Judge Russell Engebretson won't give up his keyboard till it's pried from his cold, dead fingers.
A hard-hitting and revealing investigation of the 1% in America at its very worst.
Director Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed) and his intrepid crew have created a devastating investigative documentary that hones in on the billionaire Koch brothers, vicious greed-heads extraordinaire, who are dead set on turning America into a plutocratic banana republic. If that description of the Koch clan sounds overwrought, it won't after a viewing of Koch Brothers Exposed.
The sons inherited their vast wealth from father Fred Koch, who made his fortune in the oil business by wheeling and dealing with Russia's Joseph Stalin in the 1930s (Stalin thought Fred was a fine fellow). Fred Koch was an unabashed supporter of racist laws and a huge contributor to the radical right John Birch Society. Apparently, the apples did not fall far from the tree, and the Koch siblings, now owners of the second-largest privately owned corporation in the United States, have carried on the family tradition with a vengeance. They helped create and continue to fund the Tea Party; their company is in the top 10 per cent of polluters, and has contributed over $500,000 to members of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee that proposes environmental pollution regulations; they give large sums of money to universities, but only if the paid parties sign contracts that require the hiring of teachers that will push the Koch point of view (dismantling Social Security and Medicare, gutting unions, eliminating all forms of "government interference"—otherwise known as regulations and laws pertaining to corporations).
One chapter of the film details the decades-long poisoning of a town's river (and the subsequent freakish cluster of cancer deaths) by one of the Koch company's Georgia Pacific paper mills. Another chapter illuminates the egregious Koch-funded, state-by-state attack on voter rights, by way of the requirement to show a photo ID at the polls. It's a slick and nasty way to undermine the voting rights of anyone who may not own a car: students, the disabled, poor blacks, whites, and Latinos. Each segment of the documentary is one dismal Koch-created disaster after another.
If you're worried the reportage in Koch Brothers Exposed is not fair and balanced, or that only Koch haters are involved in the project, flip to any major TV news channel, tune in to an AM radio talk show, or read a popular news magazine picked up at the local supermarket to be smothered in Koch-sponsored viewpoints. Naturally, the name of Koch never escapes the lips of their propagandists, but broadcast and print media is saturated with the Koch brothers' extremist right-wing ideology.
For a startling depiction of how the media conservative echo chamber really works, watch the chapter entitled "Echo Chamber" which constructs a moving collage of voices and images (with dollar amounts inscribed beneath each speaker) that brilliantly illuminates the Koch-sponsored attack on Social Security. It's an amazing thing to see and hear one talking head after another repeat the same prevarications almost verbatim, as though they are reading straight from a teleprompter. Although it is a fact that Social Security is safe and sound for many decades into the future—even without the simple expedient of eliminating the $100,000 cap on the FICA tax or imposing a small trader's transaction tax—we are hammered into believing otherwise by congressmen, "think tank" pundits, and broadcasters who are little more than bought-and-paid-for proselytizers for the Koch brothers.
There are other chapters I have not touched upon—blood-boiling stories that prompted me to pause the DVD from time to time to avoid the imminent possibility of hemorrhagic stroke. As a personal health precaution, I will skip any further summaries and move along to the extras.
The bonus features are short but trenchant. They include a couple of extended interviews: Lawrence Lessig discusses the corruption of public policy by the injection of large sums of cash into Congress, and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous talks about the Koch brothers' aggressive attempt to roll back access to voting. A deleted segment films some retirees having a picnic on a beach while discussing wealth inequality—with a clear view of the Palm Beach Koch mansion in the background (only one of many mansions they own around the globe.) There is an extra that explains the making of "Echo Chamber," and a Michael Moore-style sequence that shows the film crew being threatened and ejected from the Koch property (along with repeated phone requests for the Koch brothers to respond to the film, all of which were ignored.)
In addition to the 20-plus minutes of extras, Robert Greenwald provides an excellent audio commentary that goes into considerable detail on the making of the documentary and how he and the crew managed to compress so much information into a relatively short running time.
As for the video, the quality of the standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer varies considerably dependent on the archival material's quality or lack thereof. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is clear where it counts—in the interviews and voiceover narration. Overall, it's an average presentation for a DVD documentary, with no critical issues that will interfere with the viewing experience.
Greenwald says in the audio commentary, "If you reach the heart, the mind will follow." He marshals an impressive array of facts into the service of his viewpoint, but also appeals to his audience with several emotionally intense interviews, a couple of which are simply heartbreaking. This can be a difficult film to watch—even at its mere 55-minute running time—because of its rage-inducing subject matter. However, Koch Brothers Exposed effectively sweeps aside a curtain of secrecy and reveals the elitist, undemocratic, and brutish actions of these I'm-entitled-to-it-all billionaires who are working hard to destroy the lives of average people. Their towering arrogance and disdain of American citizens has to be seen to be believed.
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