In Which "left-wing think tanks are nonpartisan watchdogs, but the free-market ones are part of some covert stealth nefarious plot"

Ira Stoll does a good job of articulating the qualms I had yesterday when reading Jane Mayer's big Koch Brothers hit piece in The New Yorker:

Ms. Mayer lets "Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group," sum up the Koch brothers: "The Kochs are on a whole different level. There's no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I've been in Washington since Watergate, and I've never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times."

Charles Lewis is a left-winger and the Center for Public Integrity gets its funding from left-wing foundations including George Soros's Open Society Institute and Barbra Streisand's Streisand Foundation. [...]

Ms. Mayer describes what she calls "the Kochs' subsidization of a pro-corporate movement." But a lot of Koch-backed institutions would be more accurately characterized as pro-individual or pro-small-government than as "pro-corporate." These think thanks and professors and groups were criticizing ObamaCare when the drug companies were backing it, criticizing TARP when the investment banks were backing it, criticizing the auto bailout when GM and Chrysler were begging for it, criticizing "clean energy" subsidies when GE and Ford were begging for them. [...]

Ms. Mayer tries to suggest something is wrong with the Koch family backing George Mason University.

It is an unusual arrangement. "George Mason is a public university, and receives public funds," Stein noted. "Virginia is hosting an institution that the Kochs practically control."

But there's nothing the slightest bit unusual about a publicly funded university also accepting private funds with some strings attached. Stephen Ross gave $100 million to the University of Michigan and had the business school named after him. The Walton family gave the University of Arkansas $300 million.

Ms. Mayer uses an anonymous source to accuse the Kochs:

An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it "a means of laundering economic aims." The lawyer explained the strategy: "You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank," which "hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders."

How is that any different from what Ms. Mayer is doing with the neutral sounding "Center for Public Integrity" and "National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy"? [...]

In Ms. Mayer's world, the left-wing think tanks are nonpartisan watchdogs, but the free-market ones are part of some covert stealth nefarious plot to create "slippery organizations with generic-sounding names" by two brothers who are big corporate polluters. It's an amazing double standard.

Whole thing here; related Stoll post here.

I am a big admirer of Jane Mayer, and her article is worth reading for anyone who's interested in the topic, but is seems a clear case of describing two apples with different adjectives because one smells funny (the George Soros paragraph in the article is a classic of the form). Whether the piece amounts to a kind of opening White House legal salvo against some of its biggest critics is something worth monitoring closely over the next two-plus months (and two-plus years). Given President Obama's increasingly hysterical (and hypocritical) attacks against "the influence wielded by corporations and foreign entities," it's clear that the campaign will have rhetorical legs at the least.

UPDATE: Randy Barrett, the director of communications for the Center for Public Integrity, takes issue with Stoll's characterization. His response in full:

The Center for Public Integrity is not a left-wing group. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on investigative journalism. The Center does receive funding from the Open Society Institute, but OSI is but one of dozens of foundations and individuals who have supported the Center's work over the last 20 years, including the Annenberg Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation. You can find a full list of our current funders here.

The Center makes it explicitly clear to all our supporters that they cannot exert any influence whatsoever over the editorial content of our stories. Our work speaks for itself. Over the past two years, Center stories have been honored by the Overseas Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi, the National Press Club and Investigative Reporters and Editors, among others.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    "An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it "a means of laundering economic aims." The lawyer explained the strategy: "You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank," which "hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders."

    So let me get this straight. People can take their own money. And then use it to hire people to do research and to further ideas that the donor believes in. OMG, we clearly need to repeal the 1st Amendment. I mean where do people get off using their own money to promote what they consider to be the truth?

  • Draco||

    I know, right? The Leftists will probably want to pass a new law (call it the Fairness in Research Doctrine!) which states that if you fund any research, and a government review of your research shows that it leans more than 50% in a direction which the government (or elitist Leftist opinion, which is usually the same thing) deems is "in your interest" then you must spend more money producing research which comes to the opposite conclusion, until you've reached "balance."

  • Fire Tiger||

    Actually I think the likelier outcome will be that any time a researcher from a think tank is quoted, all donors to that think tank above a certain financial level will have to be listed.

  • Shitty Friend||

    John, I'm not normally a fan of your posts. But, I give credit where credit is due. Great Job!

  • ||

    step 1 Get mindbogglingly rich
    step 2 give money to non-profit that you politically agree with.
    step 3 ???
    step 4 Profit!!

  • ||

    I think the implied message there is: "You're too stupid for freedom." Just as a parent will take a sharp knife away from a child for the child's own good, these "smart" people will take freedom away from us for "our own good".

    Except we're not children, and they're not smart.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    The Kochtopus has but six arms? That explains a lot.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Oh, but what are the other two doing? Manipulating our brains, thus we can't see them.

  • Ted S.||

    As does the octopus in It Came From Beneath the Sea.

  • Fire Tiger||

    before I click the link, this isn't Japanese octopus porn is it?

  • ||

    No, that's It Came Beneath the Sea.

  • Ted S.||

    Only if you count Ray Harryhausen among Japanese octopus porn. ;-)

  • ||

    A thus it is time for SHARKTOPUS.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Sextopus?

  • TXLimey||

    When I read Kochtopus and Sextopus I can't help but feel that this is turning into another comments thread that revolves around porn.

  • ||

    "I am a big admirer of Jane Mayer, and her article is worth reading for anyone who's interested in the topic, but is seems a clear case of describing two apples with different adjectives because one smells funny (the George Soros paragraph in the article is a classic of the form)."

