I finally finished Jane Mayer’s piece on the Koch brothers. I think it goes too far, makes them too scary, and makes it sound like stirring up teahadism is a smart political idea rather than a short-sighted tactic that will ultimately further discredit conservatism, e. g “Though the Kochs have slowed Obama’s momentum…” They have? I’m sure 10% unemployment has nothing to do with it.
I wish the piece hadn’t pushed that angle so hard, because the take down of Cato is thorough:
In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the institute. Today, Cato has more than a hundred full-time employees, and its experts and policy papers are widely quoted and respected by the mainstream media. It describes itself as nonpartisan, and its scholars have at times been critical of both parties. But it has consistently pushed for corporate tax cuts, reductions in social services, and laissez-faire environmental policies.
When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him. Cato’s resident scholars have relentlessly criticized political attempts to stop global warming as expensive, ineffective, and unnecessary. Ed Crane, the Cato Institute’s founder and president, told me that “global-warming theories give the government more control of the economy.”
Cato scholars have been particularly energetic in promoting the Climategate scandal. Last year, private e-mails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, in England, were mysteriously leaked, and their exchanges appeared to suggest a willingness to falsify data in order to buttress the idea that global warming is real. In the two weeks after the e-mails went public, one Cato scholar gave more than twenty media interviews trumpeting the alleged scandal.
For me, the story here is how easy it is to buy intellectual respectability in Washington. Politicians, discredited ideas, and whores all get respectable if they’ve got enough money backing them. Cato can purge itself of all but its most profoundly sociopathic hacks and Fred Hiatt will still run their opinion pieces.
Will Wilkinson and Brink Lindsey are lucky things didn’t end like this for them (when the Koch brothers tell you they are oil men, you will believe them):
This must be The New Yorker’s contribution to basic research. Going to great lengths to prove that which is obvious.
Megan McArdle. QED.
And I’m still thinking Yglesias has the hots for some Cato intern.
Nate Silver on Maddow shows why barbers should have to demonstrate proficiency with a straight edge: the boy doesn’t know how to shave himself.
Girl Raised From Birth By Wolf Blitzer Taken Into Custody
Well, I thought it was pretty funny, anyway.
@MikeJ: He needs a haircut and needs to sit up straight. (I’m one to talk as I need to do both too, although I’m not on national television.)
@soonergrunt: And of course, the best one of all time:
Victim In Fatal Car Accident Tragically Not Glenn Beck
You misunderstand. Nate is a victim of an overly regulated industry not allowing the invisible hand to work its wonders with that straight razor.
@soonergrunt: I almost hurt myself laughing at that one; I only wish it could have happened to Glenn Beck.
Chad N Freude
They scare the bejeebus out of me.
Short-sighted tactics in the current environment seem to have much greater effects than the discrediting, such as it is, that comes after the damage is done.
This is the big one, but every additional negative slows the momentum even more. I don’t think what she says is as hyperbolic as you do.
For me, the story here is how easy it is to buy intellectual respectability in Washington.
Can I just throw this out there, snark-free? The reason this isn’t a story is that it’s not news.
@Omnes Omnibus: I used to play that one every so often in my cubicle at my last job because the guy in the next cube over was a wingnut. It used to piss him off, and I’d be like “what?”
Fair enough. Then the article is a big snooze.
@soonergrunt: OMFG. I am having a hard time picking out the funniest part. I think I’ll go with the “It should have been you” cards at the candlelight vigil.
Chad N Freude
It just occurred to me that the “intellectual respectability” is really wrong here. How about “completely unjustified credibility”?
Definitely worth a chuckle. Nearly as good as the adult version of Time.
Given that the right wing has at least a century’s worth of experience of its super-wealthy advocates hiring and creating movements not just of immediate gain but of ideological battle, I’d have to give them the credit over those who think such generations-long aims a bit excessive.
I personally think that WaMo has a better post on the subject here
In short, the conservative/libertarian side of things view their ideology as being its own goal. Smaller government, privatize stuff, etc. So they assume that their opposites on the left want..well..the opposite, when this really isn’t the case at all. On the left we have goals, and we don’t necessary need larger government as long as the goals are met.
