Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am utterly astounded.
Not surprised, mind you. But I am utterly astounded. It feels like there are no books written any more that rely on real investigative journalism.
But this is one, and it has meticulous, astounding scope.
It's one thing to point out the flaws in your opposition. Those kinds of books are commonplace and are always designed to sway you persuasively. And then there are books that give you a very, very big picture that shows you something so scary, so pervasive, that it boggles the imagination and is worse than any horror novel ever written.
This is about the Koch brothers. Two men in the 6th and 7th richest place in the world, who built an empire on oil money with the very worst record for ecological disasters, where ends always justify the means, turned all their money toward politics. How did they do this? Philanthropy. As in, pouring all their money into foundations and trusts that then poured all their money into other foundations and trusts in such a horribly convoluted shell-game that it takes full-time researchers to uncover where the money originated.
Why did they do this? To bypass political financing regulations.
Where did these foundations and trusts lead to?
Educational institutions in order to promote radical right wing agendas in all the biggest schools, tempting all students with ongoing stipends and opportunities as long as they tow the line.
Astroturfing. Creating hundreds of seemingly grass-roots organizations like the Tea Party and many like it, like the Heritage Foundation, etc., to provide ideological foot-troops against any target they pleased.
Fundraising campaigns that stagger the imagination, still using the shell-game premise, that led to nearly 300 billion dollars just to capture all the seats in congress and the senate. And the presidency. They used every trick in the book. Smear campaigns in advertising was only a small part of it. They bought and paid for several networks, tons of writers, and spread their right-wing agenda across so many fronts that it APPEARED to be THE only game in town. They even eventually strong-armed the Republican Campaign into giving over the reigns.
It started with the Koch brothers and their ideological obsession. Now it's a full network of the richest banding together to create what, in the parlance, can only be an Oligarchy. Rule by the rich.
What is the bottom line? The rich get richer. No one else matters.
Definitely not the middle class or the poor. If you're not in the upper 1%, you're nothing. They have bought the political system.
If you think this is a propaganda piece by the left, then try reading it and prove me wrong. Check https://www.politifact.com/
It is so much worse than you might imagine. They have lied through their teeth on practically anything and everything. They have done everything they can do to dismantle the EPA, health care systems, anti-trust laws, inheritance laws (That ONLY affect the upper 1%), brainwashing the intellectual elite (or at least giving them all monetary incentive to tow the line even if they don't BELIEVE), fund every group that nay-says global warming, blames every victim for the housing crisis, and, of course, the Obamacare act.
None of this is about the reality any of us regular people believe in. They say whatever they want in order to accomplish only ONE thing: their bottom line. If that means dismantling all government, all checks and balances, and the possibility of ever having an egalitarian society ever again, then it JUST DOESN'T MATTER.
Almost everyone in the government has a major financial hand in the Koch pie. Local, State, Nationwide. The regulators have either worked for or still work with the worst abusers.
If it sounds like some mob-run scheme, then you're right.
The fact that normal people can't untangle the web, or if they've gotten far enough in the tangle, they throw up their hands and cry for mercy, is exactly the point.
People ARE untangling the web and this book is a fantastic example of it.
Am I scared of what I've learned?
Oh hell yes. I was so scared back in the 2000's that I swore off political reading or watching tv ever again. If I couldn't trust anything I heard, then I would spend my time better by reading fiction.
I stopped being depressed and feeling helpless. And now that I feel a bit better, I decided to step back into the knowledge playground. I have strength I didn't have back then. This book doesn't make me spiral into desperation.
Rather, it makes me proud that there are still people willing to report the truth.
Maybe someday, this book will be required reading after we get over this crisis. Or perhaps it will be an underground book suppressed by the Oligarchy. Either way, we will have seen how we got here.
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