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Guest MINDSETTER™ Stewart: Why Koch Bros Don’t Want You To Hear Maclean Talk at Jobs With Justice

Sunday, October 15, 2017

 

Nancy MacLean

By now the names of Charles and David Koch and their infamous Koch Industries are known for their greed, largesse, and corporate malfeasance. Their brand of corporate libertarian philosophy has undeniably been a major reason why the right and their invocation of “liberty” gets a bad wrap.

But what if they were to, say, use all their firepower to attempt to scuttle a scholastic endeavor purely because it makes them look bad? At a time when the Koch brothers are endowing academic chairs and departments in economics to promote free market ideology to an unheard of degree, their opposition to Nancy MacLean's recent book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America is a Kafkaesque moment that ironically mimics the supposed authoritarian state's overreach into the lives of citizens that they accuse progressives of regularly. Through a variety of auxilliaries like the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine, they have made this book a target of vitriolic and unmerited slander and libel.

Why such a fuss?

The book, written by by a professor of history and public policy at Duke University, is a study of the life and career project of economist James McGill Buchanan, whose theoretical edifice is the cornerstone of the Koch operation. She is therefore attacking a major bastion of the right wing onslaught against unions, regulation, and other elements of our social safety net. “In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of 'Brown v. Board of Education.' In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us,” says MacLean's publisher Penguin Random House.

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, the author describes the chronology of reaction to her book. “In short order one afternoon, after a string of very positive reviews and interviews, a number of things happened. Misleading critiques from the right had shot up so far on Google that if you searched my name, you saw these critiques before any of my usual personal or professional information (department webpage and such). Very combative "reviews" were appearing on Amazon from people who appeared not to have read the book but to be recycling the talking points from these critiques in sometimes crude terms. Someone, unbeknownst to me, had set up a Wiki page on me that featured the attacks. And some of the comments were vicious. On Mises Wire, one commenter wrote, 'No doubt she’s a rabid feminazi, anti-Southerner, socialist and pathologically focused on race and gender. She’s a historical victimologist who produces nothing of value.' That same commenter actually supplied information on my home — he had gone so far as to look up where I lived. Needless to say, the combined impact was unnerving. It made me feel vulnerable and exposed (which may have been their intent).”

“I’m not saying they called each other up and planned a series of critical responses to my book. What I’m saying is many of the critics come from similar backgrounds — they are libertarians who trained at or are employed by the very institutions I write about in my book. And some of the rhetoric has been quite threatening. Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review, said I should worry about the ‘the libertarian super-posse on my ass,’” she continued in her Chronicle interview. “Most disturbing, though, is how many of the book’s critics fail to disclose their financial indebtedness to the cause whose history my book explores. The book is critical of the network of think tanks and foundations that operate with aid from the Koch brothers. Many of the critics have benefited from grants from the Koch Foundation or related groups. Yet very few have acknowledged that financial relationship. And that’s troubling because full disclosure of such income is Ethics 101, as it calls into question the recipient’s ability to remain unbiased.”

MacLean will appear at Rhode Island Jobs with Justice on Tuesday, October 17 at 7 pm. Visit here to RSVP.

Andrew Stewart is a member of the Rhode Island Media Cooperative, an organization created for freelancers by freelancers which you can join for free.

 

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