There is a difference between the right wing hired ideologues and pimped think tanks and shock troops thinking that ‘smaller government’ is some sort of general goal, but the funders and organizers seem pretty damn well clear about wanting ‘bigger’ government when it serves their power and profit interests.
Cato’s resident scholars have relentlessly criticized political attempts to stop global warming as expensive, ineffective, and unnecessary. Ed Crane, the Cato Institute’s founder and president, told me that “global-warming theories give the government more control of the economy.”
This backwards reasoning is common among Libertarians. Libertarians assert that laissez-faire economics creates a framework that allows for the solution of all of the world’s problems through individual freedom and an economy free of government regulation. And actually, any government action at all is considered interference with the natural order of individual action. Therefore, problems that cannot be solved within that economic/philosophical framework and might actually benefit from governmental action do not exist — since if they did exist laissez-faire economics would solve them.
I have read of blind people regaining sight but not able (temporarily) to really “see” things yet because their brain cannot yet connect the objective signals from the eye and the brains ability to imagine them. That is pretty much Ed Crane and his ilk in a nutshell.
The ultimate takeaway here seems to be that there are a lot of whores out there, and they just don’t sell their bodies. I mean, how does McArglebargle cash her check each payday? How do these people continue on like so? Somewhere in their shriveled souls they must know that this is all bullshit to feed a plutocracy. Are they really that jaded? That crass? That intellectually dishonest?
It’s like they are all Thénardier.
I know, SATSQ.
Last year, private e-mails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia, in England, were mysteriously leaked, and their exchanges
appearedwere taken out of context and contrived to suggest a willingness to falsify data in order to buttress the idea that global warming is real.
Villago Delenda Est
REAL conservatives (think Otto von Bismarck) think long term.
The Koch Brothers, being neo-feudalists, don’t have the luxury of that sort of foresight. They think they’ll profit from the social instability that they’re fomenting.
Given the inherent stupidity of the teabaggers, though, they’ve scored on that front, I’ll concede that.
Jesus! That scene always affects me on a very deep level. Now I really need a milkshake.
@DougJ: From Dave Weigel :
So, yeah, maybe the story is that the Kochs’ dirty money means there can’t be a story. But let’s hope those other three reports help define the boundaries of the ‘negative space’ within which the Kochs (and their fellows) corrupt the general discourse. Kind of like defining the Invisible Man as the guy walking around in bandages, trenchcoat, and dark glasses.
@DougJ: Fair enough. Then the article is a big snooze.
No, not a big snooze. It’s a good article, shedding some light on the reach of the Koch brothers. My only point is that this is not a new phenomenon. Since the dawn of man … errr …. for as long as there has been disproportionate wealth in large societies, media folks have been pushing ideologies and policies that primarily, or exclusively, promote the interests of the wealthy. The primary reason for this is simple: the wealthy control the media.
Yes, it’s interesting but I sort of though *that* was obvious, that right now conservative goals are primarily ideological while liberal goals are primarily practical.
But I think the Koch article runs counter to that in some ways. Sure, they promote all this Ayn Rand bullshit but a lot of what they promote is less regulation for energy companies, which is certainly practical if you run an energy company.
@Villago Delenda Est: In FDR’s time, there were super-ultra-rich who backed — and had been backing — reforms such as Social Security, and others, particularly grouped with the NAM and Liberty League, who wanted to stop the New Deal, stop the commies, etc., yet who were more than happy to work with FDR once the war contracts started rolling in.
The thing I find interesting is the Koch connection to the Joe Miller campaign in Alaska – their Tea Party Express funded his campaign to the tune of $560,000.
Very interesting. Good catch.
I’mma test something here: Who coined the term “Kochtopus” to describe the Koch empire?
I know the answer, just want to see who here does.
Well, I tried to edit to say that the Tea Party Express is only partly funded by the Kochs…I guess it’s still “their” group in a way, though.
George Soros is a bogeyman to half the country, but barely anyone has heard of the Kochs, Richard Mellon Scaife, and all the other influential money men behind the conservative movement.
