Grand Old Pogrom

The rationale behind their approach is simple and time-tested. Over time repetitious lies begin to have the resonance of truth, no matter how far fetched.

The Republican Convention was going rather poorly. The crowd was homogenous, the speakers were flat and the enthusiasm in the room was manufactured at best. And Clint Eastwood hadn’t even begun a rambling conversation with a chair. The Republican Party’s best hope for the convention was for its candidate to appear “human.”

Although “Eastwooding” would eventually enter the American lexicon and Willard Romney would do his best to connect with his fellow Homo sapiens, it was a quiet delegate from New York who captured the essence of the modern GOP.

Wading in among his fellow delegates, billionaire industrialist David Koch smugly took in the proceedings. Though the convention offered little in the way of celebration, he told a group of supporters at a nearby reception later that he and his brother, Charles, were “in this for the long haul.” Indeed they are. The Koch brothers are part of a well-established movement designed to vilify liberalism and many of the core tenets of democracy.

They are hardly original. But they are unique in that they have elevated their insidious brand of propaganda to a high art form. Groups such as the nativist Know Nothings of the 1850s or the John Birch Society of the 1950s espoused similar hate-filled political messages as today’s GOP but they flamed out as quickly as their stars rose. In terms of longevity, the Kochs and their inspired think tanks such as Americans for Prosperity—busy these days attempting to deny Hurricane Sandy relief funds to our region—have succeeded where their predecessors have failed. For the first time in American history, a small band of angry white men has galvanized a vast number of Americans and irrevocably turned public policy on its ear. The modern American conservative movement has finally arrived. 

Much of this has been accomplished through the elaborate and coordinated messaging emanating from the right-wing propaganda machine. Theirs is a two-part strategy. The first is to consistently contend that the media have a liberal bias when the opposite is true. Talk radio is virtually owned by the right wing. Fox News has become an insanely biased juggernaut and the print media, with few exceptions, has essentially fallen in line with the conservative agenda. Even the majority of the New York newspapers—The Daily News, Wall Street Journal, Newsday and New York Post—endorsed Mitt Romney over Barack Obama. But to hear conservative pundits talk about media bias, one would think the New York Times is the only newspaper on the planet.

The second part of the strategy is to plant false information from seemingly credible sources with patriotic names such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the American Enterprise Institute. Representatives from these organizations, which are funded by billionaires such as the Koch brothers, routinely appear on right wing talk shows spouting bogus statistics. These sources are then quoted in newspaper articles that are again mentioned in on-air reports. This is what is known as “the echo chamber.”

The rationale behind their approach is simple and time-tested. Over time repetitious lies begin to have the resonance of truth, no matter how far fetched. Selling an idea as its exact opposite, a mirrored reality, via the continual amplification of such lies has been an effective strategy employed by tyrannical regimes since time immemorial. For example, Adolf Hitler extolled the virtues of physicality, and gushed over the domineering blond-haired, fair-skinned Aryan, who was tall, reasoned and even-tempered. But Hitler himself possessed none of these traits. He was short, pudgy, greasy, and ill tempered.

Likewise, the right-wing echo chamber has been successful in instilling a backward self-loathing belief system among its followers who blithely campaign on behalf of billionaires.

Witness the retired worker receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits carrying a sign bashing entitlements at a Tea Party rally. Or the middle-income wage earner resisting tax increases on the wealthiest Americans because they’ve been told it smacks of socialism. Or perhaps the enraged grandmother who believes “Obamacare” is a Communist plot, even though the concept was hatched in a conservative think tank and first passed into law by a Republican governor.

Brilliantly, there is no single face of modern conservatism, only a secret cabal of dangerous men such as Charles and David Koch, who work behind the scenes to pull the last remaining threads from our democracy. In another stroke of genius, the GOP has joined forces with Christian Fundamentalists to misappropriate scripture while wrapped in the flag to sell the American people on perverted interpretations of the teachings of Christ.