    So you are a big admirer of Jane Meyer even though you admit in the next breath she is a total hack who just wrote an dishonest hit piece.

    Uh Okay.

  • Matt Welch||

    Has someone you ever admired disappointed you?

  • ||

    Fair enough. But what has she ever done that is admirable?

  • Matt Welch||

    Lots of other articles, particularly (though not only) about European politics. Her extraordinary rendition piece in 2005.

  • Mark Young||

    Matt, Your good will and civility are to be applauded.

  • Liberaltarians for Obama||

    No one comes to mind...

  • ||

    Circle gets the square!

  • The Gobbler||

    "Has someone you ever admired disappointed you?"

    Peter Suderman. Every. Fucking. Monday.

  • Abdul||

    Charitably, I thought her Soros line was a nuanced and subtle shout-out to people--like us--who notice the rhetorical tricks reporters use to spin their reporting. You know, the lines like: "Blue Foundation, a non-partisan watchdog, criticized the Red Institute--a far-right activist ground funded by corporations--about . . . ."

  • Fire Tiger||

    He's looking for a date?

  • -||

    Ira Stoll does a good job of articulating the qualms I had yesterday when reading Jane Mayer's big Koch Brothers hit piece in The New Yorker: Ms. Mayer lets "Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group," sum up the Koch brothers: "The Kochs are on a whole different level..."

    I had to read that five times before I could figure out who was saying what. It's like one of those Russian nesting dolls.

  • -||

    Anyway, I couldn't stomach the whole thing, but this segment from Mayer's piece made me chuckle:

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis [liberal saint] had been a patron of the ballet and, coincidentally, the previous owner of a Fifth Avenue apartment that Koch had bought, in 1995, and then sold, eleven years later, for [the exorbitant, profit-making sum of] thirty-two million dollars, having found it too small [it was big enough for Jackie, but could not contain Koch's massive capitalist ego].

  • Mr. Itchy||

    Good for Koch for selling at the height of the real estate boom and right before the NYC bedbug explosion of 2010.

  • ||

    I was waiting for this.

    I am Larry Edelstein, commenting on "-", who was commenting on Matt Welch, who was commenting on Ira Stoll, who was commenting on Jane Mayer, who was commenting on Charles Lewis, who was commenting on the Koch family.

  • ||

    I was reading something recently in which the Center for American Progress was described as "non-partisan". I had to pause for a chuckle.

  • ||

    non-partisan is not the same as non-ideological.

  • ||

    Officially, it is. Then again, officially so are the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage.

  • ||

    Just FYI, "non-partisan" is strictly for maintaining tax-exempt purposes.

    Anyone who thinks that Heritage, Cato, Brookings, American Regress, etc. don't have an axe to grind needs to buy more bridges.

  • ||

    I like Cato's axe better than others, though.

  • Virginia||

    A 2004 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, described the Kochs' foundations as being self-serving, concluding, "These foundations give money to nonprofit organizations that do research and advocacy on issues that impact the profit margin of Koch Industries."

    The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has as its Directors:

    Robert Edgar, Common Cause
    Pablo Eisenberg, Public Policy Institute, Georgetown University
    Marjorie Fine, Center for Community Change
    Ana Garcia-Ashley, Gamaliel Foundation
    Judy Hatcher, Environmental Support Center
    Priscilla Hung, Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training
    Gara LaMarche, Atlantic Philanthropies
    Pete Manzo, United Ways of California
    Joy Persall, Native Americans in Philanthropy
    Cynthia Renfro, Marguerite Casey Foundation
    Russell Roybal, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
    William Schulz, Center for American Progress
    Gerald L. Taylor, Industrial Areas Foundation

    Holy SaulAlinsky, Batman! I don't care how much goodwill Jane Mayer earned w/ her previous article slamdunking rendition, Matt. This piece is utter garbage. At best it's a case study on deceptive hit pieces.

  • ||

    President Obama's increasingly hysterical (and hypocritical) attacks against "the influence wielded by corporations and foreign entities,"

    Corporations and foreign entities who do not agree with him, anyway.

  • Ike||

    My motives are noble, yours are evil.

    It's another example of Modern Internet Argumentation at work.

    http://ike4.me/evilsheep

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Does this have anything to do with Carly Fiorina?

  • Pip||

    Speaking of sheep, has anyone else heard the rumor that Joel Pile is a sheep fucker?

  • ||

    I'm not saying it's true, but if it is, it's something to think about.

  • ||

    Caption of the photo in the hit piece:

    David H. Koch in 1996. He and his brother Charles are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.

    Oh, the slings of despair in a simple binary choice world. "Bzzzzt...Rrrrrrk...not...left...does not compute...."

  • ||

    Leftists--and right-wingers--are fucking morons who are only capable of this: "you have expressed a thought that scares me, so I will now assign to you the 'motives' of those whom I consider my enemy". So, this dipshit assigns "pro-corporation", whereas a right-wing dipshit would assign "hates freedom" or "pro-terrorist".

    Their world is so simple. It's like being in Corky's world on Life Goes On. Actually, Corky was vastly more sophisticated than these idiots.

  • ||

    Green scarf or purple scarf?

    Tribalism never goes out of fashion as long as you have partisan douche-bags ready to man the ramparts, as soon as the Generalissimo gives the order.

  • Green Drazi||

    Green must fight purple. Purple must fight green. Is no other way.

  • billy-jay||

    Kawasaki would like a word with you.

  • Draco||

    I'm personally still waiting for the rich veins of complexity in your thought to reveal themselves, Epi.

