I recently listened to two interviews with Jane Mayer on her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
During the interviews she explicitly pointed to the power of the Koch Machine to change the public opinion and attitudes with their think tanks, universities, and media.
They push a idea that the climate problem doesn’t exist, or–if it does exist--there is nothing we can do about it.
Marketeers and messaging gurus from the fossil fuel industry have invested 100’s of millions in a narrative that rejects science and human governments’ ability to act. They want to destroy the hope that we have the ability to make changes.
They throw doubt into scientific successes (“Blank can never replace coal/oil/gas”) while killing legislation that supports other forms of energy
In the superior interview Mayer gave on The Majority Report with Sam Seder she talked to an audience who knew of the Koch brothers and understood the damage they have done that goes beyond elections.
The Koch network’s influence extends into academia, media, state and local politics. This influence will continue no matter who is elected President this fall.
In the interview on KQED’s Forum, host Michael Krasny suggested that because the Kochs aren’t winning Presidential elections they aren’t effective. He quotes polls saying the public isn’t buying the Koch message. Fortunately Mayer strongly pushes back on that idea and reminds listeners the Kochs are painfully effective.
She points out how the Kochs’ have already pushed the conversation to the right on the national scale regarding climate change. Their captured politicians are repeating radical right wing ideas. Then she drops the other shoe, all the money that doesn’t go to Presidential candidates won’t be held back, it will go down ticket to Koch candidates at the state and local level.
When I listen to an analysis by the mainstream media of the power of money in the current Presidential elections, I can almost hear a sense of relief, or even glee behind their stories. “Relax Americans, money can’t buy the Presidency!” They point to Romney’s failure last time and the failure of Jeb and all the billionaire backed boys this time.
Stories like Sanders raising money from the 99% with his “average contribution of 27 dollars” or Trump’s record of “barely spending any money” assuages their fear that their reporting is obsolete. Ads still don’t trump editorial (yes that works as a pun but damn it, I’m not giving up a perfectly good word!).
On the publishing side they are gleeful about Citizens United and dark money. Not only are the billionaires still spending money on advertising, they can say it isn’t impacting the electoral results therefore they are in the clear for not acknowledging the power of money. Plus, the entertainment value of the GOP debates has boosted boring old viewership, so the prices the media corps can charge for regular advertising is maintained.
This whole scenario is perfect for them. They can avoid their role as the 4th estate in putting a check on power. “You see folks? Citizens United advertising dollars didn’t impact the Presidential elections and since that’s the only one that matters, our hands are clean. ”
What is bizarre is that media companies always tell advertisers that ads work, that’s why they are expensive. They will continue to tell candidates they work, even when they have been proved wrong.
Some big money people have figured out that “earned media” (I hate that phrase) is very powerful, so they have created their own media network and print outlets. Others, “the dumb money” still pour millions into ads, it’s not like anyone is going to turn down their cash on a 4th tier candidate who doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning. “Of course we’ll take your ads for our network of media outlets. And, by the way, we know some TOP people who can help you create new ads tailored for our market. Your people might know New York, but WE know the midwest/south/northeast market.”
Krasny ends with the classic, “What is to be done?” question. Mayer doesn’t point to a specific answer, since her role as a journalist is to show people what is happening. It is up to us to act.
Following Mayer’s interview I read the comments on Forum. Between the Koch defenders and libertarians, a listener, Ben Rawner, asked:
How can Americans do anything to stop this?
There are many ways Ben, in my case, I help stop them by supporting groups that have successful fought the Kochs, like my friends at the Center for Media and Democracy.
They have not only exposed the Kochs in the past, they have actively combated their schemes to change laws and influence politicians at multiple levels. Mayer’s too on the task of writing about a very powerful secretive group. I think it was chilling when the Kochs went after Mayer with a private investigator? Imagine how they respond to a group that regularlys get between the Kochs and their plans.
The main stream media might want to ignore the real impact of dark money, but we can’t. I recommend donating to CMD, since, unlike the MSM, they don’t make money off Koch product ads or Koch political ads.