I got slapped around a bit last week for a story condemning the Koch brothers that used a word in the title some found offensive. If anyone wonders why my Irish ire gets inflamed by these two charlatans, perhaps this story will explain why they may be the most dangerous individuals in America today and why, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, they deserve to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
A Deliberate Attack On The Poor
No two people on the planet have done more to seize control of the levers of power than Charles and David Koch. They, not Donald Trump, have plunged America into a dystopian era where poor people are treated as trash to be wiped from the face of the Earth while the wealthy — who are predominantly white males — are given extravagant tax breaks for no other reason than they have the “correct” skin color.
Make no mistake — racism is at the root of much of what the Koch brothers do. They are behind the drive to gerrymander state voting districts so the political power of blacks and Latinos is diminished. They are the primary architects of the movement to deny poor people access to polling places. And, recently, one of their despicable front organizations by the name of Fueling US Forward was heavily involved in trying to get black churches in Virginia to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will transmit natural gas from West Virginia to eastern Virginia and the rest of the Atlantic seaboard.
The Fueling US Forward Festival
In December 2016, Fueling US Forward sponsored a religious festival in East Highland Park, a poor and predominantly black neighborhood 70 miles south of Richmond. It featured an array of gospel singers and was presented as “an opportunity for enlightenment, both spiritual and environmental,” according to Grist. Unbeknownst to those who came to the festival, it was “designed to highlight the benefits of oil and natural gas production and its essential role in the American way of life. During a break in the music, a panel discussion unfolded about skyrocketing utility costs. The lobbyists and business people on the panel presented a greater reliance on fossil fuels — billed as cheap, reliable energy sources — as the fix.”
“The event was one big bait and switch, according to environmental experts and local activists,” the Grist article continues. “Come for the gospel music, then listen to us praise the everlasting goodness of oil and gas. Supporting this sort of pro-oil-and-gas agenda sprinkled over the songs of praise, they say, would only worsen the pollution and coastal flooding that come with climate change, hazards that usually hit Virginia’s black residents the hardest.”
“The tactic was tasteless and racist, plain and simple,” Kendyl Crawford, the Sierra Club of Richmond’s conservation program coordinator told Grist. “It’s exploiting the ignorance many communities have about climate change. It was a deliberate strategy to manipulate black Virginians into supporting fossil fuels.”
A Backlash Develops
Some black religious leaders could see behind the chimera of bonhomie, however. The pipeline route is scheduled to bifurcate the black community in Richmond. In fact, the proposed site for the pipeline’s 54,000 horsepower, gas-fired compressor station is between two Baptist churches with largely black congregations — Union Hill and Union Grove. Paul Wilson is a minister at both churches. He is well familiar with the health hazards associated with living near natural gas facilities, especially compressor stations.
“God gave man dominion over the earth, but not permission to destroy it,” Wilson says. “God didn’t put me on this earth to pimp death for profit. That’s what the Kochs and these energy folks are doing to my people now. It’s up to us in the church to stop it.” The EPA reported in February that communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution, most of which is associated with the burning and processing of fossil fuels.
Faith Harris, another Baptist minister, adds “We in the church community have a moral responsibility to be out front on protecting our flock from climate change. I call it an authentic pro-life agenda. The Christian church, for too long, has allowed ‘pro-life’ to be defined solely as conception when, in fact, life is much more complex. It includes our quality of life while we’re here.” Hear, hear, Reverend Harris. And our own Joshua S Hill has your back.
A Campaign Based On Lies
Fueling US Forward was headed by Charles Drevna, a former petroleum industry lobbyist, and James Mahoney, a board member and former executive for Koch Industries. Speaking to a Red State Gathering in Denver he said the fossil fuel industry was losing ground because it was failing to connect with the public, especially minority communities, on a cultural, emotional, and personal level, according to Grist.
“We’ve done a terrible job in working with individual communities, working with the minority communities on how important energy is to them,” he said during a Facebook Live chat. “And who gets hit the hardest when there’s a spike in energy costs? They get hit the most, and they get hit the hardest.” Burning more fossil fuels is actually a blessing for minorities, in the gospel according to Drevna.
Spreading The Gospel According To Koch
Fueling US Forward has been disbanded. It’s website is dark and calls to its office go unanswered. Alex Fitzsimmons, who was its communications director, is now chief policy advisor for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy. But before it was disbanded, it was involved with the National Black Political Convention, which, at the behest of Koch Brothers advocates, added language to its 2016 platform that described subsidies for electric cars and residential solar as giveaways that benefit the wealthy at the expense of African-Americans.
That information was first reported by the New York Times. Soon afterwards, attitudes toward fossil fuels within the black community changed, led by Wilson and Harris. They tell their congregants about climate change and how rising sea levels threaten coastal communities like Richmond and how the poorest communities are at most risk from such threats.
Water Is Life Rally Spreads The Good Word
Kiquanda Baker is an organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in Hampton Roads, Virginia. She has been instrumental in organizing a recent Water Is Life Rally designed to counter the lies and half-truths peddled by the Koch Brothers and their well paid henchmen. “Our role as community leaders is to show that all of these issues are connected,” Baker says. “The more aware we are of environmental injustices, the less likely our communities can be tricked into rallies by the Koch brothers. A few folks I talk with, they may not be at the point where they’re ready to canvas or march,” she says, “but they are better informed about who they’re voting for and which corporations and interests would also be getting their vote.”
Promoting Political Awareness
That sort of awareness translates to more active involvement in politics, especially voting. That’s a factor that terrifies despicables like the Koch brothers and is the primary reason why their pimps (at least I didn’t use the word “whore” this time, people) are promoting a raft of strategies designed to suppress voter turnout in communities of color. One such proposal came from Republican legislators in Georgia this week. Their plan is to eliminate Sunday voting (many poor people cannot afford to take time off from work to go to the polls) and shorten voting hours.
Anything that makes it harder for blacks to vote is high on the priority list for Republicans, who are heavily subsidized by Koch brothers campaign cash. Where once people like John F. Kennedy wrote books entitled “Profiles In Courage,” Republicans today could write boatloads of books with the title “Profiles In Cowardice.”
Reverend Wilson has already been arrested for publicly presenting his concerns outside the Virginia governor’s mansion. What would make America great would be if people like Paul Wilson were given statues commemorating their courage and people like the Koch brothers got to spend the rest of their lives in prison.