  • sarcasmic||

    +42

  • ||

    You first, Einstein.

  • sarcasmic||

    -42

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I dunno ..... when team red and team blue accuse each other of hating freedom they are usually right, aren't they?

  • ||

    Why are so many libertarians such babies about this?

    If political thought is expressed as a line, with total statism at the left endpoint, and total individualism at the right endpoint, then libertarianism would fall on the right side of that line--to the right of Republicans and conservatives, I might add.

    Regardless of the foolishness of those who seek to look at this as if they are somehow above it, The Koch brothers, lifelong libertarians, gave money to causes on the right of that political spectrum--causes that can be called 'right-wing'.

  • ||

    It's not about being a baby, it's about pointing out a false dichotomy. Within the left-right spectrum you describe, many so-called "right wing" issues would be on the far left end of the spectrum, and that's exactly what pisses me off. When the media talks in left-right, they're not talking about a spectrum running statist to individualist, they're talking about a spectrum that runs from socialist statist to fascist statist, and within that spectrum it's unfair to put libertarians on the right (or anywhere within that spectrum, honestly).

  • ||

    While this is very true, it's even worse than that. Because of the partisan team mentality, they practically define themselves as being merely the opposite of their opponents. I guarantee you that if the GOP started really promoting gay marriage tomorrow, the Dems would line up against it. Because this is how they view the world: I'm not like the other team, because they are [fill in the blank with whatever this person doesn't want to be]. So when they talk in left-right, they're not even talking about a spectrum, they're talking about a mirror, in which one side is the opposite reflection of the other.

  • ||

    Who will they rage against if they don't have each other?

  • ||

    Libertarians, duh.

  • ||

    True, they'll always have the Jews to blame for all the problems.

    Honestly, they aren't even mirror images or 2 sides of the same coin. They're more like in-bred cousins who each have their own obnoxious and self-absorbed habits that only serve to differentiate them from one another.

  • Sam Grove||

    It's like they're cousins, identical cousins.

  • ||

    Well, I think the problem is more than it's in human nature to form tribal identities, and the left-right spectrum is what defines that.

    So once you join a "side", you start identifying with members of it and feel compelled to defend them on every fucking thing they support, regardless of whether it is philosophically consistent, or you even would give two shits about it otherwise.

    So you get people deciding to be pro-gun or anti-abortion just because they are anti-government and decided to be on the Republican side, and you get people defending the stimulus package just because they are socially liberal and joined the Democrat side.

  • Glenn Beck||

    So what color represents libertarians?

    White?

    I've got scissors so don't try using the race card.

  • Of course||

    Gold.

  • Sam Grove||

    http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz

  • ||

    If political thought is expressed as a line

    Well, there's your problem.

  • Moe Howard ||

    Larry is on the Left and Curly is on the Right -its why I bitch-slap both of them.

  • Vaccine||

    Ok, so where would place the Bible-bangers who want the State to prevent abortion, make gays illegal, and put christ in every courtroom? On the "statist" side? Would you feel it accurate to call them "leftist," then? One dimension is not enough to adequately capture the variables.

  • ||

    If you believe life begins at conception, there is nothing un libertarian about objecting to abortion.

    And if we would get the state out of the school and marriage business, the evangelicals would have a lot less to complain about and be a lot less noticeable.

  • Unborn||

    "If you believe life begins at conception, there is nothing un libertarian about objecting to abortion."

    I'm pretty sure science(biology) makes it quite clear that in fact life begins at conception since without as much there would be no human life to speak of.

  • ||

    Precisely, on the statist side. They are advocating 'leftist' priciples. Does it matter that they cite God instead of Marx for their all-controlling state?

    We cloud the issue by adding dimensions that are not there.

    Statist is statist regardless of the reasoning behind seeking it.

  • ||

    Soooo...my beliefs that gays should do whatever the hell they want in bed, abortions should never be illegal, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big clusterfuck and that the "war" on drugs is also pretty damned clusterfucky would make me a lefty. But, but, but, but what about my beliefs in unabashed capitalism, lower taxes, and the dismatling of the majority of the federal government? Now I'm a righty!

    I am saddened by the drooling willingness of the majority of the US population to buy into the "well, if you're not one, you must be the other!" arguments that are spoon-fed to them by government and the media.

  • ||

    No, your beliefs that gays should do whatever the hell they want in bed, abortions should never be illegal, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big clusterfuck and that the "war" on drugs is also pretty damned clusterfucky are just beliefs. Do you want the state to force people to think as you do?

    If you think the state should get the hell out of marriage and bedrooms altogether, fight wars that are purely defensive--and fight them to win, rather than fighting them as if they're armed PR campaigns, stay they hell away from legislating what people put into--or take out of--their bodies, then you're doing these things on the 'right' side of the spectrum.

    What could be called the 'libertarian' side for the sake of this conversation.

    Right and left are individualist/statist--and always have been. That basic dichotomy has been confused by quibbling over the path to either end of the spectrum.

    And the government and the media survive by that quibbling. Too many people can't seem to see that the left has no real interest in gays, for example. Gays are cannon fodder, they're a group that can be used in identity politics--a way to keep people who might find common ground apart.

    The 'right', infested as much of it is with statist 'social conservatives'(funny, they can grasp the idea that 'social justice' is socialist code, but can't get a hold of it when it comes to 'social' conservatism), seems to have grave problems with gays--but ideologically, their policies lead towards more and more of a 'hands-off attitude.

    TEAM RED TEAM BLUE needs that confusion to survive.