The GOP has wed itself to fundamentalist leaders such as Douglas Coe who, since 1969, as the head of a secret society known as “The Family,” has presided over several Washington “prayer cells” that have been linked to some of the most deadly despots in modern times such as Indonesia’s General Suharto, Haiti’s Papa Doc Duvalier and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Not only have Coe’s associates been linked to some of the most heinous genocidal acts in history, they were all at one time members of Family-sponsored prayer cells. Genocide, it seems, is easily overlooked in Coe’s movement so long as lip service is paid to Christ and oil and other natural resources are provided to well-heeled Family members. 

Beyond warping the Bible to suit the Republican ideology, there are secular issues that have been upended by its truth-twisting dogma. The vilification of labor in this country, for one, is sickening and self-defeating. To wit, only 12 percent of the American workforce is unionized, but conservative pundits would have the public believe that unions are wholly responsible for our employment woes and lack of competitiveness. They would also have us believe that Social Security is collapsing under its own weight even though it is, by design, self sustaining and fully funded.

Equally as disturbing is the malicious stance toward immigrants in the United States. The extent of Republican soul-searching post election was to examine strategies going forward that would deal with the problem of changing demographics: how to woo more Latinos into the fold instead of actually adopting more progressive policies.

In fact, Republicans were anything but contrite in the wake of electoral defeat. Forgotten were the insults to women, equating nearly half of America with system-sucking leeches, and the notion of self deportation. The GOP has built a platform based upon misogyny, fervent nationalism, elaborate propaganda, and suppression of intellectualism—each one a hallmark of fascism. Others include high levels of incarceration, secrecy, militarism, and anti-union rhetoric.

These are the enduring legacies of a party gone horribly wrong. The problem we face is that the men behind the curtain believe this past election was a momentary setback, a bump in the road. But this stands to reason. They are, after all, in this for the “long haul.” 

 

Illustration: Jon Moreno
Book Cover: The Family by Jeff Sharlet. The Family offers an in-depth and never-before seen look at the Christian Fundamentalist movement in America.

Divide and Conquer: Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act

Dorian Dale, inaugural contributor to JedMorey.com, takes on everyone from the Koch Brothers to Michelle Bachmann and offers “smash mouth” war advice – from Machiavelli to Clausewitz – to the clean energy freedom fighters.

Fukushima, mon amour, is in meltdown. In the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’, meanwhile, Americans are waging Bulb Wars.  How do you say ‘America Syndrome’ in Japanese?* The Japanese are fighting for their lives just as Americans are fake-fighting over “Freedom of Choice.”  Notorious B.I.G (Big Invasive Government) has set about to replace those good ol’ testicular, heat-reeking bulbs with the pigtailed, puny-power variety. 

Freedom of Choice is just another catch phrase for “You’re Being Had”.  Stall&bump…pocket picked.  Divert, subvert, ka-ching.  Bulb Wars is but the latest canard designed to distract, undermine and diminish you, fellow Americans. 

Among numerous provisions in the Energy independence and Security Act of 2007 was one setting standards for more efficient lighting.  Signed into law by President George W. Bush, the act also called for a gas mileage boost to 35mpg by 2020.  While Detroit couldn’t muster the muscle to blunt that upgrade, fossil fuelers in the Senate stripped out provisions that would have provided for renewable portfolio standards via elimination of $20+ billion in oil and gas subsidies.

Now the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,” has been reintroduced by Rep. Michele “Minute Mom” Bachmann (R-MN) to strip incandescent provisos from the 2007 law.  What can we expect from the foxy, pitchbabe in response to Glenn Beck’s Bachmann fantasy “just you and me in the incandescent glow”? ‘Glenn, they’re gonna have to peel the incandescent bulb from my cold, dying fingers!’  

Never mind that section 321 of Public Law 110-140 does not, in fact, ban incandescent.  Ignore that the electronics industry has responded with a 30% more efficient incandescent in the meantime.  Facts get obfuscated by the fog-machines of these campaigns.  Refer all queries to the Rovian Rule: ‘Empires create their own reality.’

