Thursday, May 2, 2013

Liberals on Koch

Years and years ago the culture king Richard Hofstadter wrote The Paranoid Style in American Politics.  That was in the glory days when liberals knew they were going to inherit the earth.  Here is Hofstadter stating his thesis.
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years, we have seen angry minds at work, mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated, in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But, behind this, I believe, there is a style of mind that is far from new, and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style, simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.
He goes on write about fear of Illuminism, Freemasonry, the Jesuits, ending up with the paranoia of McCarthyism and the John Birch Society.

Only, of course, there really were Communists in the State Department and they really were spying for the Soviet Union.

I like to say that, when people lose four presidential elections in a row, they start to get crazy, and they start to look for something under the bed.  That is what happened to the right in the late 1940s.  Also, of course, when things start to go wrong people are tempted to see the hand of Satan.

Things aren't going too well for liberals right now, and so they are inclined to look for the hand of Satan and hidden conspiracies.

Like the Koch Brothers, principal owners of Koch Industries, a private multinational corporation
involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, as well as other ventures and investments. The firm employs 50,000 people in the United States and another 20,000 in 59 other countries.
I don't know who first decided to gin the Kochs up as Principal Corporate Villains, but you can see the convenience of putting a human face on oil companies and conservative foundations.

Your average Exxon-Mobil is merely a public corporation led by faceless corporate bureaucrats.  The Koch brothers are libertarians that fund Reason magazine, the Cato Institute, have put a bit of money into climate skepticism, and also do things like fund a new science center at their New England prep school, Deerfield Academy.

Yes, the Koch brothers are libertarians not snaggle-toothed Christian conservatives.

Now the Koch brothers are thinking of buying the Tribune newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times that was once owned by the liberal Chandler family.  It turns out that the journalists at the Times are terrified.
The thought of the Koch brothers purchasing the Los Angeles Times so distressed staffers attending a recent in-house award ceremony that half of them raised their hands when asked if they would quit their jobs should the paper — which has come out of bankruptcy court and is very much for sale — fall into the two oil billionaires’ portfolio, the Huffington Post reported recently.
Oh please.

In my view liberals are shooting themselves in the foot by getting their knickers in a twist over the Koch brothers -- not to mention Christian conservatives, right-wing "hate groups" and corporate personhood.  It shows that liberals are worried.  And you don't want to let your enemy think that you are getting a case of the shivers.

If liberals had any sense they would be working night and day trying to figure out how to fix the mess in the economy and the train wreck that we call the welfare state.  If liberals could straighten that out it wouldn't matter what a couple of libertarian businessmen were doing or what the Christian conservatives were doing.  Liberals would be expanding their majority as Americans in their millions would come to experience the liberals as wise and sensible leaders.

But in fact the liberals are sitting in a circle complaining that the all-powerful Koch brothers aided by the wascally Wepublicans in Congress have spoiled the soup.  They have no ideas for jump-starting the economy except more government spending and more debt; they have no ideas for fixing the welfare state other than more of the same.  Oh and they think it would be a great idea to go back to the tax rates of the 1950s when everyone had a good job at good wages at a big corporation.

That's when people gravitate towards the paranoid style in American politics.  When they are flat out of ideas and flat out of get up and go.

I was talking to a liberal friend the other day.  She still thinks that Barack Obama is an intellectual.  And she is old enough to know that you cannot believe anything you read about presidents until people start to write the show-and-tell biographies long after the powerful have left the stage.

Really, the liberal obsession with the Koch brothers is the most encouraging political portent out there.  It shows that liberals have lost it.

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