  • Cheese-eating surrender monkey||

    By all means team white wave that flag and vote for the libertarian party instead of voting for the Republican at a time when social conservatism is on the back burner.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Holy frikkin christ, you expect that lame ass crap to jedi mind trick us into forgetting the Nolan chart?

  • oncogenesis||

    If political thought is expressed as a line

    You've just FAILED.

  • smartass||

    Yes, and if political thought is expressed as a line with "libertarian" at the left side and "totally not libertarian" at the right side, we'd all be radical leftists, but since that line has nothing to do the concept of left and right that most people hold, who cares?

  • MJ||

    If you think the left does not see libertarians as the enemy, especially on economic issues, you have got another think coming.

  • ||

    Has someone you ever admired disappointed you?

    Who's left to admire?

  • ||

    Episiarch

  • ||

    I said admire, not pity.

  • ||

    You're just jealous.

  • ||

    :::sobs:::

  • ||

    Radley Balko.

  • Fire Tiger||

    Phoebe Cates

  • sarcasmic||

    Stossel?

  • ||

    The Hamburglar?

  • ||

    Optimus Prime?

  • ||

    Certainly not Chuck Norris.

  • ||

    Optimus Prime?

    He's dead. Of prostate cancer.

  • Raymond||

    Sharktopus!

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    that governor of south carolina guy.

  • ||

    People spend money to support causes they agree with? GASP!

  • -||

    It's the wrong causes that torment the left.

  • Warty||

    Rightwingers don't have rights, you dolt. Only the right sort can be trusted to have correct opinions.

  • ||

    It's "corporations" spending the money, and "corporations" shouldn't be allowed to speak.

    And since pro-market speech is often supported by "corporations", all pro-market speech is "corporate speech", which should be banned.

    Get it?

  • affenkopf||

    Koch's money supports a lot of good causes, no doubt about that, but I find it somewhat worrisome how much of the (beltway) libertarian movement is Koch controlled.

    If it weren't for the LvMI there would hardly be any influential non-Koch libertarian organisation.

  • ||

    "but I find it somewhat worrisome how much of the (beltway) libertarian movement is Koch controlled."

    Why?

  • affenkopf||

    A gerneal distrust of Koch that comes from reading too much Rothbard and Rockwell.

    Also when Koch's money runs out a lot of libertarian organisations will have a big problem.

  • ||

    I'm not saying that I "trust" Koch. I barely know the brothers. They happen to espouse values that I hold. It's kind of like how I don't personally know or love the owners of McDonald's, but they happen to make hamburgers that I enjoy.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    A gerneal distrust of Koch that comes from reading too much Rothbard and Rockwell.

  • matt||

    Because they keep including people who support aggressive foreign policy, in contravention of all (honest) libertarian theory...

  • Matt Welch||

    "controlled" is a much too strong word to use with at least some organizations I could name.

  • Warty||

    That's just what you would say if the Kochtopus were controlling you.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Go to the Kochtopus Planet and just walk around, not wearing a helmet.

  • ||

    Pddt. Garlic Shampoo is my friend.

  • johnl||

    Right Warty. It only goes to prove Matt's a hack. (JK)

  • Alan Vanneman||

    But not, I guess, too strong with at least some other organizations you could name, but choose not to. Still, the article was at least mildly dickish, but how could it not be, being in the New Yorker?

  • zoltan||

    How could you not be dickish, being Alan Vanneman?

  • Warty||

    How have you lived this long?

  • ||

    Excessively strict gun control laws? "It was self-defence, officer, I swear! (And here's a hundred bucks to buy yourself something pretty.)"

  • ||

    What beltway libertarian movement?

    "Movement" implies, well, movement... I'm picturing an aerobics class for people who are in full-body casts...

  • Neu Mejican||

    Savvy consumers of information should take anything from an purpose-driven/agenda-driven think tank with a BIG grain of salt. And that includes having a sense of who is financing the endeavor and who would benefit from the particular ideas the think tank is promoting.

  • Neu Mejican||

    This includes, of course, Reason, which is easy to do since Reason wears their agenda on their sleeve. It is tougher when the think tank has a "neutral sounding" title and a vague mission statement.

  • ||

    Such as MediaMatters and Pew? Ford and McCarthur?

    What's worse is when you have charities actively engaging in lobbying to pass restrictive laws that jive with their mission.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Sorry to tow the pedantic lion, but I hate people jiving with my mission.

  • db||

    I like the cut of your jibe.

  • ||

    At least you speak jive.

  • Warty||

    "At least I don't work for Jews!"

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I've actually gotten into protracted arguments with various people on this line of topic.

    I love it when news or advocacy organizations are simply forthright about where they stand. It's the flimsy air of "neutrality" that really pisses me off. When the NYT claims to be the unbiased newspaper of record, it's just losing everyone's respect. If it was honest about the views held by 90+% of its staff I think more people would take it seriously.

    Additionally, when organizations are honest about where their biases are, I don't have to take what they say with "a grain of salt", but rather I can simply check the facts on their own merits and accept that the source which brought them to me in the first place did so purposefully - and then I can accurately gauge whether or not I agree with what they stand for.

    Just cause someone has a viewpoint doesn't mean that they are inherently dishonest... And frankly, it's those who try to deny having biases at all that I trust the least.

  • Conservatard Nannie||

    Did you hear that Bill "No Spin Zone" O'Reilly?

    That guy is truly a dick.

  • ||

    That's very true. Which is why I don't get all this hate piled on those we oppose. I mean, if they are honest about their bias, then who cares?

  • Chad||

    Ah, Sean...

