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writing for godot

Robber Barons Redux: Powerful Oligarchs Team Up To Usurp American Democracy

Written by George Monroe   
Tuesday, 07 May 2019 10:17

How did America’s image change from being a spiritually-inspired “light unto the world” to that of a pariah nation focused on bullying fear and exploitation? What happened to slowly erode belief in our democratic values? How did our election processes get so badly corrupted? When did our Constitution and moral imperatives cease to function as guides for making decisions about the general welfare? Why did we start to feel sadness, shame and anger at news of our President’s behavior and alliances? There are answers to these questions that have long been buried in deliberate secrecy. This article exposes some of the most egregious people and behaviors that have put us in serious danger of losing our beloved democracy.

There are some wonderful attributes of the United States of America that I have proudly witnessed over the past fifty years. Today, I deeply mourn the loss of many of them in our memories and social discourse. Some examples that touch me deeply are: an exalted image of the United States based on principled and compassionate strength; developing nations inviting a former U.S. President to teach them democratic procedures and monitor elections; our Constitution regarded as divinely inspired; thinking people everywhere viewing our democratic republic as something desirable to emulate; generous financial support being provided for public education; schools focused on teaching children to be critical thinkers; civic benefits and responsibilities of democracy taught at all grade levels; the foibles and gains of our history compassionately exhumed and studied; our country regarded around the world as a champion of civil rights; a grateful post-war world holding American fighting men in high regard; a grateful nation bestowing many benefits on its victorious warriors with provisions of the GI Bill; men and women educated under the GI Bill contributing ideas and labor worth many times the expense of providing those benefits; young people proudly marching in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades showcasing the hard work and accomplishments of middle class families.

All of these excellent things occurred while our nation recovered from the terrible death and destruction of WWII. The general mood in our country was upbeat, innovative, and generous.  It felt exceptionally good to be a U.S. citizen. At the same time, however, a small group of individuals obsessed with money and power vowed to destroy the nascent democracy that they felt was standing in their way. This article seeks to shed light on what has happened since that decision was made, expose those who are responsible for the losses we are feeling, and offer some suggestions for turning back the assault.

In her deeply researched and groundbreaking book first published in 2016, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer lays bare the story of influential interlocking organizations secretly created by the Koch brothers to fundamentally alter the American political system. She illuminates the history of an elite group of plutocrats, headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys, who have financed a plan to systematically eliminate our democracy and give wealthy elites control of the government. This book is a must-read for understanding their plan to force acceptance of a free-market design based on economics research conducted around the world by American economist Milton Friedman.

Mayer’s book also provides a deep look into the family background and formative experiences of Charles Koch who has emerged as the inspired leader of the group that Mayer calls the New American Oligarchy. From interviews with family acquaintances, former employees, and reading the official corporate history of Koch Industries she details the development of a family obsessively focused on acquiring money and power. Fred Koch, the stern patriarch and father of four boys, including Charles, learned early from painful experiences with the prevailing power structures that to succeed one must fight hard with no holds barred. As one long time family employee told Mayer, “they believe justice can be bought, and the rules are for chumps.”

This viewpoint and evidence of how it led to great prosperity was drummed into his sons by the harshly “toughening” lessons Fred provided. Fred Koch’s rule was absolute, and his idea of punishment was physical, with bare hands, sticks, or leather belts.  Another family member told Mayer “Fred wasn’t around much but when his sons misbehaved, they really got it.” Although it isn’t possible to verify that their early experience with such harsh authority is the root cause of their current preoccupation with freedom from external control, it is interesting to note that they are running behemoth businesses over which they exert absolute control and simultaneously promote stealthy movements against democracy.

Sometime during the year 2000, brothers Charles and David Koch convened a gathering of like-minded plutocrats to develop a long-range plan to shift national public policy to the right. The plan was to have three areas of focus: (1) educating grass roots activists, (2) influencing politics, and (3) buying media outlets.  Although they were best known for funding conservative causes and conservative politicians, the Koch brothers had not been much involved with media ownership before this meeting. Afterward, they moved out strongly to promote investing in media purchases as a promising new way to influence public thinking and political support.

According to an article written by Sasha Chavkin and published in the April 22, 2013 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), entitled The Koch Brothers’ Media Investment, Charles and David helped to launch and finance the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. It gave them a substantial journalistic outlet for their own vision of straightforward, issues-oriented journalism. The Center claimed strict journalistic integrity in exposing misuse of public funds and shady dealings of public officials. At the same time, it was found to “occasionally blur reporting and opinion to go beyond the facts of its findings.”