If playing lord and master doesn’t spin your world, what are you going to do?  Socratic reasoning falls largely on plugged ears in unreasonable times.  Maybe it’s time to equip yourself with more than moral outrage.  Consensus doesn’t cut it in a knife fight.  Wake up and smell the gunpowder.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Long enough, that is, to get their playbook then beat them at their own game.  It’s a war game in which there is an enemy, an Achilles heel that succumbs to assault providing plunder for further assault.

Make no mistake about it.  War is being waged over the future of this country.  If you’re outgunned and outspent, you best outsmart.

As politics is warfare by other means, kick off with von Clausewitz.  Considering insurgency?  Recon with Kilcullen.  For mastering manipulation, Machiavelli’s your man.  To control the great unwashed, it’s    divide and conquer as practiced by the British Raj.  If you’re uneasy at the very thought of contemplating war, maybe the Zen of Sun-Tzu is for you.  

Then there is the Smash-Mouth Playbook which, in, a nutshell, is ‘three yards and a cloud of dust.’

Smash-Mouth is how the increasingly infamous and combative Koch Bros run it.  Charles and David Koch** are the twin-headed Monty Burns of the Dirty Economy.   Most recently, the Kochs bankrolled capture of the Wisconsin statehouse with and eye to killing collective bargaining and WalMarting more of middle-class America.  Plays were run to smash-mouth perfection.  

  • First, they targeted a vulnerable foil in publicly-employed teachers. 
  • Second, everyone was reminded of teacher privileges that draw double the benefits for half the work of hard-pressed taxpayers.  
  • Third, blame for all this largesse was hung on the socialistic credo of collective bargaining.  
  • In the dust-up, another union piggy bank got broken, exposing future targets to greater vulnerability. 

Hit, drive and desire. 

To review, here’s how Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust is run:

1)      Target vulnerability/ID threat. 

2)      Insert wedge/raise fear. 

3)      Hammer away/building momentum. 

Under dust-up, spread the field and grab collateral for more assault.

Even when smash-mouth does not chalk up a win, it does send an intimidating message.  Last fall, Koch strategy and money (drawn from their $45B fortune) were behind Proposition 23, designed to gut California’s iconic clean energy law.  This assault was the equivalent of the Sierra Club seeking closure of refineries in Texas.  And the Kochs don’t buy Peak Oil theory.  On the contrary, as Wikileaked Saudi cables revealed, oil&gas oligarchs are far more concerned about competitive threat to revenue streams posed by clean energy. 

Can the Kumbaya/consensus crowd countenance concepts of combat that are culturally counter-intuitive to them?  Hacktavists of Anonymous and Stuxnetting saboteurs pose stealthy, tactical promise, but who you gonna call?  Clearly, not all bad actors will succumb to Twitter revolutions.   God helps those who help themselves, fellow Americans.  For your first exercise in strategic smash-mouthing, Google “FHFA>Babylon”.  Break down FHFA, aka Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, into their constituent vulnerabilities, threat posed, means of assault and takeaway.  It you have what it takes to save our future, we’ll be in touch.

*Amerika shōkōgun

**In the spirit of full-disclosure, the reader should know that David Koch got Dale’s vote as the 1980 Libertarian candidate for vice president.

Guest Contributor Dorian Dale

Koch Industries Back Tea Party: The Palin and Beck Show

Every hazardous product manufactured by Koch Industries and every conservative and libertarian think tank established by the family members—Mercatus is eclipsed in absurdity by their other venture, the Cato Institute—pales in comparison to their most important creation to date: the Tea Party. This movement is the culmination of 40-plus years of radical free-market fanaticism beginning with the John Birch Society, of which father Fred was a founding member.

Glenn Beck holds up his silver medal from the Jerk Olympics (He placed second to Charles Koch)

Last week The New Yorker published a missive by Jane Mayer on one of the most dangerous families in America: billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, heirs to the Koch family fortune forged by their father, Fred, himself one of the most influential conservative figures of the 20th century. Their fortune came, predictably, from oil, though their business holdings have been widely diversified since its inception.

