What follows was the last item on the latest Harper’s Weekly Report:
In a new book, the longtime GOP megadonor Charles Koch called for Americans to bridge political divides and expressed regret for the harmful effects of his partisanship. “Boy, did we screw up! What a mess!” wrote Koch.
I’m not going to rant and rave about this, I’m not. I’m going to do something far more useful.
But first, let me tell you a little tale I picked up in the 1960s, when 42nd Street was packed with movie theaters playing B, C and D movies in double bills until the wee hours. Or maybe all night, I don’t remember.
The double bills were very, very cheap. Of course, so were the movies, but it was a thing among downtown musicians and singers to go to these movies every once in a while. I went to a double bill of “The Mask of the Red Death” and something else with my then boyfriend and a couple of other friends.
How to describe the theaters? Well, all kinds of people were napping in their seats and the floor beneath our feet was so thickly scummy with years of who knew what, your shoes would stick to it and it took muscle to pull your feet up out of the muck when you wanted to leave.
So here’s the little tale, reported by a friend as if he had heard it personally when sitting in a theater balcony watching a film.
A guy was yelling, “You’re sorry?! You’re sorry?! You piss on my date’s foot and all you can say is you’re sorry???!!!”
One of the main progenitors of “Libertarianism,” or what I call the Neu Wannsee Conference, a/k/a the Koch Bros Final Solution to Democracy, now says he screwed up.
I do not trust Charles Koch’s “apology.” The Koch Bros discovered how to create a mob willing to swallow whole the dogma fed to them and then they manipulated that mob into voting for malicious clowns and kakistocrats, in appalling contradiction to the mob’s own needs and interests.
Koch now realizes that he may be able to create a mob but he can’t control it. That’s all he’s sorry for.
I’ve been thinking and writing about the Koch Machine since…gee, I just looked at the dates and am sort of surprised. I’ve been sniffing around the Kochs since 2012. Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve learned about them primarily from books.
While not all of these books directly address the Koch Machine, for me they add up to explanations for what has happened to our politics and to us.
The How The Fuck Did The Last Four Years Happen Book List
Escape From Freedom (1941), by Erich Fromm. “If humanity cannot live with the dangers and responsibilities inherent in freedom, it will probably turn to authoritarianism…If the rise of democracy set some people free, at the same time it gave birth to a society in which the individual feels alienated and dehumanized. Using the insights of psychoanalysis as probing agents, Fromm’s work analyzes the illness of contemporary civilization as witnessed by its willingness to submit to totalitarian rule.”
I read it in the late 1960s and never forgot it.
What’s The Matter With Kansas? (2004), by Thomas Frank. “This was my first foray into politics, and I did it by asking the biggest question of them all: Why do so many decent, average people support a politics that does them such obvious harm?
“I answered that question by doing a close study of my home state of Kansas, the most decent, average state of them all. Kansas is a place with a radical past but which has become in recent decades the greatest culture-war battlefield of them all, as its workers and farmers enlist in futile right-wing crusades over abortion and the theory of evolution . . . and as the Republican party successfully strengthens corporations in their simultaneous war against workers and farmers…”
Koch Industries headquarters are in Wichita, Kansas.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America (2017), by Nancy MacLean. “What is really happening to American politics? Behind the headlines of billionaires taking over our government is the surprising story of a secretive cause with deep and troubling roots. Democracy in Chains uncovers the history of the well-heeled radical right’s vast network and explains why this movement doesn’t want simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance as we have known it in the United States. But while billionaires now drive the effort, they did not start it; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Nancy MacLean names the true author of this cause’s playbook — the Nobel Prize-winning economist James McGill Buchanan–and documents for the first time the strategy he and his collaborators developed over six decades to disempower the majority.”
It’s an important, scary history. Reminder: Hillary Clinton told us about a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016), by Jane Mayer. “Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? In a riveting and indelible feat of reporting, Jane Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats—headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys—who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system…Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.”