With the Franklin Center in operation, the Koch brothers were in a prime position to influence public acceptance of a plan that would eliminate our democracy and replace it with a plutocracy managed by wealthy elites.  It also set the stage for two of the most wealthy and powerful men in the world to see great benefits in joining their forces for a pincers-type movement against those who would resist the assault on democracy. Enter, stage right: media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who has a sordid history of buying and using media outlets to advance a far-right ideology that is akin to the plan being promoted by Charles Koch.

An article written by Australia’s 26th Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on August 27, 2018, entitled Cancer Eating at the Heart of Australian Democracy, reveals all that is necessary to understand Murdoch’s use of the media as a tactical weapon against democracy. The following excerpts from Rudd’s terse article describe Murdoch’s media actions in Australia and Britain that earned him strong disapproval and resulted in restrictive government sanctions:

Murdoch operates as a political party, acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world-view.

In Britain, Murdoch made Brexit possible because of the position taken by his papers.  In the United States, Murdoch’s Fox News is the political echo chamber of the far right, which enabled the Tea Party and then the Trump party to stage a takeover of the Republican Party. Murdoch has campaigned for decades in support of tax cuts for the wealthy, killing action on climate change and destroying anything approximating multiculturalism.

What’s unique about Australia is Murdoch owns two-thirds of the country’s print media.  No other democracy             has anything approaching his effective media monopoly.

Murdoch moved from Australia to Britain in 1968 and bought the News of the World, Britain’s biggest newspaper.  Also, he scooped up the ailing Sun newspaper which he re-marketed with a sex and sensation formula that made it the biggest selling newspaper in the country. His personal fortune grew exponentially. However, both of his papers were frequently accused of biased political manipulation and distortion of the news to insure that his political allies won elections.  When British lawmakers passed laws in 1995 limiting how much of the media one company can control, he angrily closed down one ailing newspaper and moved the center of his business operations to America where he bought 20th Century Fox and established America’s fourth television network.

Murdoch has always put his business interests first, taking huge gambles and creating whole new industries. In the process, however, his opponents claimed he manipulated governments, lowered standards, and sidestepped regulations, in order to to become the world’s first truly global media mogul. In 2010, based on wealth and media ownership, he was ranked by business magazine Forbes as the 13th most powerful man in the world. A year later, thought to be worth around $6.3 billion, he was ranked as the 117th wealthiest person in the world.

As the sole owner of Twentieth Century Fox and its media outlets Murdoch was in a position to control its media messages. He was able to do that through his influence with Roger Ailes, the iron-handed creator and President of Fox News whose political views and tactics resonated strongly with those of his powerful employer.  Ailes’ arrangement with Murdoch was a Faustian bargain that did produce Fox News, the very powerful and pervasive tool for influencing public opinion toward the right that his boss expected. However, his demeaning treatment of office staff gained him many enemies. Eventually, a successful lawsuit by women employees he abused when they resisted his demand for sexual favors caused Murdoch to publicly dethrone him.

Before his ignominious downfall, Ailes worked with Roger Stone and other devoted minions of the Murdoch/Koch empires to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. Trump’s task, assumed or assigned, is to take down the present government piece by piece, including the democratic features of the law, so that wrongdoing by himself and other elites have no boundaries and statutory punishments can be avoided. His appointees to White House Staff and government program positions understand and accept the unwritten charge their boss expects them to loyally exercise. The goal is not to simply lock-in a controlling majority party. It is the total elimination of all representative parties and their restrictive democratic rules and laws.

In December of 2017, the HuffingtonPost published an article updated and resubmitted by Robert Greenwald, founder and President of Brave New Films (BNF), What Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers Have In Common. It was first published in July of 2011, to announce the release of a bold new film, Koch Brothers Exposed, a revealing documentary about the corruption and pooling of power by the Murdoch and Koch empires for replacing our democracy with a plutocracy managed by elites. On May 20, 2014, BNF re-released an updated version of the film. It continued where the original film left off, by looking into how the Koch Brothers sponsored the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, and used that move to broaden their hold on American politics. The film is an astounding must-see.  It will chase the darkness away with bright light and give viewers a measure of power to help stop the wanton destruction barreling down upon our beloved country.

Help is the right word here because individual awareness is not powerful enough to get the job done.  It must be done by millions working together to form a grass-roots based power great enough to stop the stealthy machinations of the Murdoch and Koch empires to destroy our democracy. It must have the ability to pass legislation for holding Fox News, and other corporate media giants liable when they engage in deliberate lies and distortions of the truth. A lot of (real) truth is now available, but not on Fox News. Share this article as widely as you can.  Exercise your creativity to bring it respectfully to the attention of thoughtful people deluded and disenfranchised by Fox News.  It won’t be easy, and the information will not always be graciously received, but uplifted awareness on a wide basis is absolutely essential to save our democracy. Suggest that they see the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed. It is now available free at You your social media marketing partner
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