The Koch Brothers.
The very mention of that phrase makes progressives apoplectic. For Republicans it’s become a utopian shibboleth.
Those familiar with Charles and David Koch are aware they are benefactors for libertarian and conservative causes, especially climate change denial, and have poured obscene amounts into eliminating the minimum wage and workers’ paid sick leave.
Independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sums them up best:
“For the Koch brothers, $80 billion in wealth, apparently, is not good enough. Owning the second largest private company in America is, apparently, not good enough. It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process… It is well known that the Koch brothers have provided the major source of funding to the Tea Party and want to repeal the Affordable Care Act…The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country…It is clear that the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires are calling the shots and are pulling the strings of the Republican Party.”
When one (or two) has so much money, an extreme political ideology, and is legally permitted to buy politicians‘ loyalty like fine art, he wants to preserve the status quo. Naturally, then, he must control the flow of information. Influencing our media is an insidious, and, perhaps foolproof, way of motivating average Americans to vote against their own interests. Fox News figured this out decades ago.
Months ago, we learned the infamous Kochs contributed $650 million of their vast wealth to help Meredith Corp. purchase Time magazine, giving them a direct stake in People, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.
Now the Kochs want to teach.
They want to teach history.
They want to teach the real history behind slavery in America.
Their objective? To guarantee students view racism and slavery as inconvenient faux pas in an otherwise impeccable system rather than an embarrassing abomination contradicting the foundational principle, “All men are created equal.”
To accomplish this, the Kochs have created the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), the education wing of their myriad right-wing front groups.
“Superficial, drained of humanity, and neglects to reckon with the economic and social reality of what opponents called ‘the slave power.’”
Then there’s the “Documents of Freedom” readings, touted as a “modern take on the traditional textbook.” This is an online text comprised of unnamed “teacher” authors, skewed to conform to the Kochs’ views of history, government, and economics.
The main piece contained therein, “Slavery and the Constitution,” defends our founding fathers and the Constitution against “some scholars” who “portray the founding fathers as racists,” going on to cherry-pick quotes from “the Founders” to argue against the belief that slavery was immoral.
“Most of the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution own[ed] slaves.”
Absent, though, is chattel slavery’s brutal reality.
What’s more, our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who kept nearly 200 slaves, sold them to raise money for wine, art, and costly blandishments, and wrote Blacks are “inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind,” is portrayed as an abolitionist crusader who “attacked the slave trade in harsh language,” and “included African Americans in the universal understanding of the promise of liberty and equality.”
Readings defend the so-called three-fifths compromise in the Bill of Rights that requires a slave to be counted as three-fifths of a person so the less-populated Southern states could be more equally represented in Congress.
BRI readings state:
“[Founders had to make a] prudential compromise with slavery because they sought to achieve their highest goal of a stronger Union of republican self-government. Since some slaveholding delegations threatened to walk out. . .”
Quotes from such iconic figures as Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln are printed to defend slavery. Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison are ignored, as are Lincoln’s views that the Constitution protected slavery
What the readings omit are probably the most disturbing. Gone is anything about how integral to U.S. economic growth slavery was. It also argues a steady “rise of freedom” after the Constitution because “the new nation was mostly bent on expanding liberty and equality,” leaving out the perspective of those from whom the wealthy elite stole land and labor.
“African Americans in the post-Civil War South discovered firsthand the dangers of majority tyranny in a republic.”
In other words, we can’t trust the masses, so we should just leave politics to oligarchs like the Koch brothers.
Image credit: eideard.com