18 of the wealthiest families in America funded an astonishingly successful movement against the “death tax.” This was exposed by Public Citizen several years ago. But do you think even 1% of America knows this? Doubt it.
One way or another, the good guys are getting outplayed.
Yeah, but that’s what makes the Jane Mayer piece so valuable–it may actually get the Kochs’ nefarious astroturfing into the mainstream consciousness.
Contra to DougJ’s nitpicky “been-there-done-that” appraisal, I think this article is very important (and also very well constructed) because so many Americans do not know what most of us around here take for granted. And if that leads more journalists to sniff around the Koch’s grand deceptions and more citizens to question entities like “Americans for Prosperity” and, hell, the fucking “Tea Party” , then kudos to Jane Mayer and I will be eternally thankful.
Oh, and Doug: Anyone with billions of disposable cash handy with which to warp the fabric of democracy as we know it (and more so going forward after Citizens United) is fucking scary, dude.
P.S. Style points aside, I hope everyone here emails this New Yorker article to everyone they know. I really think it’s that important. And you’ll be surprised how many of your well-educated friends had no idea…
I’m not saying “been there done that”, I’m saying that I think the buying off of Cato et al. is striking and true but that is watered down by the stuff about how the Tea Party killed Obama, which is very unconvincing to me.
I think by the time you got to the end, Doug, you forgot the beginning of the article–it ain’t just the measly Cato Institute, amigo:
Not to mention funding myriad astroturfing disinformation pollinators like Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for the Environment, Mercatus Center, FreedomWorks, Patients United Now, Americans for Prosperity, etc, etc, etc.
Did I mention fucking scary?
I’m not sure it does matter that much. I mean, all these articles throughout podunk American newspapers employing the exact same conspiracy theories in the exact same language to make the exact same nonsensical argument? You gotta know somebody’s paying for that. And all these ESL-speaking rightwinger comments in every newspaper throughout the land? You just know somebody’s outsourcing that stuff. And when so much sock-puppeting is so incredibly obvious, do we really need to know who’s behind it all?
Nobody really cares about astroturfing. Just ask Marc Ambinder and the rest of the Village.
Even though a lot of us have read and known of the Koch brothers’ many many machinations over the years, a lot of people don’t, and have no idea. It’s a very useful thing to have it all put into a comprehensive article in an esteemed publication like the New Yorker. It gives it a legitimacy that blogs can’t match, still. Print is not quite dead; certain dowager publications still have heft, not everyone reads political blogs. I hope this story has legs, but imagining the tentacles of the hundred billion dollar a year Koch Industries, I can’t say I’m optimistic it will be taken up on the teevee, say.
I don’t think the article is a big snooze. I consider myself more informed about politics than probably 75% of the people in this country and I had never heard of these guys before. I think though it drives home the giant distorting effect money has on politics in this country, which is something that really can’t be written about enough. We have supposedly non-partisan not-for-profit orgs that are either given money or spread money around that they’re given with an explicit ideological purpose, and on the other side we have a Supreme Court that thinks that rich people are entitled to more free speech than the rest of us. I don’t fancy myself a chicken little mostly because we’ve overcome worse crises in our country’s history, but I honestly wonder if we’re ever going to shake loose of the pernicious influence of money on politics.
Re: “the stuff about how the Tea Party killed Obama, which is very unconvincing to me.”
Also, too here is the quote:
Now, you can say the media have been suckers to play up the importance of the 18%ers of the FreedomWorks/TeaParty crowd or that legislators have been unreasonably intimidated by them (I certainly would), but can you really say that there has not been a slowing of momentum? And that is not the same as “the Tea Party killed Obama” because in the end, the President may in fact win the war. But the more rotten logs are lifted to expose these burrowing plutocratic shadow actors, the better the odds that happens.
So here’s what I wanna know.
Does their name rhyme with:
(Oh, please please please let it be the first one.)
@Zuzu’s Petals: Toke.
I have know about these guys for a long time. I was dreaming of starting a one woman crusade against them in my town where they have many homes. But, after thinking about if for a second I came to the conclusion that they will just chew me up and spit me to Alaska, so I changed my mind.
Jane Mayer is the scheduled guest on today’s Fresh Air.