The Koch Brothers seem to be in the middle of a strategy shift. Previously the billionaire oil barons who made their money the old fashioned way (they inherited it) used various think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation to launder their deregulation and tax cut agenda. Now the Kochs, after advancing astroturfing groups like FreedomWorks to browbeat the press, are trying to get into the media business outright. Various properties have caught their eye for purchase including the Tribune Company and now they are seeing partnership opportunities with popular blogs. Enter Buzzfeed and their “immigration summit” event which was sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute.
Smith has been curiously silent about the Koch-BuzzFeed partnership, and probably for good reason.
After I sent this news of this to Mark Ames, he reminded me that this isn’t the first time Ben Smith has boosted for the Kochs. In 2011, Ben Smith attacked a report published in The Nation by Ames and Mike Elk that exposed how Citizen United made it perfectly legal for the Kochs to begin politically indoctrinating their employees, telling workers how to vote and warning them that they could lose their jobs as a result of big-government policies. Smith yawned at evidence of Koch indoctrination exposed by Ames and Elk, saying that their “quirky, staid newsletter may not swing a lot of votes.”
Smith’s report downplays concerns about the Koch Brothers telling their employees who they should vote for, something anyone with a firing neuron in their head would realize is political intimidation. Smith, a child of privilege, seems not to understand the terror workers feel when their boss tells them that if they don’t do something they could lose their job – directly or indirectly.
I’d never paid close attention to Smith before, but on scanning his record I saw a surprising consistency: every time the Koch cartel comes under serious criticism, every time someone tries to expose another layer of their toxic influence and political corruption, every time a news item threatens their well-guarded racket, Ben Smith is there, calmly and coolly redirecting traffic and reassuring people that everything is okay. His tactic is simple: downplay the importance of the news and deflect attention.
He did exactly that just a few weeks ago in response to the backlash against rumors that the Kochs were thinking of buying the Tribune Company, tweeting out one “could imagine the Kochs being really excellent newspaper proprietors” and then pointing out that David Koch generously pledged to donate $100 million to the New York City Ballet. See, the Kochs aren’t as bad as people say. They care for the arts!
The tweet Levine references is typical elitist rationalization. Because a plutocrat has artistic interests their political pursuits are benign? Need I even cite an example to disprove that? Oh fine just one.
For the rest of the examples of Smith doing embarrassing things for Koch read the NSFW story. I, for one, will now look elsewhere for my cat pictures and listicles.