    Why do you conflate "Everything is tinged with gray" with "All shades of gray are equally gray".

    The former is true. The latter is not.

    CNN being 5% left of (America's) center does not imply some sort of offset for FOX's 99% right-of-center "reporting".

  • Shorter Chad||

    Mommmmmyyyy!!

  • smartass||

    No, MSNBC takes care of that.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    There goes Chad again. What a sorry-assed piece of shit.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I don't have to take what they say with "a grain of salt", but rather I can simply check the facts on their own merits

    Also known as taking what they say with a grain of salt.

  • Draco||

    How about savvy consumers of information purveyed by the public school system? Should that be taken with a BIG grain of salt? Should we wonder exactly who would benefit from the ideas being promoted there?

  • robc||

    I have a sense of who is financing the endeavor.

  • ||

    Hmmm.. So how does a non partisan/agenda driven anything get financing?

    And how does this entity stay non partisan/agenda driven?

  • ||

    This is why I hate today's left. They have to pretend that the only possible way that somebody could disagree with them is if they are controlled by corporate interests. I remember all of the lefty types complaining that the tea parties were "astroturf" simply because protesters were being bussed in and given signs by certain organizations. It's not like they were disinterested parties who were being forced to be there. If I were inclined to show up to a rally or protest, and somebody from reason offered me a cheap means of transportation and a sign so that I don't have to make a crappy one myself, I would gladly accept. In the nutty leftist mind, this is all evidence of some grand conspiracy. When I debate with somebody, I prefer to treat them as if they are an intelligent person who simply needs more exposure to a certain point of view. The left just wants to accuse their opponents of being brainwashed/corrupt/insane.

  • ||

    If I were inclined to show up to a rally or protest, and somebody from reason offered me a cheap means of transportation and a sign so that I don't have to make a crappy one myself, I would gladly accept.

    Or, in the case of union protesters, if you were paid minimum wage to be there.

  • Nephilium||

    Or, in the case of union protesters, if you were paid minimum wage below minimum wage to be there.

    Fixed that one for you...

  • Draco||

    My friend, you'll be in a very good mood in November, when these people will go into a depressed funk that they haven't experienced in years. This will happen when they realize that the common American has rejected them and their nutty, anti-freedom ideas.

    They may actually burst into tears in some cases.

    "Mmmm... The salty tears of Left Wing Elitist dismay... Let me lap them up..."

  • cynical||

    today's left? They fall just short of using the word "false consciousness". Delusional fuckers who think their ideas are so perfect and self-evident that anyone that disagrees must be a tool of someone on their designated enemies list.

    Don't get me wrong, libertarians can hate with the rest of them, but we can at least accept that our opponents are just fucktarded assholes.

  • sarcasmic||

    What separates libtards, conservatards and libertariatards is that the first two require government force for their ideas to work, while the latter one does not.

    So it is no surprise that those who want to use government force have no use for libertariatards.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    This is like during the cold war, when Soviets came over here, they just assumed all the grocery stores with bountifully packed shelves were a sham to impress the outsiders ..... becuase thats how they did it home. When Pelosi saw all those people getting pissed off and demonstrating, she just assumed that was a sham.

  • ||

    They have to pretend that the only possible way that somebody could disagree with them is if they are controlled by corporate interests.

    Yes, and they want to ban "corporate speech".

    I've had liberals tell me that the Heritage Foundation is "funded by corporations", and so shouldn't be allowed to speak in the political arena. Seriously.

  • Chad||

    No, twelke. I don't think you are all that affected by the corporate interestes. You honestly believe the garbage you spew, despite any evidence that could possibly exist.

  • ||

    Wooooooow. It can't possibly be out philosophical differences that create our individual beliefs. You must be right and I must be wrong, or vice versa. You have yet to best me in any argument. Externalities, Coporashuns, Game Theory, Blaaaaaaaaragh!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Whereas Chad believes the shit HE believes, but that's *okay*, don't you know, because it's For The Cause.

  • Wesley||

    I worked for a Koch company (they bought out a chemical plant where I worked) a couple of years ago, and I never have understood the smears about there ethics that come up from time to time. It was by far the most ethical company that I have ever worked for. There was question about whether they might be close to violating the operating permit, and we went to the regulators for an interpretation. The regulators were slow in answering, so we shut down the plant to avoid violating the conservative interpretaion of the permit. When we did get the interpretation, we found out we weren't really close a violation, but the conservative approach was par for course for the Kochs. Every other place that I have worked would not have shut down, and would have pled ignorance and hoped for leniency when the fine was levied.

    I know they had some bad environmental violations at their Minnesota refinery in the 1980's, and some lefty group calls them terrible polluters, but I haven't seen it, and think it's just a smear. (Don't get me wrong, I hated working for them, but their ethics were second-to-none.)

  • ||

    Because to lefties a person's political consciousness determines their morality not their actions. Thus George Soros is the height of morality even though he is a currency manipulator. And the Kochs are immoral even though they produce a needed product in an honest way.

  • ||

    What is dishonest about currency manipulation? A lot of important work in a market economy is finance driven.

  • smartass||

    True. Although conservatives sometimes describe leftists as believing that the ends justify the means, it's more accurate to say they believe that the stated intentions justify the means, regardless of outcome. The good news is that, unlike either proceduralism or consequentialism, such a philosophy is so asinine that it will eventually collapse of its own uselessness.

  • Pip||

    "Given President Obama's increasingly hysterical (and hypocritical) attacks against "the influence wielded by corporations and foreign entities,""

    That little ratfucker was on TV this weekend saying that he was the only thing standing in the way of "the corporate takeover of America." so we'd better fote for Democrats. What a piece of shit.

