Robert Greenwald was once a Hollywood director. He is best remembered for making Xanadu, a box office bomb that has been described as “Possibly, the worst musical ever made.” Greenwald ultimately retreated from commercial movie-making to the world of far-left documentaries. He operates under the name Brave New Films, which is part of Brave New Foundation, an entity which Greenwald founded.
Greenwald has made propaganda films attacking Wal-Mart, Fox News, the war in Afghanistan and John McCain. Most recently, he has embarked on a vendetta against the Koch brothers. No surprise there. What may be surprising, however, is that the New York Times devoted space to promoting Greenwald’s latest campaign. The Times headline is “Liberal Group’s Video Assails Koch Brothers.”
The liberal guerrilla video group Brave New Foundation on Wednesday began what it says will be a prolonged political attack against the industrialist Koch family, which has become synonymous with the anti-Obama conservative movement. …
Mr. Greenwald, a longtime Hollywood producer, said that he hoped to release up to eight “investigative” videos and other shorter ones, and that he had assembled a team of 15 people, including 3 to research the Kochs and their activities full time, and others to film and edit the videos and then to distribute them (the campaign has a Web site, Koch Brothers Exposed, and related Facebook and Twitter pages).
Is another attack by the Left on Charles and David Koch newsworthy? The Times apparently thinks so, even though the video that is the subject of the story is an unusually weak product. It stars three people, a married couple and a widow, who talk about how tough they have it and marvel at the Koch brothers’ multiple residences. Somewhat weirdly, the male protagonist is a former CEO, and the widow says that she once had “oodles” of money, but lost it. All three seem to be living comfortably, to say the least. Evidently the days when the Left looked for steelworkers and truckers as spokesmen are long gone.
The film, which is embedded in the linked Times story, is almost completely devoid of intellectual content. If it has a point, it can be summed up as: “The Kochs have lots of money. I would like some of it!” The analysis doesn’t get any more sophisticated than that. Periodically, a Stalinist-sounding tag line will appear, like “Koch-funded think tanks support foreclosing on working people’s houses.” At one point, one of the protagonists says, “The Koch brothers can live anywhere they want, at the expense of us, who can’t even afford the American dream.” Presumably even a sympathetic listener would cringe at the idea that these three sad sacks are somehow supporting the Kochs, who own companies with annual revenues around $100 billion.
Greenwald sent minions to the Kochs’ various homes to ring the doorbell and demand to see the brothers, a tactic that most people consider inappropriate. Another moment of unintentional comedy occurs when one of these door-knockers says, “I’m here to ask David Koch why he’s funding all these organizations designed to smash the American worker.” That reminds me of the time, long ago, when I used to hang out in Progressive Labor Party circles, but nowadays it prompts the reflection that, far from “smash[ing] the American worker,” the Koch brothers actually provide top-notch jobs for around 50,000 American workers.
The Times reporter, Jim Rutenberg, would probably tell us that he wasn’t just shilling for the far left by publicizing Brave New Foundation’s latest venture. Rather, he asked hard questions about the organization’s funding:
Like many of the Koch-financed groups, Brave New Foundation is formed under a section of the tax code — 501(c)(3) — that allows it to keep its donors secret. Asked if he would disclose their names, Mr. Greenwald said there were 3,000 small-dollar donors, nearly 2,500 of whom are named as producers on the Web site (the rest gave less than $25 and didn’t qualify as producers). He said the list of large donors included Karen Lieberman (who gave $1,500 through the Leif Nissen Foundation), Dan Berger (who gave $25,000), Adelaide Gomer (who gave $25,000), Marlene Share (who gave $3,000), and the television producer Norman Lear (who gave $1,000). Mr. Greenwald said that left one last donor who gave a similar amount but whom he had not had a chance to speak with about going public.
Rutenberg evidently found Greenwald’s answer satisfactory, and most readers will likely conclude that Brave New Foundation is a model of transparency. But Rutenberg was had. As noted above, Greenwald said that he had a team of 15 working on this project. If you do the math, the contributions that he itemized wouldn’t come close to paying the bills.
Curious, I went to Brave New Foundation’s web site to see what it has to say about donors, something that Rutenberg evidently didn’t do. This is a summary of the foundation’s income from its 2010 annual report:
Foundation Grants: $1,665,089
Major Gifts: $875,000
Email List: $401,780
[Other sources]: $241,684
So Brave New Foundation is a typical left-wing organization, supported overwhelmingly by the wealthy. Eighty percent of its funding comes either from foundations–not mentioned at all by Greenwald–or “major gifts.”
Is this sort of uncritical parroting of misinformation the standard to which the Times holds itself when it “reports” on far-left propaganda?