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It held true again on the Sunday shows, with the sponsors of the sabbath gasbags.

Senate Keystone XL Vote

We're headed for the Senate vote, probably Tuesday, on the Keystone XL Pipeline authorization, and a key part of the background is absent from the coverage. Have you noticed that Koch Industires--aka the Koch Brothers--are busily buying commercial time on every news/public affairs show on every broadcast and cable network?

It brings to mind what happened a short few years back: all the broadcast and cable news shows suddenly stopped investigating Wal-Mart's predatory business practices and its vile treatment of its employees.

And that was concurrent with just one thing: Wal-Mart began buying commercials on every news/public affairs broadcast and cable network, and became the ongoing sponsor-of-record for PBS news/public affairs television shows.

So much for an independent "fourth estate" as a watchdog for the public interest. So if you give me that "liberal media" crap, I'll laugh in your face.

These currently running Koch ads are not limited to use as inoculations against getting examined on political shows, as they were for Wal-Mart.

Koch Industries' television ad campaign began June 10, 2014. On July 8, the Cook Political Report noted, "The Koch Industries TV ads are airing where millennials and other desirable recruits presumably can [see them]."

Part of the Koch's shtick in the television ad campaign they launched this past summer is to declare themselves "America's Corporation," the way the Dallas Cowboys once declared themselves "America's Team." Before you dismiss that, just recall what it did for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders brand, in ubiquitous merchandising (both high-end and kitsch), highly paid appearances, TV movies, international tours, etc. If history is an indicator, the Kochs are on to something because plenty of people ARE that stupid.

The day the Koch Brothers TV ad campaign began, "Business Insider" ran a story titled, "Two widely despised billionaires have released a commercial to polish their image."

That story reports, "They have... attracted a great deal of ire for their support of fringe movements, like climate-change denial. The Kochs have reportedly given more to climate-change denier efforts than Exxon-Mobil has."

Part of the Koch's shtick in the television ad campaign they launched this past summer is to declare themselves "America's Corporation," the way the Dallas Cowboys once declared themselves "America's Team."

The timing of this means everything. And it wasn't about the midterm elections. It's about the fight over the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Koch Brothers stand to be the biggest beneficiaries if that conduit for gloppy, toxic tar sands is built to reach their refineries to prepare the sludge into exportable products. That includes both oil and the inescapable byproduct of tar sands, "pet coke," a combustible but highly polluting leftover.

Viewed in that context, the Koch's nebulous "you-really-should-like-us!" multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign makes sense. It's about redefining America's single biggest factor and symbol in the fight to slow and reverse global climate change--the Keystone XL Pipelin--versus the Koch's continued quest for control of everything they survey.

Their money makes them believe they can do whatever they want. They have a demonstrable history of that. And some of their history makes them think they understand media. They are long-time sponsors-of-record of a spectrum of PBS programming that includes the respected "NOVA" science series. So they understand how to apply money to media to create an identity that's contextually separate from the totality of reality.

It's simply a deductible cost of doing business for them--it's enough that their current ad campaign is simply about making it impossible for the media to criticize them, or their ambitions.

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Even when the Koch's attaining their ambitions would cause catastrophe on a planetary scale, as sea levels rise along with temperatures, and increasing wild storms wreak havoc everywhere, redefining reality is a deductible business expense for them.

Granted, the Koch's received a gift when some Democrats in the Senate decided that the "Mary Landrieu Preservation Act," aka the Keystone XL Pipeline authorization, was somehow a necessary political bargain as Landrieu heads for a runoff that she will lose anyway.

Senate Keystone XL Vote

As for the assertions made here about climate change? Science is clear on all that. It's also clear that big capital has a vested interest in oil dependency. So the fay cats are happy to spend a lot to argue where no reasonable argument exists.

For the moment, TVnetworks, both broadcast and cable, offer only a few glimmers of hope. There is "Moyers & Company," and Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," which each take on everything the rest of the media ignores. And there is Jon Stewart, the politically atuned comic with a rapier in one hand and a sledgehammer in the other.

The sponsors of Bill Moyers' show are a stable, longtime support base who are all openly identified. "Democracy Now" is all grassroots and takes no corporate money.

Commercial TV is more fluid and volatile, and as demonstrated in the Wal-Mart example, subject to sudden buyout. But there is the brave exception. Jon Stewart, predictably, is no fan of those Koch Industries' commercials.

After the Kochs began buying advertising on his "Daily Show," Stewart assembled an on-air segment, a rapid-fire parade of facts to demolish Koch's claims of being caring good guys. He delivered it in his signature scathing style.

But the Koch ad buys have continued on his show, through local cable carriers, seeking that target demographic that is young and impressionable. It remains to be seen if Comedy Central, like the broadcast public affairs shows and cable news networks, join the Koch-suckers for the money they deliver by the truckload--and whether Stewart will continue to counterattack and skewer without being influenced or dissuaded.

I wrote in a newspaper piece, years back, "Who would have thought we would see a time when the two best public affairs shows on TV would both be on Comedy Central?" I neglected Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman then, and I should not have. Now we'll see if the rest of that snap-analysis remains true, otherwise.

It seems crazy in a supposedly competitive environment of so much broadcast news, but we must hope that Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman do not retire, because they bring us things the others will not. And we must hope that Jon Stewart and, for his final remaining shows and in his obtuse manner, Stephen Colbert, keep holding up villains for public ridicule. Without these few, criticism of the Kochs is veritably nonexistent on the boob tube.


For environmentists and everyone else concerned about climate change, it is the clichéd Star Wars speech, "Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope," in the face of hegemony by the all-too-real evil empire.

Otherwise, the Supreme Court, having declared it to be so, indeed will have CAUSED money to become speech--very expensive, preemptive, preclusive, very well-placed, influential, taste-making speech that is far from free, and that stifles others' disagreeing speech, regardless of truth and facts and scientific findings and intellectual honesty and simple accuracy. All because "free speech" on tv costs millions to repeat often enough to create impressions.

The Koch Brothers tv ad campaign proves--both directly as a maker of public opinion and indirectly through its role as a protection racket--that speech on TV is the province of the rich, inaccessible to criticism, and anything but free.


Larry Wines