This is an epic deconstruction from Maddow.
It is the most absurd form of right-wing projection that all of media and government are in the hands of some sinister conspiracy. In fact, that conspiracy theory itself is the conspiracy. Koch Industries was founded by a man who founded many things besides, including the John Birch Society — a subject Maddow has covered before:
JBS was essentially an update of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion formula (edit: see note below). In fact, all the diverse paranoias of political ages past were recycled into JBS. Anti-Mormon, anti-Masonic, and anti-Catholic lies were turned into anti-communist ones, just as fluoridation “mind control” has recently been updated for a back-to-school speech. There’s nothing new in the paranoid universe.
The tinfoil hat set has been around a while. Wealthy right-wing capitalists from Henry Ford to Fred Koch to Don Blankenship have paid good money to keep conspiracy theory alive and kicking. Climate change denialists invoke this bogeyman of Teh Global Socializms™ all the time; it is no accident that Kochs have outspent Exxon in supporting climate change denial shops. Koch money appears at any number of conservative “free market” prop-shops like the CATO institute and even the Ayn Rand cult. That shouldn’t be surprising; Rand’s libertarianism is a natural fit, though a strange bedfellow given her atheism.
Indeed, the conspiracy to keep conspiracy theories alive is itself an old, vast, international coalition of conspiracy creators (Protocols came out of Russia). The Russian connection picks up again with the history of the Koch fortune, which was built with Stalin’s money.
In other words, this right-wing stupid-propagation system is an old thing. Its progenitors have always been hip deep in culture war, and have always served the interests of wealth and power. They have updated ancient hate-speech and paranoid histories to serve in new eras; now they have moved online and into the number one cable network to create the tea party movement.
The direct-mail lists of the John Birch Society have morphed into the email lists of Americans For Prosperity, with JBS growing as a result.
Organized by the powerful and rich, for the powerful and rich, to the benefit of powerful and rich people, the tea party phenomenon is “grounded” in a mindset I call the paranoid universe. First described by Richard Hofstadter, a picture of the leviathan very much resembles its own picture of the world, in which
both the US and Soviet governments are controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians. If left unexposed, the traitors inside the US government would betray the country’s sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist new world order managed by a “one-world socialist government.”
As close readers of this blog will know, there has been a move away from the non-profit model of astroturfery to the for-profit model. Suckers will pay for their apocalypse porn.
Worse, in the age of email suckers can be born every nanosecond and propagate creatively at will, shooting from Ning.com to Sara Palin’s Facebook page to Twitter and back before truth ever finds out it is needed.
Breaking this conspiracy-to-promote-conspiracy open is the easy part. Getting it into the mainstream consciousness is much harder, but Maddow has done yeoman’s work in making that happen.
ADDING: As per the comments below, I should like to explain “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion formula.” Protocols is a famous case of Piltdown politics; anti-Semitic texts crossed the borders of Europe into Russia. The ideas were published in a volume that found its way to Henry Ford, who propagated the story.
The same method has been applied by the Kochs. Blaming Jews commies for all the world’s ills, a powerful western capitalist promotes the lie that a cabal of Jewish bankers satanic international conspiracy wants to drink the blood of your children wants to create a global collectivist state.
1) Exotic origin
2) Secret knowledge
3) Sinister plan
Or as Hofstadter defined it more broadly, and I summarize:
1) THEY are against you and want to make your life hell
2) THEY control everything; trust no one (except me)
3) THEY are all in it together
Both Ford and Koch supported a fiction — a narrative — that defined a paranoid world, and there are only three moving parts to that narrative. Individual memes in either body of arcanum vary, but they come from a global continuum of crazy with roots older than the printing press. That’s because memes pass from generation to generation.
This blog post in no way promotes the idea that Kochs and Fords are somehow mixed up together in a vast, sinister conspiracy; that would be paranoid.