If, as an aficionado of 1960s camp horror flicks, you mentally substituted the word "Monster" for "Kochs," in my title, you've already grasped the gist of this piece. In my previous, deliberately provocative OpEdNews article (http://www.opednews.com/articles/Frankly-Koch-Brothers-Des-by-Patrick-Walker-ACLU_Climate_Death_Death-Penalty-140118-76.html), I proclaimed the Kochs' funding of climate-change denial a capital crime against humanity. The implication being that, like others more routinely judged criminals against humanity, like the genocidal tyrant Pol Pot, the Koch brothers are a species of human monster, at whose very name we should shudder.
In billionaires like the Kochs, our society had wedded betraying monsters.
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That is, by the way, my honest judgment of the Kochs, and I strongly feel we'd be living in a far safer and better world if most Americans shared my rational, if horrified, disgust. But since my moral and legal appraisal of the Kochs is clearly "outside the box"--in many ways, shockingly so--I felt it needed more thorough justification than I could give in my "debutante's ball" article for my contentious views. So here, I'll further elaborate my case that the Kochs are indeed monsters--and monsters, moreover, we're largely responsible for creating.
Now, part of my (unconcealed) agenda is that I'm trying to arouse potent public sentiment behind a climate-action Tea Party, aimed at strong-arming our government into dangerously belated action on that politically "orphaned" life-or-death issue. Now, given global warming's dire gravity, and the Everest climb facing pro-climate politics, organizing effective climate action is very much like mobilizing for war. And in any war effort, patriots must smoke out and discredit the traitors--possibly subjecting them to the severest penalties prescribed by law--who'd sell our "sacred cause" out to the enemy. But ( unlike most wars), saving humanity from potential climate-based extinction is a legitimately sacred cause, and no fellow citizens are more egregiously traitors to that cause than the Kochs.
But the monstrosity of the Kochs goes far beyond the way "traitors" get stigmatized in any war effort; they're not merely the conveniently handy scapegoats (though they admittedly suit that role admirably) to stir patriots' blood for years of self-sacrifice. If rational people are going to brand fellow citizens "monsters" (while at some level still acknowledging their common humanity), they had better have really behaved as monsters. And I find no better prism for clearly viewing the Koch's "monstrosity" than their status as fellow citizens. For their unforgivable crimes against humanity are inextricably tied to their savage betrayal of the social contract. Specifically, of the implied social contract billionaires sign with the rest of us.
See, I've accused the Kochs of genocide (and worse, of "humanicide"), and genocide is simply not a crime it falls to the average Joe's or Jane's lot to commit. (Thank God so few of us are exposed to that temptation.) No, to perpetrate genocide requires immense power--the sort of power only tyrants heading nation-states, or, as I'll argue here, tyrant billionaires with insufficient checks and balances thwarting them, can command. And in today's United States, billionaires' unchecked power consists in not merely all the legislation, and government and media access and control, money can buy, but in our political right worshipping them as gods. In fact, arguably far more than they worship that notorious scourge of the rich, Jesus Christ.
Now, the vastly rich are hardly gods (indeed, it's their "human, all t oo human" nature that makes them so dangerous), but that's not to say they're not very different from you and me. In fact, Chris Hedges, in a recent, typically penetrating Truthdig article , cited F. Scott's Fitzgerald's fabled exchange with Ernest Hemingway on this score. When Fitzgerald made the point that the rich are different, Hemingway reputedly shot back, "Yes, they have more money." Now, in real time, this barbed exchange apparently never took place; Hemingway twitted Fitzgerald's views on the difference of the rich through a passage in his own fiction. But that hardly matters here; what counts is that Hedges--perceptively, I believe--rewards the plume of greater insight to Fitzgerald, finding Hemingway's put-down here sophomorically shallow. Yes, the rich are different, not only in their vastly greater power and privilege, but--crucially for my case--in how they view themselves and how the rest of us view them.
Another brilliant--and brilliantly succinct--article, recently popular here at OpEdNews, forcefully drives home the point I intend to make. Economist Dean Baker, citing the Freedom Industries chemical spill that left hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents without water, unanswerably challenges the right wing (and insufficiently conscious environmentalists) on whether the loss of residents' home water is a question of property rights. And tellingly, he asks us to imagine what, by contrast, would happen if someone had dumped slaughterhouse waste on Bill Gates' front lawn. The answer, of course, is an instant, probably draconian sentence for anyone presuming to transgress on the property of "King Gates"--and one could easily imagine Gates and his lawyers responding with the indignant "how dare they" hauteur of wounded majesty. Whereas Freedom Industries, a far worse criminal, is allowed to escape behind bankruptcy protections--and don't expect "philanthropist" Mr. Gates to rush to their victims' aid. To the extravagantly rich, the property rights of poor West Virginia victims hardly count; they are, like the "collateral damage" victims of Obama's drone strikes, so many "bug splats." And tragically, the sense that they are bug splats--the guilt-plagued self-loathing of poorer folks spawned by worshipping the rich--has become a deep, unconscious part of our American psyche.