  • ||

    Yes, the only way to protect ourselves from a "corporate takeover of america" is to elect politicians who wants to create protected corporate industries. The only difference between Republicans and Democrats is which corporations you want to be in charge, although they do have several mutual beneficiaries too.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Well, Democrats lately seem to want to own and/or run them, too.

  • ||

    It's funny to point out that the Drug Policy Alliance has received funding from both Koch and Soros. That fact is a real mindfuck for people who hate either side.

  • affenkopf||

    Both sides can jst refer to broken clocks.

  • torco the clown||

    For your entertainment pleasure:

    http://www.whatisthekochtopus.com/

  • Bradley||

    How do I upvote this wonderful mindfuckery

  • Woo||

    Koch-sucka!

  • Shannon Love||

    Historically, leftists have always been convince that evil capitalist operating behind the scenes are secretly manipulating the electorate. Remember how the Tea Party in its early days was denounced as pure astroturf? That was just a recent manifestation of this conspiracy thinking. This article is another but the basic idea dates back to late 1800s.

    Conspiracy theories give valuable insight into the world view of those advancing them. Since the theories are largely divorced from physical reality, the theories don't reflect material facts but rather the unstated assumptions of the people who believe in the theory. By looking at the axioms of the conspiracy theory, you can deduce the world view of the people who believe it.

    In this case, you can see the intensely elitist world view of the leftists. If leftist thought the average person was knowledgable, thoughtful and generous then they would not be concerned because some non-leftist millionaires fund a few think tanks because the ideas generated by the think tanks would not be accepted by the thoughtful citizenry. However, if leftist believed that most people where ignorant, thoughtless and selfish, they would be concerned that even a minor message from the non-leftist could sway the sheep-like masses.

    This elitist world view comes out in almost every issue from 2nd Amendment issues to restricting fast food advertising to coerced recycling. Leftists continuously blame non-leftist elites for their set backs because they simply cannot credit ordinary with having a political will at all. They blame their failure to deny 2nd Amendment rights on the NRA and not on ordinaries people's wish to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. They blame their failure to socialize medicine on pharmacology and insurance companies and not on ordinary people's low opinion of the governments ability to efficiently and fairly make medical decisions.

    It follows then that they see non-leftists think tanks as very influential organizations because ordinary people are so easily swayed.

    They also believe non-leftists are manipulating people and subverting institutions because that is what leftists themselves have been doing since the 60s. Academia, journalism, the judiciary have all been infiltrated by people who are leftwing activist first and academics, journalist and judges second. Likewise, they have hijacked many private charitable groups like the Pew Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation etc. and public agencies like public television.

    No one is more paranoid about thieves than thieves themselves because they know how thieves think. Stalin was paranoid that a small group of counter-revolutionaries could overthrow his regime because the Bolsheviks had been a small, secretive group that overthrew Kerensky's Republic. He assumed that someone could do to the Communist what the Communist did to Kerensky.

    Likewise, leftists assume that non-leftists think just like they do and that non-leftist seek to manipulate people and subvert institutions. It's an old and multicultural adage that people imagine that their own sins lay behind the actions of their neighbors.

    When leftists imagine that non-leftists are up to all kinds of dirty tricks, what they're really saying is, "Hey! They stole our schtick!"

    Now, I know that someone will say that, "Everybody does it," but in reality they don't. Different political subcultures exist in the first place because of the different world views of the people in each subculture. Those different world views in turn create justifications for different political tactics so in the end different political subcultures adopt different tactics.

    The elitist view of the left lets them justify manipulating people and hijacking institutions and to see it as an effective tactic. The less elitist view of most non-leftists would not let them justify such a tactic and even if they could, they wouldn't see it as very effective.

  • ||

    Great post.

  • zoltan||

    I agree with John, good examination of one of the many ways leftists choose to ignore reality for comfortable boogeymans.

  • SIV||

    Bravo!

  • ||

    Who paid you to write that? BP? Monsanto? The Birch Society? Out with it!

  • Shannon Love||

    Wait, I can get paid for this? Yeehaw!

  • Odd Barker||

    Ironically, the John Birch Society is a perfect example of right-wing conspiracy nutters.

  • Paul||

    The reason leftists hijack institutions is because they maintain a certain unwavering faith in institutions.

    As a libertarian, I take a highly skeptical view of institutions. As such, I won't even join the Libertarian Party.

  • sarcasmic||

    The Libertarian Party is nothing but a bunch of stoned anarchists.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    So what's not to like?

  • sarcasmic||

    They cannot and will not get anything done.

    But that's the problem.
    To restore freedom we don't need to get anything done, we need to get most of a century's worth of busybody politicians' work undone.

    Until people can win elections not based upon what they will do, but what they will undo, and then actually follow through with it, we're fucked.

  • Paul||

    But to get something done, at some point we need to organize and build an institution. But I don't trust institutions.

    Yes, libertarianism is a kind of political suicide pact.

    I do, however, enjoy watching Paul Krugman et. al. believe that we are the source of the world's ills.

    Four guys in a two-two bedroom cold-water walkup rental are CONTROLLING THE WOOOOORRRLLLLDDD!

  • smartass||

    Undoing is still a form of doing.

  • Zero||

    I was going with fat guys in beards and suspenders.

  • Shannon Love||

    Let me apologize for all the typos in this comment. I was in a tearing hurry and didn't proof read.

  • sarcasmic||

    Proofread is one word.

