Is it the case that whoever pays the piper calls the tune?
We can combine two interesting bits of recent news productively.
Koch and the Neo-Confederate
The first is the news comes courtesy of the student group, UnKoch my Campus. It seems one of Charles Koch’s many foundations disbursed money to Florida Atlantic professor Marshall DeRosa to start a classes in civics education for prisoners returning to society. DeRosa was a one-time member of the League of the South (LOS) a neo-Confederate hate group. As The Nation concludes:
The reality of the situation is staggering: An academic who worked with a neo-Confederate organization is teaching inmates, including many of color, a curriculum he designed, funded by one of the wealthiest conservative political donors in the country and instituted at the facilities of a notorious, predatory private-prison company that is accused of violating federal anti-slavery laws.
The Charles Koch foundation has scrubbed their article touting their connection to DeRosa (fortunately, the internet never forgets). And, even after DeRosa left the LOS for the (supposedly) more respectable Abbeville Institute, his views are still reactionary and ill-informed. What should we make of this? Is it reasonable to think that DeRosa’s prison activities are benign? Is it reasonable to think that the Koch Foundation just didn’t know about his unsavory past and present views and associations?
The Jews Control the Weather
The second bit of news was when a DC councilman claimed that the incoming snow on the Atlantic coast was the result of a conspiracy:
“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities,” said White, according to video footage that the city routinely releases after official meetings. “They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.”
The councilman later explained that he had no idea that invoking the Rothschilds was invoking an old antisemitic slur. So, while he meant to say that a shadowy cabal controlled the weather, he certainly didn’t mean that a shadowy cabal of Jews controlled the weather.
In both cases a reasonable question is: while the Koch Foundation and the DC Councilman might have been ignorant that they were linking themselves to racist ideas, should they have known? It is an interesting historical question worth exploring.