The Brothers Koch
Flick takes a pointed look at living in a Koch-driven economy, and the selling out of democracy.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
With an unflinching look at the Koch Brothers’ money and power, Brave New Films has once again created a film full of rollicking and rigorous facts that informs and challenges corporate media with the truth. The latest in a series of sharp social justice films – check out Rethink Afghanistan, WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price and Sick for Profit – Koch Brothers Exposed should be a wakeup call for people across the political spectrum to take action.
I was interviewed for the film – seemed a valuable project because it raises perhaps the central question of our time: Are we a democracy or are we now a plutocracy? And what kind of country, what kind of society, what kind of economy do we want to live in?
Throughout American history there has been a degree of balance between government and market. But we are living in a moment when the extremist right wants to shatter that balance and is using its resources to throw the country back to Gilded Age inequality.
No one is pursuing that more than Charles and David Koch.
The strategy pursued by the Koch Brothers has a potent history. As Bill Moyers describes in his Nation cover story “How Wall Street Occupied America,” the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s confidential memorandum in 1971 to his friends in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was “a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.” It was a blueprint for what is now coming to fruition with the phenomenon of the Koch brothers, Citizens United, and a right-wing activist Supreme Court ready to roll back decades of New Deal jurisprudence.
Moyers lays out how “the Powell Memo” – in response to a bipartisan push for new regulation of air quality, lead paint, pesticides and the creation of the EPA – urged corporate America to “fight back hard. Build a movement. Set speakers loose. Take on prominent institutions of public opinion – especially the universities, the media and the courts. Keep TV programs ‘monitored the way textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance.’ And above all, recognize that political power must be ‘assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination’ and ‘without embarrassment.’”
Now the Koch Brothers have become a symbol of something that is corrosive and dangerous. They are the poster boys for the 1 percent. Brave New Films has done a service in researching their actions and activities. Take Social Security, which the Koch Brother are working to dismantle by funding an echo chamber of think tanks. Brave New Foundation researchers reveal a $28.4 million Koch effort that has manufactured 297 opinions and commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting Social Security’s effectiveness and purpose.
Koch-backed groups are also pushing onerous voter ID requirements on minorities and the poor. They have funded efforts to potentially thwart 21 million Americans from voting by writing and proposing voting suppression bills in 38 states.
“The Koch Brothers support laws that are the most aggressive attempt to roll back voting rights in this country that we’ve seen in over a century,” says Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.
Not surprisingly, the Kochs have gone on the attack against Brave New Films and filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who responds by arguing that Americans should not fall for the Kochs’ attempt to change the subject.
“The smears and name-calling may not be pleasant but [it] won’t stop the film from being shared by 25 groups partnering with us and thousands of people online,” Greenwald writes.
Indeed, starting May 8 the film will be available in millions of homes via streaming outlets. Stay tuned too for house parties, screenings, and actions. Don’t miss this film.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL is the editor of The Nation.