    ;-)

  • ||

    The elitist view of the left lets them justify manipulating people and hijacking institutions and to see it as an effective tactic. The less elitist view of most non-leftists would not let them justify such a tactic and even if they could, they wouldn't see it as very effective.

    Bang. Great analysis.

    Although I don't think the left believes in manipulating people and hijacking institutions because it is elitist. I think they do it because they are paranoid and conspiratorial.

    This goes basically back to the Marxist view of capitalism as (essentially) a conspiracy by the rich to exploit the proletariat by extracting "surplus value".

    They believe that the elites have rigged a system which steals the value of the workers labor to enable to them to stay rich. And that all efforts to oppose socialism (which to them is the obvious "just" system) is an effort by those elites to maintain that exploitative system. Because they think the "enemy" is secretive and conspiratorial, they feel this justifies their own manipulative tactics. If you really think your opposition is a bunch of nefarious rich people sipping brandy at the local Masonic Temple and plotting to control the world, then why wouldn't you?

    By contrast, libertarians do not view the economy as a conspiratorial plot to oppress people. And we do not see the left as necessarily *evil* (except in their misguided tactics and misguided belief that everyone against them is an evil capitalist), but as people who fundamentally misunderstand economics.

    As such, our mission is to educate people about free-market views of economics. Which gives rise to a different set of tactics. We're not out there trying to subvert institutions and manipulate people.

  • MJ||

    "This goes basically back to the Marxist view of capitalism as (essentially) a conspiracy by the rich to exploit the proletariat by extracting "surplus value"."

    That view says that the proles are easily prone to manipulation. By definition that is an elitist view. It may not be self-consciously elitist, but it is fundamentally elitist in its underlying assumptions.

  • ||

    Hmm. Good point.

    But then the left doesn't consider itself to be of the elite. It considers itself to be enlightened proles who have thrown off the illusions imposed by the elites.

    That might explain the stalwart refusal to hear any opposing arguments. They think it's all an attempt to dupe them again.

  • Draco||

    For everyone who enjoyed this post, I could recommend a recent post by Richard Fernandez on his blog, The Belmont Club, titled "The Inner Circle."

    Google it, and you're there.

  • RichN||

    Most excellent!

  • Eric||

    Great post. To riff a bit, I think that it explains why leftist conspiracies rely on institutional hijacking and the other things you mention, and why most right-wing conspiracies focus on a "hidden" element of a given leftist (Obama being a "secret" Muslim/foreigner, or Ike being a communist, for instance): some subset of conservatism is intensely concerned with public rigidity to a moral standard, and as such, many of those conservatives imagine that everyone wants to hide and repress their illicit or socially unorthodox behaviors for fear of discovery. In short, the basis of conservative conspiracists' fears lie in the belief that everyone has some set of public actions that needs to be repressed by the state, and that as a result, the subject of the conspiracy must be hiding something from society that needs to be ferreted out.

  • ||

    Well, some far right types could just decide that Koch AND Soros are in cahoots.

  • Abdul||

    We need some disclosure: To what extend is the Reason Foundation controlled by the Kochs? Is Mr. Welch personnally fond of Koch? Who among Reason's editorial board has the biggest Koch?

    Well, I guess we all know that last one is Nick.

  • Zero||

    The Jacket has the biggest Koch

  • ||

    "controlled" is a much too strong word to use with at least some organizations I could name.

    Money is mind control.

    You know, like advertising.

    There is no escape.

  • ||

    "The ice cubes spelled out S-E-X!"

  • Hugh Akston||

    My toothpaste does the same thing.

  • Fire Tiger||

    The your using the wrong ice cube tray.

  • ||

    What's an "Electric Lingerie Boob"?

  • sarcasmic||

    Think jello shots...

  • Shannon Love||

    Money is mind control. You know, like advertising.

    You only believe that because all the commercials tell you to.

  • ||

    So there's a link between Koch and Reason?
    So what?

  • Pip||

    Chinese Red Army ‘Performs’ Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”

    http://www.geekosystem.com/chi.....l-jackson/

  • ||

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDDDD

  • Paul||

    Ms. Mayer describes what she calls "the Kochs' subsidization of a pro-corporate movement." But a lot of Koch-backed institutions would be more accurately characterized as pro-individual or pro-small-government than as "pro-corporate." These think thanks and professors and groups were criticizing ObamaCare when the drug companies were backing it, criticizing TARP when the investment banks were backing it, criticizing the auto bailout when GM and Chrysler were begging for it, criticizing "clean energy" subsidies when GE and Ford were begging for them. [...]

    The Democrats are the party of corporate welfare. That is all.

  • Ecolibertarian||

    affenkopf - Reason don't get much Koch money at all. Cato hasn't gotten Koch money in quite some time, much to their chagrin. Same w/ the Libertarian Party. The LvMI folks like to make out as if they're the only ones "untainted" by the association, but it's just not true.

  • ||

    Is that so? Where can I see this? Who is getting Koch Money nowadays?

  • distinguished gentleman||

    anarcho-pascifist films in the caption is clearly the most accurate picture of the kochtopus.

  • hmm||

    I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.

    Not really shocked, or surprised, alright I kind of expect things like this from New Yorker articles and writers.

    In other news Google gets no bid shitton of money for global mapping program. Remeber. Don't be evil, unless getting paid.

  • ||

    Just an observation:

    Koch really is an unfortunate last name.

  • ||

    the George Soros paragraph in the article is a classic of the form

    Is this paragraph in the Mayer article or the Stoll article?

