog at The Unz Review and has also been promoted by far-right eccentric Edward Dutton who advocates an irrational conspiracy theory that "every scholar seriously associated with evolutionary psychology has a defamatory Rational Wiki page".[53][54]

City Journal have since removed David Zimmerman from the list of contributors to their journal.[55]

On 4 August 2023, Proton Mail disabled Cancel Watch's email account for breaching their Terms of Service, having sent Oliver Smith threats and abusive messages.[56]

On 4 September 2023, the retracted City Journal article was reworded and published by NewsBreak under a slightly different title.[57] The author of the article is yet another pseudonym (Deny Smith) who deceptively uses a photo of the actor Robert Capron on their account.[58][59] In other words, the contributor page of the author on NewsBreak is fake, although it remains unclear if it is AI generated.[60]

By 8 September 2023, NewsBreak had deleted the article for breaching their contributor terms of service.[61]

On 13 September 2023, another news website, NewsTric published the same article.[62] NewsTric only publishes articles by paid guest post service.[63] The article was deleted on 17 September presumably after legal complaints were sent and the removed URL now redirects to the front page of the website.[64]

Smith voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit on 25 January 2024 after he reached an out of court settlement with Manhattan Institute.[65][66]

On 29 January 2024, Smith filed a defamation lawsuit against Emil Kirkegaard in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.[67][68] Smith's complaint is based on the fact Kirkegaard partially copied the article in City Journal on two of his blogs while adding a lengthy commentary of his own. Although Kirkegaard does not currently live in New York, Smith has argued for jurisdiction on the grounds the defendant lived in New York in 2018 and has retained contacts in the state.

On 7 February 2024, Smith filed a lawsuit against Substack Inc. for negligence (personal injury) and defamation against the anonymous author of Cancel Watch (John Doe). Smith claims the owner of Cancel Watch has been blackmailing and sending him death threats as well as harassing his family by sending malicious emails to his father's employer.[69]

City Journal[edit]

Contributors to this include:

Colin Wright,[72] John Tierney,[73] and Andy Ngo[74] have written for the alt-right-pandering online magazine Quillette.

External links[edit]


  1. "Cancel Watch"" has also published an article attacking transgender rights activist Andrea JamesWikipedia and various left-wing academics.[46][47]


