The Kochs are the conservative analogues of Buffett and George Soros; the sinister bogeymen who supposedly pollute American democracy with ideological propaganda. Details that run counter to these simple narratives are often ignored. Politico, for instance, “revealed” last year that David Koch supports same-sex marriage, wants military spending cut, and wouldn’t rule out tax increases to balance the budget. Only one of those positions (the last one) is surprising, considering Koch ran as the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 1980. It was a scoop freely available in a 2010 New York magazine profile of Koch, which pointed out that “he thought the Iraq War was folly, and supports stem-cell research and gay marriage.”
When BuzzFeed announced that it was hosting an immigration debate “sponsored” by the Charles Koch Foundation, the outraged Twitter brigades (“Fuck you @BuzzFeed you broke my heart taking money from the Koch brothers. You lost a reader”) failed to note that the panel included three immigration reformers and one restrictionist and, as Slate’s David Weigel put it, was “intended to nudge along immigration reform.”
None of this matters, though, because the Kochs have been transformed into “the Kochs.” There was never any suggestion that the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center (so named in 2008 after he made a $100 million donation) would only stage David Mamet plays, Ronald Reagan film festivals, and Elia Kazan retrospectives, yet the protesters descended, demanding a name change. The Kochs gave $100 million to MIT, underwriting a cancer-research center. But this was, said one critic, mere “manufacturing consent” for their reactionary views. The $20 million to the ACLU—which was heavily criticized by some conservatives—didn’t matter either, because they also underwrote candidates who don’t support the ACLU.
And now they have come for our newspapers.