  • Matt Welch||

    Mayer's. Mark Hemingway talks about it over at the Washington Examiner website.

  • ||

    The double standard extends to political speech. When you combine the efforts to connect "corporations" to free market think-tanks and the effort to banish "corporate" speech from the political arena, what you really have is a broad effort to shut down market-oriented speech and banish it from the political area.

    It's an attempt to effectively outlaw any political speech that isn't left-wing.

  • ||

    That only works if the assumption that all corporate speech is right-wing speech. I agree that the goal is to limit the number and type of speakers, but I disagree with your conclusion. Chalk up their anti-corporate mentality to their anti-capitalist/pro-state one.

    As exemplified in the post, there is plenty of corporate speech leaning to the left when it favors their rent-seeking desires.

  • ||

    No, the assumption (by the left) is that all "right-wing" speech, particular free market advocating speech, is ipso facto "corporate".

    They believe firmly that all free market supporters must in some way be funded directly or indirectly by a vast corporate conspiracy. Even if they are merely silly pawns who are unwilling tools of this vast corporate conspiracy.

    And since they think corporate speech should be banned, that necessarily entails that ALL free-market advocacy be banned. Since it's all in some way (as far as they are concerned) backed by corporations.

  • ||

    er unwitting tools.

  • ||

    er unwitting tools.

  • ||

    Or, if they are real uber-weasel leftists, they will declare that all pro-free-market speech is effectively corporate speech, because it serves to preserve "the system", even if the actual people making the speech have nothing to do with corporations, and the speech itself doesn't seem to actually support them. As long as corporations benefit from it - which, if the capitalist system is advocated they do - then it's part of the "system" of institutions supporting the corporations.

    Sort of in the same way that all white people are effectively racist because they benefit from the "system" of racial prejudice.

    Thus, they can dismiss Reason and CATO as "corporate interests" because we're you know, zombies in the control of the corporate system, even though we don't realize it yet.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Has Pelosi called for investigations into everyone who espouses free markets?

  • johnl||

    Can we tell just from reading the "In Which something something" that it's Matt's? Does anyone else do that? Of course it's always funny and Matt has been on fire for the better part of the last two years.

  • ||

    Of course it's always funny and Matt has been on fire for the better part of the last two years.

    He wrote a book before that about McCain.

    There was also a time when he left Reason to write for the LA times. I do not remember his writing at reason before he left...but I do remember missing him after he left.

    Anyway my point is I think he has been on fire for longer then 2 years.

  • ||

    If political thought is expressed as a line, with total statism at the left endpoint, and total individualism at the right endpoint, then libertarianism would fall on the right side of that line--to the right of Republicans and conservatives, I might add.

    Regardless of the foolishness of those who seek to look at this as if they are somehow above it, The Koch brothers, lifelong libertarians, gave money to causes on the right of that political spectrum--causes that can be called 'right-wing'.

    I'm actually coming around to this theory, because of the statist natures of the D's and R's, but the conclusion is unworkable with the modern interpretation of "right-wing". You gotsta work with the language that you have.

  • ||

    So why exactly is Matt Welch still "a big admirer of Jane Mayer"? Oh, right, he'd like to write for THE NEW YORKER someday, and will neuter his work when necessary.

  • Matt Welch||

    That, or I've enjoyed many of her articles over the years.

  • ||

    People can take their own money. And then use it to hire people to do research and to further ideas that the donor believes in?!? Wow.
    Like the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that awards $200 million to $300 million a year for stem cell research at non-profit institutions and companies - such as Irv Weissman's (he's the director) Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institute at Stanford? It's how they get around all the Government's horrible anti 1st Amendment research-restrictions. :-)

  • ||

    In a previous life I too worked for a Koch company that had weekly and immediate access to one of the brothers. If you don't like meritocracies, market based economics, and large premiums placed on personal accountability, responsibility, and integrity then, yes, the Koch's would be a tough pill to swallow.

    Needless to say we all know where the left stands on meritocracies, free markets, integrity, accountability and responsibility.

  • ertnog||

    Jane Mayer, along with Jill Abrahmson, slimed Clarence Thomas with their book about Saint Anita Hill. One went to the NYT, the other to the WSJ. The wages of feminism.

  • John Coleman||

    An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it "a means of laundering economic aims." The lawyer explained the strategy: "You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank," which "hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders."

    Kind of like Shell Oil and BP funding the CRU?

  • richard mcenroe||

    Heck,look at Judicial Watcb! They were a nonpartisan watchdog group when they criticized the Bush Administration, but magically morphed in the MSM to 'rightwing gadflies' when Clinton was in the crosshairs...

  • Odd Barker||

  • ||

    TO THE WEAK-KNEED REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRAT----Wake up america!!!! This goverment is the most corrupt we have had in years. The good old boy network is very much in charge.Mr. obama and pelosi are the puppet masters.How many of their good friends benefited by the agreement " what a farce. All of the u.sSenators voted for this. I am ashamed to say I voted for the these corupted self serving politicians.With good reason they picked an out of towner to be president.All u.s departments need an overhaul. We need to rid ourselves of the puppet masters and the dept heads that bow down to obama and pelosi.I am sick of the lip service I have been getting from these dummies over violations, their friends are getting away with.in the goverment . Barack Hussein Obama , threatens friends and bows TO Mmslim.
    INPEACH OBAMA ,GOD OPEN YOUR EYES.///For us there are only two possiblities: either we remain american or we come under the thumb of the communist Mmslim Barack Hussein OBAMA. This latter must not occur.THE COMMANDER.REPOST THIS

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