Home > Uncategorized > Link for today (and tomorrow). How the Koch’s hijacked the Trump ticket

Link for today (and tomorrow). How the Koch’s hijacked the Trump ticket

From George Monbiot in The Guardian:

Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

For years, Ebell and the CEI have attacked efforts to limit climate change, through lobbying, lawsuits and campaigns. An advertisement released by the institute had the punchline “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life.”

Corey Lewandowski
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, like other members of Trump’s team, came from a group called Americans for Prosperity. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

It has sought to eliminate funding for environmental education, lobbied against the Endangered Species Act, harried climate scientists and campaigned in favour of mountaintop removal by coal companies. In 2004, Ebell sent a memo to one of George W Bush’s staffers calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to be sacked. Where is Ebell now? Oh – leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals.

In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will.

I could fill this newspaper with the names of Trump staffers who have emerged from such groups: people such as Doug Domenech, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, funded among others by the Koch brothers, Exxon and the Donors Trust; Barry Bennett, whose Alliance for America’s Future (now called One Nation) refused to disclose its donors when challenged; and Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, funded by Exxon and others. This is to say nothing of Trump’s own crashing conflicts of interest. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of the lobbyists and corporate stooges working in Washington. But it looks as if the only swamps he’ll drain will be real ones, as his team launches its war on the natural world

Understandably, there has been plenty of coverage of the racists and white supremacists empowered by Trump’s victory. But, gruesome as they are, they’re peripheral to the policies his team will develop. It’s almost comforting, though, to focus on them, for at least we know who they are and what they stand for. By contrast, to penetrate the corporate misinformation machine is to enter a world of mirrors. Spend too long trying to understand it, and the hyporeality vortex will inflict serious damage on your state of mind.

Don’t imagine that other parts of the world are immune. Corporate-funded thinktanks and fake grassroots groups are now everywhere. The fake news we should be worried about is not stories invented by Macedonian teenagers about Hillary Clinton selling arms to Islamic State, but the constant feed of confected scares about unions, tax and regulation drummed up by groups that won’t reveal their interests.

The less transparent they are, the more airtime they receive. The organisation Transparify runs an annual survey of thinktanks. This year’s survey reveals that in the UK only four thinktanks – the Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs and Policy Exchange – “still consider it acceptable to take money from hidden hands behind closed doors”. And these are the ones that are all over the media.

When the Institute of Economic Affairs, as it so often does, appears on the BBC to argue against regulating tobacco, shouldn’t we be told that it has been funded by tobacco companies since 1963? There’s a similar pattern in the US: the most vocal groups tend to be the most opaque.

As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we work out what to do.

  1. November 30, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you for your years of work which have honed your thoughts until you able to say so much with so few words.

    Insatiable want one place to start definition of the power that is confronting us. It is an affliction suffered by very few that threatens all life. Forgive me if I repeat.

    A vanishingly small percentage of humans are afflicted with insatiable want. Each new possession or conquest, for these wretched souls, is like a fix from heroine that temporarily holds withdrawal pains at bay. Until the next fix is desperately needed.

    Individuals afflicted with insatiable want live in raw terror that someone will come from behind and surpass them. They wear fine cloths and project themselves as responsible leaders of government, military, university and industry. The truth is that such leaders are mostly pirates willing to do anything to anybody and Earth to get more before someone else beats them to it.

    The problem for post-truth political leaders is that evolution is accelerating along with everything but their stagnating infinite growth world economy.

    Truth? There are 420 unique mostly known or suspected carcinogenic chemicals constantly flowing through each American body. The north pole is way above normal temperature.

    Post truth is not speaking about eternal war or historical evidence that that policy causes national collapse; 100%, no exceptions. Unending war is an extreme symptom of insatiable want expressed via destruction of weaker but fearfully imagined potential rivals.

    Insatiable want is an affliction that endangers normal, sane people and every other form of life on Earth.

  2. December 2, 2016 at 9:07 am

    A reasonable estimate of psychopathology in the world population is 2%. That translates to about 190,000,000 people. One of the more common forms of psychopathology is anti-social personality disorder. It’s diagnostic criteria are:
    A. A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since
    age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
    1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
    2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
    3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
    4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
    5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
    6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent
    work behavior or honor financial obligations.
    7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt,
    mistreated, or stolen from another.
    B. The individual is at least age 18 years.
    C. There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
    D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia
    or bipolar disorder.

    No matter how much credence we give psychiatry or psychiatric diagnosis we must be aware that not all human minds operate the same way. For genetic, biologic, environmental, and other reasons some stand out as exceptional. Abraham Lincoln was one of these, but so was Adolph Hitler. Such differences and their impacts are a challenge for every society. But particularly for democratic societies. In a democratic society one smart sociopath can create discord in the society and distress/death for a large number of individuals. I think many of those you write about here are sociopaths. Some have suggested killing all sociopaths soon as they show symptoms. Others suggest they be isolated in special hospitals. I don’t have any magic solutions for the problem. But it does need to be on the radar of everyone, especially those charged with the general welfare of societal norms.

  3. patrick newman
    December 2, 2016 at 10:21 am

    The BBC seem to be fascinated by the IEA and hardly a week goes by without their representative, Mark Littlewood, promoting their ideological Weltanschauung sometime expressed in the venacular of economics. In the UK there is the phenomenon of major newspapers continuously campaigning against boith liberal ideas and against the people who express them often on a highly personal character assassined basis. Yes we must know our enemies!

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