Colson: Koch brothers pursue feel-good ‘brand’ remake
Look out, world, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, have finally awakened to something the rest of us have known for some time — their base of support, resting as it does on self-congratulatory fables about the glories of capitalism, a foul gumbo of race-hate and greed, and the sycophantic blatherings of right-wing talking heads, is not endorsed by a lot of us in this country.
In fact, a lot of us think the two of them are Satan’s kid brothers who soon will be frolicking in the flames of perdition.
But their awakening is the theme of a long and deeply researched article in the Jan. 25 edition of the New Yorker magazine, by writer Jane Mayer, who also recently penned a book titled “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”
And, if Mayer is correct, the rest of us are in for a long, hot summer of slyly insinuating lies and misdirection funded by the huge cash reserves of Koch Industries and its brethren corporations.
To date, Charles and David Koch have been bucketing along like a freight train fueled by the afore-mentioned fables and gumbo, secure in their belief that a majority of American voters were seated somewhere behind them but still on the train.
It seems the brothers actually believed that Mitt Romney was going to win the 2012 presidential race, and when he did not, they were shocked — SHOCKED! — down to the lugged soles of their wing-tip combat boots.
At least, that’s how Mayer has reported it, and it makes sense to me.
That’s because it has long seemed to me that the worst aspects of the Republican party line have been based on a deeply flawed understanding of the zeitgeist of the American electorate. They actually think we all agree with them!
But the 2012 election results apparently grabbed the Koch brothers where it hurt and squeezed, with the result that they immediately turned to Madison Avenue and the public relations titans whose chief skill is in making us believe what we know to be false. And the PR machine is in high gear as you read this.
The Koch political machine seems to be desperately reinventing its “brand,” which is to say the Koch and their army of campaign workers and strategizers are frantically trying to figure out a way to tell a more convincing lie to the voters.
Rather than simply rely on the power of their money to sway elections, this new tack is one that would change voter perception of them, away from their true nature as monopolistic, anti-democratic power seekers, and toward a view of them as caring for the welfare of poor people and the disenfranchised.
As I noted, though, this new direction is more devious and deceptive than anything they have done before, as they hand out turkeys at down-home picnics and pay for television ads showing smiling cowboys and cowgirls working for
For instance, Mayer wrote, David Koch recently was repositioned as a champion of the arts, a philanthropist and a benefactor of charity hospitals. All of this may be true, I hasten to say, but it’s just a smoke screen. His acts of charity do not change the spots on this particular leopard, whose core political agenda has focused on making things easier for corporations and the rich, which unavoidably will make it harder for the rest of us.
They are the money behind a union-killing case headed for the Supreme Court. They and their cadre of fellow billionaires spent $400 million to unseat Obama, and reportedly have earmarked more than twice that much to wrest the White House from the hands of the Democrats this year. While they may not be directly linked, the Kochs are blood brothers to the bunch of crazed right-wingers who are occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
Thanks to their public relations team, the Kochs have launched legislation in Congress ostensibly in support of criminal justice reform. The target originally was said to be to reduce sentences for nonviolent crimes, to help the poor and minorities who are disproportionately prosecuted and imprisoned for such crimes. But the move stood revealed for what it really is when the legislation was quietly amended last year to change its focus to impeding federal prosecution of corporate, white-collar criminals.
The real motive for the legislation, of course, was the 2000 federal prosecution of Koch Industries for pumping benzene, a carcinogen, into the waters in and around Corpus Christi, Texas.
Even more cynical and politically manipulative is the fact that Koch money has recently been directed to the United Negro College Fund and a program to increase literacy and educational success among Latino school kids. The Kochs don’t care about Blacks and Latinos, except perhaps as potential low-paid employees in their various industrial concerns.
The rebranding of the Koch empire is nothing but an outrageously cynical public-relations campaign to make us think the brothers are benign, caring and interested in the welfare of the little guy.
And, thanks to the systematic dumbing down of the American voter, it might work.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.