What made this article so important was the painstaking manner in which Mayer unraveled the Koch Industries juggernaut to reveal a multi-decade effort by the Koch family to present itself as cultural and political icons whose generosity is beyond reproach. Their donations to museums and think tanks give the impression they are part of the cultural elite, a seminal segment of the charitable establishment that funds areas of our society that government has left behind. This carefully managed image as benevolent billionaires belies the insidious nature of their true life’s work as polluters, climate-change deniers and political dissidents who will stop at nothing to dismantle the system of regulation and taxation in America. In the past decade alone Koch Industries, a $35 billion privately held petrochemical company, has been forced to commit more than a half a billion dollars to environmental remediation, lawsuits, fines and settlements for their scandalous business practices.

The article sparked my memory of having run across the Koch name on two previous occasions. The first was when reporting on economic issues related to Indian tribes. In 1999 Koch Industries was found guilty of poaching oil from Indian reservations. The second was in researching Wendy and Phil Gramm’s involvement in the oil speculation scandal during the summer of 2008—the former serving as a Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center, the Koch-funded think tanks at George Mason University synonymous with government deregulation. Wendy Gramm’s staunch advocacy for deregulation and Phil Gramm’s rampant legislative penchant for it eventually led to delightful little treasures like the collapse of Enron, oil speculation, black-market exchanges and the 2008 banking catastrophe. (Postcard from the recession: Dear Wendy and Phil. Thanks for this! Wish you were here. Signed, America.)

Every hazardous product manufactured by Koch Industries and every conservative and libertarian think tank established by the family members—Mercatus is eclipsed in absurdity by their other venture, the Cato Institute—pales in comparison to their most important creation to date: the Tea Party. This movement is the culmination of 40-plus years of radical free-market fanaticism beginning with the John Birch Society, of which father Fred was a founding member.

There is, of course, no central nervous system within the Tea Party. Nor is there a comprehensive platform or call to action other than to call for a return to traditional faith-based Christian values and less government intervention in our lives. For many Americans these are extremely palatable and positive concepts. But the true architects of the movement, such as the Koch brothers, who stoke the flame of discontent in America, are shielded from the public eye; it is as though the machines have come alive through artificial intelligence and are hell-bent on destroying humanity. This week, the anointed spokespeople and demagogues fronting the movement, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, hosted a bizarre yet extremely well-attended rally on the anniversary of Dr. King’s famous civil rights march on Washington where he delivered perhaps his most famous “I Have a Dream” address.

Beck’s hokey, milquetoast evangelism and Palin’s gosh-golly, you-betcha wink-fest played perfectly to the assembled masses who celebrated, or rather, declared that….um…called for us to follow God—well, Christ really—and that we’re going in the wrong direction because the right direction is… uh…backwards! Yes, we need to go backwards! (I watched the speeches and quite honestly I have no idea what the point of the rally was except to further the strength of the Koch zeitgeist through Rupert Murdoch’s bully pulpit and impute the Obama administration for all that is wrong with America.)

This much I do know: The Koch brothers are powerful and evil. Mayer’s deconstruction of the Koch plan for America—or, if you prefer, plan to increase their personal wealth at the expense of the planet and all those who inhabit it—has also exposed the likes of Palin and Beck as the patsies they really are. They aren’t quite stupid, per se, but intellectually inadequate to understand how they are being lulled into the menacing plutocracy that the Koch brothers have woven.

And then, there’s the rest of us. Most Americans don’t have the time or inclination to peel the onion of American politics to reach the rotten core. We are busy raising families, helping neighbors, putting food on the table. In between, however, we are pummeled by talking heads who decry the evils of the left and of the right and tell us how government is either at the root of your woes or the answer to your prayers. Right now, the Koch brothers are riding high by deriding the government and playing the recession for all it is worth. But Jane Mayer peeled back this particular onion to reveal its true inner core and, as expected, not only does it stink, it might even make you cry.