A new book unravels the strategies behind the Koch brothers' war on the environment

From ToxicLeaks

Jane Mayer just published a new book about the Koch brothers, and it explains all the hidden tactics the Koch brothers have used again and again to promote their agenda to sacrifice the environment for the sake of their profits. An enlightening perspective on the dirty schemes in the war to protect fossil fuels and destroy the consensus on climate change.

A political machine made of dozens of groups to push their climate change denial agenda[edit | edit source]

Jane Mayer's book describes the intricate strategy of the Koch brothers to defend their own interests no matter what the environmental consequences may be. The first one of these strategies is to create a galaxy of groups that "mobilized public opinion" into defending their ideas, namely fighting the consensus on climate change and any policy that might slow it down or stop it. The biggest of these groups is “Americans for prosperity (AFP)”. The Koch brothers co-founded it with ExxonMobil and gave over $5 million to support it since 2005. That kind of money isn't just philanthropy. And AFP has been named "Koch brothers' main political arm." The groups claims to represent millions of Americans that are uniting to protect their “economic freedom” but the bottom line is that the main thing it has done is fighting action on climate change, defending fossil fuels no matter how polluting they might be and criticizing clean energies at every turn. Another key group is the Cato Institute, that was also co-founded by the Koch brothers. This group also promoted their agenda but used another method : attacking the scientific consensus on climate change. It used every bit of manipulation it could think of to question the findings of hard science by producing its own non-scientific reports. The apex of this gutter strategy was the so-called “Climategate” of 2011 when the Cato Institute tried to push the idea that the consensus on climate change was built on data falsification on the part of scientists. The problem is that, as Jane Mayer points out, the Koch brothers "had built and financed a private political machine," with "educational institutions and think tanks all over the country", and this "growing fleet of nonprofit groups" could support the misinformation campaigns, giving the false impression that the views they pushed were strongly implanted throughout the country. This is how the Koch brothers got their opinions to seep into mainstream media. That and with the help of vast amounts of cash.

Buying their way into conservative media to echo their climate denial views[edit | edit source]

Jane Mayer quotes Harvard scholar Theda Skocpol who highlights the success of the Koch brothers in getting their views in the media : "Climate denial got disseminated deliberately and rapidly from think tank tomes to the daily media fare of about thirty to forty percent of the U.S. Populace." The critical mass of the the Koch brothers' system of communication opened the doors of mainstream media to their so-called “experts”. During the “Climategate scandal”, a “scholar” from the Cato Institute gave more than 20 interviews "from obviously slanted venues to the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post, adding mainstream credence." Of course on top of this subtle infiltration of mainstream media, the Koch brothers were also proceeding in a much more straightforward way to secure some news “outlets”. News organs were created by the Koch brothers or some close allies, for instance Foster Friess, a regular donor to Koch brothers causes, gave the seed money to fund the Daily Caller, a conservative website that promotes the sinistre worldview of the two billionaires. Even more horrifying, the front groups of the Koch brothers hired conservative journalists from mainstream media to express the opinions of the fossil-fuel behemoths. That's how they got Mark Levin, a conservative radio host, to blast climate scientists and accuse them of "inventing global warming in order to justify a tyrannical government takeover." Of course the deal Mark Levin struck with the Koch brothers was kept very discreet. After all, who would trust a corporation that has to pay journalists in order to get good press ? But that's precisely the thing. The system of the Koch brothers is organized so that the public doesn't know they are funding these campaigns.

The links between these loathsome campaigns and the Koch brothers are always hidden[edit | edit source]

What makes their strategy so tragically efficient is that none of these actions are easily traced back to them. Groups like AFP or the Cato Institute are very careful not to reveal that there are tied to big oil corporations like Koch Industries. And this makes their tactics all the more deadly. For instance, the AFP was deeply involved in the organisation of the “Tea Party rebellion”. However, the Koch brothers said that they had nothing to do with this movement. This is a clever and vicious lie because "such denials helped shape the early narrative of the Tea Party movement as an amateur uprising by ordinary citizens", according to Jane Mayer. By hiding the fact that they are at the source of these campaigns, the Koch brothers make the public believe that the views advocated are coming from ordinary citizens, and not from the bloated corporation Koch Industries is. This drives Jane Mayer to describe the activism of the billionaires as "shrouded in secrecy". Another great example of this is the meeting they hold to invite potential conservative donors to convince them of making sizable contributions to their campaigns. These twice a year events used to be completely closed to journalists. Now they are allowed in but only at specific times and under very tight conditions. This has allowed the Koch brothers to manipulate the journalists by only giving them access to information that improved their image. And some mainstream media have fallen for it and have written the stories the Koch brothers wanted them to write, while the dirty deals were made out of earshot of the journalists. According to media ethicists, this kind of relationship is “outrageous”. Jane Kirtley, professor at the School of Journalism of Minnesota University, contends that the media should "refuse to attend under these circumstances." Indeed the journalists that attend have no chance to give the public any information about the nefarious influence of the Koch brothers over the action on climate change, instead they end up contributing to their hagiography and making their influence even stronger, at the expense of the environment and the people. This is why every journalist who attempts to do his job and report what the Koch brothers are really doing with their financial and political influence faces serious intimidation.

Intimidation against journalists that criticize them[edit | edit source]

Jane Mayer is a case in point of the brutal retaliation the Koch brothers exert against anyone who dares to expose how deeply they are committed to fighting the solutions we desperately need against climate change. Since 2010, Jane Mayer has consistently worked to reveal that the billionaires have been fighting science and clean energy policies and she has taken heavy fire from them because of that. Articles attacking her have been published in the Daily Caller. Smear campaigns were planned to kill her credibility. The Koch brothers commandeered a private investigation to find “dirt” on her and when that didn't work they tried to create some from thin air. Jane Mayer learned that the Daily Caller was about to publish a piece portraying her as a plagiarist. But in the end, the journalists she was accused of having plagiarized supported her and the article was cancelled. Other journalists who have dared to seriously investigate the Koch brothers' implication in climate change denial groups were also intimidated. The website KochFacts.com repeatedly publishes “ad hominem attacks, questioning the professionalism and integrity of reporters whose work the company found unflattering, ranging from The New York Times to Politico." For instance, David Sassoon of InsideClimate News has been called a "professional eco-activist" and an "agenda-driven activist." It would almost be funny to hear the Koch brothers call someone an "agenda-driven activist", because no one is as agenda-driven as the two billionaires. But it's really horrifying, because they are not only driving us all into the abyss with their fossil-fuel ideology, they are also undermining the very principles of our democracy, the freedom of the press.

However, Jane Mayer's book is also the proof that their strategy is failing, because she was not deterred by intimidating and is continuing to expose their tremendous efforts to protect their fossil fuel profits even though they are killing the planet in the process.