  1. Hayek Book Prize and Lecture Manhattan Institute.
  2. Brulle, Robert J. (2013-12-21). "Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations" (in en). Climatic Change 122 (4): 681–694. doiWikipedia:10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7. ISSN 1573-1480. 
  3. City Journal
  4. Soldiers for the Gender Revolution. accessed 15 July 2023.
  5. Thrown to the Wolves. accessed 15 July 2023.
  6. The “Gender-Variant Universe”. accessed 15 July 2023.
  7. The Transgender Children’s Crusade. accessed 15 July 2023.
  8. Understanding the Sex Binary. accessed 15 July 2023.
  9. Are There More Than Two Sexes?. accessed 15 July 2023.
  10. Wokeness, the Highest Stage of Managerialism. accessed 15 July 2023.
  11. Medicine Goes Woke. accessed 15 July 2023.
  12. Why Woke Organizations All Sound the Same. accessed 15 July 2023.
  13. Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety by George L. Kelling & James Q. Wilson (March 1982) The Atlantic.
  14. Policy Transfer and Criminal Justice: Exploring US Influence over British Crime Control Policy by Trevor Jones (2007) Open University Press. ISBN 0335216684.
  15. Wealth and Poverty George Gilder, Discovery Institute.
  16. Wealth and Poverty by George F. Gilder (1981) Basic Books. ISBN 0465091059.
  17. Visions of Poverty: Welfare Policy and Political Imagination by Robert Asen (2001) Michigan State University Press. ISBN 0870138871.
  18. "Resurfacing, a Critic Stirs Up Debate Over Health Care" by Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, 2009 September 4
  19. 19.0 19.1 "A Triumph of Misinformation" by James Fallows, The Atlantic, January 1995
  20. Remarks to the Manhattan Institute in New York City (November 13, 2008) The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara.
  21. Political Agendas for Education by Joel Spring (2002) Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0805839844.
  22. Trump has corrupted American free enterprise with his own brand of crony capitalism by Anne O. Krueger (Oct 21, 2020) Market Watch.
  23. An economist who predicted Trump's rise as early as 2011 explains how he's changing the face of American capitalism forever by Will Martin (Dec 9, 2018, 5:27 AM PST) Business Insider.
  24. The Adam Smith Society — a project of the Manhattan Institute.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Think Tank in the Tank: I spent two decades writing for City Journal, and I cherished it and the Manhattan Institute’s independence. Then came the Trump era. by Sol Stern (July 7, 2020, 1:24 pm) Democracy Journal.
  26. "Tobacco Tactics: Think Tanks",, University of Bath, 2022 November 8
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Overheated: How Flawed Analyses Overestimate the Costs of Climate Change" by Oren Cass, Manhattan Institute, March 2018
  28. "The Manhattan Institute's Joke of a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed" by Justin Mikulka, Desmog, 2018 March 14
  29. Mark P. Mills, profile page, Manhattan Institute
  30. "Pure nonsense: Debunking the latest attack on renewable energy" by John Timmer, Ars Technica, 2021 March 1
  31. "The Wind Energy Threat to Birds Is Overblown (Op-Ed)" by Elliott Negin, Livescience, 2013 December 3
  32. "Major News Outlets Give Fossil-Fuel-Funded Think Tanks a Free Platform" by Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones, 2012 December 13
  33. "Exxon Mobil is Funding Centrist Democratic Think Tank, Disclosures Reveal" by Kate Aronoff, Intercept, 2019 September 6
  34. "Anti-civil rights activist Chris Rufo: “What Nixon did to the Black Panther Party, the next president must do to the violent factions of our time”" by Media Matters, 2023 August 14
  35. Ebner, Julia (2023-06-22) (in en). Going Mainstream: How extremists are taking over. Bonnier Books UK. pp. ~111. ISBN 978-1-80418-314-4. "In 2022, the new 'Don't Say Gay' legislation in Florida caused a major controversy in the US. It started with the conservative American activist Christopher Rufo initiating a large campaign to punish Disney for releasing its new animated series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. The series introduced a pair of homosexual dads, featuring voice-overs by LGBTQ actors, as well as recurring queer character Michael Collins. After Rufo claimed that The Proud Family was grooming children with radical sexual propaganda and helping advance a 'gay agenda', waves of anti-LGBTQ campaigns kicked off." 
  36. Adrian Horton (October 17, 2022). "John Oliver: 'Some on the right have truly lost their minds about trans rights'". The Guardian. Quote: "Rufo has suggested branding the discussion of trans issues as 'radical gender theory', and tweeted that drag queens should be referred to as 'trans strippers' because it’s more 'lurid' and has a 'sexual connotation' – part of the conservative strategy of linking transgender issues with sexual predation or social contagion."
  37. Trip Gabriel (April 24, 2022). "He Fuels the Right's Cultural Fires (and Spreads Them to Florida)". The New York Times.
  38. Paul Matzko (July 21, 2023). "How Chris Rufo Became the Thing He Hates". Reason.
  39. Christopher Rufo. accessed 15 July 2023.
  40. "Christopher F. Rufo", Manhattan Institute, personal profile.
  41. Christopher Rufo Claims a Degree from “Harvard.” Umm … Not Quite: The activist who is now a leading education policy figure on the right actually matriculated at Harvard Extension School. There’s a difference. by Daniel Strauss (February 17, 2023) The New Republic.
  42. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty (2007) PublicAffairs. ISBN 1586483501.
  43. Hard Green: Saving The Environment From The Environmentalists: A Conservative Manifesto by Peter Huber (1999) Basic Books. ISBN 0465031129.
  44. The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter W. Huber & Mark P. Mills (2006) Basic Books. ISBN 046503117X.
  45. Spelling Trouble: The black middle class, a scholar says, is threatening black progress. by David J. Dent (November 26, 2000) The New York Times. A book review of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America by John McWhorter (2001) The Free Press. ISBN 0060935936.
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 Oliver D. Smith: Oliver D. Smith is known for attempting to cancel scholars in behavioral genetics and intelligence (Jul 11, 2023) CancelWatch (archived from 5 Jul 2023 07:15:29 UTC).
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 David Zimmerman, The Cancel-Culture Troll with a Neo-Nazi Past: A surreal tale of one man’s campaign against an academic field. Archived from City Journal, 7 July 2023.
  51. 51.0 51.1 Smith v. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (1:23-cv-06143)
  52. Did City Journal and Cancel Watch hatch a scheme to blackmail a critic of race pseudoscience and censor RationalWiki?,, 12 July 2023.
  53. Oliver D. Smith of CrackpotWiki. Archived on 20 July 2023.
  54. "Oh, My God! Your Rat Wiki Page!". Archived on 20 July 2023.
  55. An archived webpage shows Zimmerman listed up to 18/07/2023. His name no longer appears on the list (as of 27/07/2023, webpage capture).
  56. Update on the Manhattan Institute travesty & Richard Hanania's neo-Nazi past, 5 August 2023.
  69. Smith v. Substack, Inc. (3:24-cv-00727), District Court, N.D. California (Last Updated: Feb. 9, 2024, 1:01 p.m.) Court Listener.
  70. "Walter Olson". City Journal.
  71. Steve Sailer (July 20, 1999). "Roster of Human Biodiversity Discussion Group Members". AOL.
  72. Colin Wright. accessed 15 July 2023.
  73. Howard Husock and John Tierney. accessed 15 July 2023.
  74. Antifa At Large in Portland. accessed 15 July 2023.