Plutocrats' heartless, Olympian sense of entitlement, perniciously enabled by the tacit self-loathing of an increasingly have-not people, is why we must urgently restore our sense of a common social contract. We must never forget for a second--and, above all, never let billionaires forget--that they enjoy their great wealth only by our permission; the underlying rationale, in a representative democracy with a capitalist economy, is that allowing them such vast wealth (and in my view, we're now allowing them far too much) provides them strong incentive to promote the common good. Where they abuse their wealth to harm the common good--and what greater harm can one imagine than the destruction of a humanly livable climate?--we should consider one of two alternatives. Either never allowing private wealth to reach such "monstrous" proportions; or, if we allow it, tying it closely to public responsibilities, and imposing the severest imaginable penalties on monsters who, betraying and perverting the social contract, trample such responsibilities by means of their wealth. Like the Koch brothers.
Fact is, citing our Constitution's and our founding history's very nature, one can forcefully argue that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, rather than authorizing every use of speech backed by substantial money, implies prescribing capital punishment for certain ones. After all, our founders' central premise was posing forceful checks and balances as obstacles to concentrated power unaccountable to the public--and unelected power, like that of monarchs (or, arguably, of the Kochs), was utterly taboo. And so great was our founders' fear and hatred of tyranny that they, in our Constitution's Second Amendment, enshrined preparedness to resist it by armed force in our nation's highest law.
Now, granted, the Supreme Court clearly flouted our founders' wise horror of unaccountable power in their Citizens United ruling, but that by no means implies that we have to be as stupidly untrue to our nation's very essence when we pass new laws in their wake. As long as the utterly perverse Citizens United ruling remains standing law, we must, embracing the genuine spirit of our founders' written social contract, severely sanction abuses of the dangerous, unaccountable power our "Supremes" have allowed. It's our Court Justices who, by enabling the Kochs' unaccountable, tyrannical power to destroy a planet, have unwittingly decreed their death sentence.
My keen sense of social contract explains why I find folks defending the Kochs on "free speech" grounds so impossibly shallow. And dangerously servile to boot--virtually begging to be treated as bug splats. See, just as the extravagantly rich are not like the rest of us, their megabucks-amplified "speech"--perversely enabled by Citizens United--is not at all like our speech. Not when it can create viable political candidates (like the Tea Party ones) out of thin air, or irretrievably corrupt public policy (to our species' possible extinction!) by censoring and discrediting science's quintessential policy voice. In fact, censoring and discrediting it, in global warming's case, to such an extent that trained climatologists, the only ones entitled to expert opinion--the sort required by our courts--are either censored from plutocrat-controlled mainstream media, or forced to see their deeply trained judgment treated on a par with the science-challenged prattlings of Joe Blow.
One might wonder where Joe Blow (who unconsciously feels himself a bug splat) gets the cockiness to challenge his "brainiac" scientific betters; the depth-psychology answer, I sense, lies in his identification with his "household gods," the rich. Now, one might think the Kochs' notorious funding of climate-change denial, in selfish defense of their business interests, might discredit them, but in Joe Blow's anti-intellectual eyes, his Koch gods simply grow in stature for pitting their business common sense against all those "conceited brainiacs." (Never does he consider that the Kochs themselves--compounding their monstrous treachery--almost certainly know the brainiacs are right.) In one sense, our American myth says anyone who works hard enough can be rich, so the Kochs in that sense aren't--unlike the brainiacs--so obviously, naggingly superior as to wound Joe Blow's deep inferiority complex. But the other side of our national myth--the "if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" side--credits the very rich with such godlike intelligence that their word is gospel. Gospel that can trump the mere deeply researched, peer-reviewed knowledge of science. And even trump the none-too-wealth-friendly Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It's not merely the government and media control Koch money buys--but the fact of America's uber-rich being worshipped as gods--that m akes the Kochs' abuse of their privilege so irresponsibly dangerous. Our failed education system--failed largely because mollycoddled criminal predators like the Kochs work to make it fail--does Americans a vast disservice by not teaching there are other modes of human excellence (geniuses', saints', statesmen's, and heroes' lives, for example) much worthier of pursuit and admiration than getting rich. Never do they read of Aristotle, who expressed contempt for a life spent chasing mere wealth because it's just a servile means to more dignified ends. Nor of that "richly" versatile genius John Maynard Keynes, who considered money-making a child's-play problem to quickly solve so he could lavish his time on far more interesting challenges, like elegantly restating mathematical probability or redrawing the economics field's entire map. And never do they consider it might be a vastly preferable expense of one's life-breath to be Martin Luther King than Bill Gates.