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Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Only in it for the money?

by Tom Sullivan

Ordinary billionaires? They can measure their manhood by it, as James Taylor sings. So when the Koch brothers say their interest in purchasing Time, Inc. via the Meredith Corporation is purely about money, you can trust them, right?

Except with the Koch brothers, money is never enough. They want control. Jane Meyer writes for The New Yorker:

Those familiar with the Kochs’ history, however, have reason to be skeptical about their professed passivity. Charles Koch, in particular, is known for the unusually tight control he exerts over Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., and also over his and his brother’s political and philanthropic ventures. As I wrote in my book “Dark Money,” a former political partner of the Koch brothers, Murray Rothbard, once testified that Charles “cannot tolerate dissent” and will “go to any end to acquire/retain control.” His brother David, meanwhile, has been quoted saying that “if we’re going to give a lot of money, we will make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent.”

This year, among the Kochs’ aims is to spend a projected four hundred million dollars in contributions from themselves and a small group of allied conservative donors they have assembled, to insure Republican victories in the 2018 midterm elections. Ordinarily, political reporters for Time magazine would chronicle this blatant attempt by the Kochs and their allies to buy political influence in the coming election cycle. Will they feel as free to do so now?
Amazon's Jeff Bezos burnished his public image by purchasing the Washington Post, Meyer writes. The Kochs may be attempting to do the same with Time, Inc. And more.
“There is zero chance that the Koch brothers are going to keep their hands off the content of these magazines,” Mary Bottari, the deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit that documents right-wing and corporate influence-buying, told me. “When they donated six hundred and fifty million dollars to Florida State University, they wrote a contract giving them control over hiring decisions in the economics department,” she said. “The entire point of the purchase is to infuse the mainstream media with their extreme views.”
That is assuming Meredith hangs onto Time magazine. The deal my put it within reach of David Pecker, the pro-Trump CEO of American Media, Inc., publisher of National Enquirer. Pecker has wanted to purchase Time himself.

The Daily Beast reports:
John Huey, the former editor in chief of Time Inc., told The Daily Beast: “It’s logical to assume that Meredith will dump Time and Fortune, which they never wanted. Perhaps the Kochs have already bought them, or arranged to sell them to suitable proprietors.”
Making the deal part of a larger picture?
Since Time has long been a strong force in warning of the consequences of climate change, handing it over to a pro-Trump publisher would achieve two of the Kochs’ aims in one stroke: It would silence a respected journalistic campaign and it would, if under Pecker’s direction, be transformed into a megaphone for the Kochs’ favorite causes including Trump’s ever-widening attacks on environmental regulations that the Kochs have long resisted.

One way of reading the appearance of the Koch brothers in the deal is that it fits a pattern that is only now emerging in which the Trump administration is actively attempting to rearrange the landscape of media ownership. The most salient example of this is the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the $85.4 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner.
So. In case you haven't, and you'd like to keep the Internet as an information source not controlled by media giants or the Koch brothers, let Congress know how you feel about the FCC's intent to eliminate net neutrality.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.