Monday, November 29, 2010

For Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Bros., isn't their hobby also their business?


One category of people I've always envied like crazy is people whose hobby, or to put it another way the thing they most like to engage in, is what they do for their livelihood. At times in my life I thought I was sort of within striking distance, but the reality really didn't come all that close. This envious soul burrowing inside me guesses that this isn't a problem for people like the Koch brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David, and NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch and his hand-picked master of Fox Noise, Roger Ailes.

I raise the point not to expose my envious inner self but to suggest one of the scarifying realities we on the Left face in grappling with the archdemons of the Right. In this connection I'm going to take issue with someone I rarely find myself in disagreement with, AlterNet's estimable Washington editor Adele Stan, who wrote a provocative piece not long ago which included among its targets none other than our Rupert. In the end, as I'll try to argue, I think our difference is inconsequential practically speaking, but the basis for my disagreement seems to me important for a fundamental difference in the relative posture and long-term sustainability of Left and Right.

Addie made the case that what makes someone like Old Rupe so dangerous is that, however important profits may be to him, ideology is more important. And when you have pockets as deep as his, an ideological commitment of this intensity is an exceedingly powerful and dangerous force. Really, our disagreement is slight. Rupert Murdoch is indeed an exceedingly powerful and dangerous force. I would merely argue that this isn't in spite of his hunger for profits but because of it. As best I can tell, Old Rupe and the Kochs and most of the other solons of the extreme Right, especially the ones who are actually in business to make money as opposed to dispensing inherited wealth (although of course many of those business-serious types had a leg up from starting with at least a modest financial cushion), are in the enviable position of having that seamless connection between their personal appetites and their livelihood.

This was a point that Jane Mayer stressed in her remarkable New Yorker exploration of the financial world of the Koch brothers "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama." Almost at the outset of her remarkable piece-- and if you still haven't read it, it has become if anything more timely over these three months -- she reports:
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry -- especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a "kingpin of climate science denial." The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.

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