Yes, they keep pulling me back in...
So I open my New Yorker and there's this big exposee about these wacky Koch brothers--billionaire fascists who basically fund the Tea Party movement. And then I think, hm, David H. Koch, where have I heard that before...Oh yeah, that David H. Koch.
Been to the NYC Ballet in the last couple of years? Or the NYC opera? Or some of the larger Lincoln Center Summer Festival events? (like even "A Disappearing Number" by this week's scholarly subject, Complicite?) Well then, you were in this guy's house!
Two summers ago, Lincoln Center announced they were renaming what was formerly the New York State Theatre (home to the NYC Opera and Ballet) after the man the Times called "the wealthiest resident of New York City" after he "agreed to contribute $100 million toward the renovation of the New York State Theater."
Now we learn where that $100 million comes from:
In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.”
And where it goes:
The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.So what's a New York arts lover to do? Do we cast Mr. Koch out of the temple, hand him back his check and say "right wing nuts are not welcome in the arts"? I'm tempted to say yes, actually. In times like these, anyone with Mr. Koch's plutocratic agenda is clearly working against the lives of artists, whether he knows it or not. Anyone willfully spreading lies about death panels to prevent citizens from getting health insurance is not a "friend of the arts." Anyone willing to poison our public discourse by demonizing a president--any president--as a crypto-terrorist birth-certificiate denier...is not a "friend of the arts."
No, the arts don't belong to "liberals." In New York--nay, even more so in other American cities--rich Republican plutocratcs are a bigger doner pool for the arts than "we" probably realize. (Ballet, for instance, seems to cross all ideological barriers.) Conservatives already think there's a leftist conspiracy to keep them out of the arts--to not produce their plays, to poison their children's minds with prurient updatings of Shakespeare. So I don't want to fan those fears.
But surely we can agree--no?--that we do not need to save a place at the table for men like this:
As their fortunes grew [in the 1970s], Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal, as Doherty described it, was to tear the government “out at the root.” The brothers’ first major public step came in 1979, when Charles persuaded David, then thirty-nine, to run for public office. They had become supporters of the Libertarian Party, and were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan from the right. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they contrived to place David on the ticket, in the Vice-Presidential slot; upon becoming a candidate, he could lavish as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign..... Many of the ideas propounded in the 1980 campaign presaged the Tea Party movement. Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage “a very big tea party,” because people were “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform called for the abolition of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights. William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”Yes, Bill Buckley. William F. Buckley called the Koch's too right wing.
And if that's not enough Koch is the moneyman behind "Americans for Prosperity." Know what that is? Enjoy:
More of their greatest hits here.
So I don't know what's worse--if Lincoln Center knew all about this guy before taking his money and glorifying him in perpertuity by naming their glistening golden concert hall after him, thus legitimating and redeeming his otherwise sleazy, slimy name....Or that they didn't.
The question of what they should do about it is moot since...yeah right they're going to hand back $100 mil!
Question is, what do we do? Boycott NYC Opera and Ballet? Well, you might want to consider. Nothing gets through to a nonprofit arts org louder and clearer than cancelling your subscription.
At the very least, those of us who care where our arts orgs get their money from should at least let Lincoln Center know how we feel. Somehow.