HomeArticleThe Word “Philanthropist” Is Poisonous

The Word “Philanthropist” Is Poisonous

Well hot damn, we’ve lost a Koch brother! Do your happy dance, call out the munchkins and let your voice shake the heavens with a rousing rendition of “Ding-dong the oligarch is dead!”

David Koch, the younger of the two plutocratic faux-libertarian powerhouses who were until today collectively known as the Koch brothers, has died at 79. If you find my celebration of this distasteful, you can kindly kiss my bogan ass. Every time a toxic oligarchic death cultist dies there are always a bunch of people buzzing around social media and the blogosphere admonishing everyone to be respectful and polite because blah blah something about having a family. Such calls for civility toward our rulers are always anti-populist in nature; they stem from a fear of what would happen if the unwashed masses lost their reverence for the ruling class, and I have no respect for them. The less reverence we have for these creeps, the better.

And the narrative managers have of course been shoving us as hard as they can in the opposite direction toward reverence and adulation, with the word “philanthropist” filling out headlines for mass media outlets like Fox News, NBC and CBS. The New York Times published a fawning hagiography with the subheader “A man-about-town philanthropist, he and his brother Charles ran a business colossus while furthering a libertarian agenda that reshaped American politics.”

Now, calling American Enterprise Institute council member and virulent Mitt Romney stan David Koch a “libertarian” is ridiculous; he was as much a libertarian as Hillary Clinton is a socialist. The Kochs have always paid lip service to shrinking government, but all they’ve ever pushed for with their actions is the shrinking of the aspects of government which inconvenience the oligarchs: taxes and regulations. They’ve left the mechanisms of bloodthirsty imperialism, Orwellian surveillance and oppressive neoliberalism almost entirely unchallenged; they’re neoliberal centrists wrapped in a fake libertarian bow. But far more offensive to common sense and human dignity is labeling him a “philanthropist”.

 

If I could strike one word from the English language, “philanthropist” would be it. That word’s sole meaning these days is a label that gets attached to parasitic plutocrats who donate a very small percentage of their wealth to tax-exempt charities so that people won’t notice they’re living in a plutocracy and roll out the guillotines.

Any adept socializer knows that it doesn’t take much to get on someone’s good side; a little well-placed flattery at a party one night and you’ve earned a defender and supporter for life. In the same way, a casual look through campaign donations from the plutocratic class on Open Secrets will show you that it doesn’t take much to get a politician on the side of your interests; a few thousands dollars here, a few thousand there, and you’ve bought yourself a congressman. People respond to positive reinforcement, and it takes very little to elicit this response. Plutocratic charity donations follow the same principle; a billionaire who sprinkles a tiny percentage of his income around a few of his favorite causes will earn the title of “philanthropist” for life.

And when I say tiny, I mean tiny. Study after study has found that the wealthy give less to charity than those who make orders of magnitude less money than they do, which should surprise no one since study after study has also found that wealth kills empathy and makes people more sociopathic. Yet you’ll never see any member of the middle or lower class eulogized as a philanthropist, even if they give a much larger percentage of their income to charity than David Koch did.

Even when they do give money to charity, the wealthy need to have those donations solicited in the most egoically appealing way possible before they’ll deign to consider them. In an interview with Creative Mornings, author Anand Giridharadas described what he learned from disgraced philanthropy fundraiser Emmett Carson about how much bowing and scraping and conceptual re-framing that people have to do in order to convince a billionaire to part with a few coins:

“[Carson] said ‘Look, I worked in social justice my whole life, I used that term my whole career.’ Then he gets this job in silicon valley. He becomes Mark Zuckerberg’s adviser, and others in that world. And he said to me ‘It was made very clear to me very quickly [that] you don’t say this word ‘social justice’ around here.’ And I said ‘Why?’ and he said ‘Well, I think [for] people out here it sounds to them like you’re taking from them.’ You know, which… is actually correct!

 

“And what I learned from Emmett was something very important which is rich and powerful people in our time really do want to help but they have certain requirements for how they want to feel in their helping. They want to feel consulted, which they feel when they do things philanthropically and they don’t feel when government just takes their money and makes a collective decision about what to do. So, they like charter schools, they don’t like equally and adequately funded public schools. They like to feel useful and not blamed. Right? So they don’t like the Bernie Sanders kind of rhetoric around how Facebook’s a monopoly or around Amazon’s doing like… they don’t like that, doesn’t make them feel good. But they’re willing to help if you say ‘Wow, I mean, you built Facebook, that’s so amazing that you created a way for people to waste all this time, and maybe, maybe given that expertise you can help the kids in Newark have a better education?’ They love that. They love that feeling of like, ‘You’re useful. You’re not the problem.’

 

“And what Emmett understood because he’s not a writer who can just say stuff, he’s a guy who had to figure out how to speak to them, to get them to give money away and help, is like, you have to shift the language. But shifting the language is not just shifting the language. It’s shifting the whole thing. It’s shifting the politics of it because you basically have to solve problems in ways that make them perpetrator free.”

“There is a clear understanding that.. a little bit of giving may just be as a smokescreen for a kind of pillaging of the economy,” Giridharadas said elsewhere in the interview, describing the cynical use of charity by Goldman Sachs. There are some great articles by dissident media publications out today about the kind of pillaging David Koch was involved in, including this one by Jacobin titled “For Humanity, David Koch Died Decades Too Late”, and this one by Rolling Stone titled “David Koch Built a Toxic Empire — with Human Consequences”.

We’ve seen the way the “philanthropist” title is abused highlighted elsewhere in recent days with the attention swirling around the strange case of Jeffrey Epstein. In an excellent new interview with Consortium News, journalist Whitney Webb explains the ways the Epstein case ties into all the most fundamental pillars which uphold existing power structures today, including plutocracy, intelligence agencies, organized crime and pedophilia rings. Webb mentions in the interview that when Bill Clinton was first asked about his relationship with Epstein he responded by babbling about philanthropy.

“Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science,” Clinton told New York Magazine in 2002. His sentiments are echoed in contemporary establishment narrative management publications, like this adoring 2003 puff piece by The Harvard Crimson which sees Epstein labeled “one of the most pleasant philanthropists” after a donation to Harvard University.

Ultimately “philanthropy” is just yet another narrative control device used by and for the powerful to maintain the status quo upon which oligarchs like David Koch built their empires. If he were Russian he would not be eulogized today by the western mass media as a “philanthropist”, he would be called exactly what he is: an oligarch. An oligarch who has helped create the climate denialism in America which now sees climate contrarians receiving 49 percent more mass media coverage than climate scientists, one who backed Iraq-raping think tanks, one who helped kill unions and guzzled corporate welfare while pretending to oppose it.

Remember him as such. It’s the most charitable and philanthropic thing you can do today.

___________________

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitterthrowing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandisebuying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish or use any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Latest comments

  • Ever since I learned of David Koch’s passing, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop … dead.

  • >you can kindly kiss my bogan ass
    .
    Shouldn’t it be ‘bogan arse’, though? Sounds a bit like an oxymoron otherwise. Are you sure you are not a cowboy/cowgirl instead?
    .
    >The Kochs have always paid lip service to shrinking government, but … They’ve left the mechanisms of … oppressive neoliberalism almost entirely unchallenged. … they’re neoliberal centrists wrapped in a fake libertarian bow.
    .
    Umm, neoliberalism *is* shrinking government. Libertarianism is nothing but the American fake-utopian edition of neoliberalism, and its only real effect in society is to increase support for neoliberal policies (welfare-gutting, union busting and economic deregulation, inluding, yes, the environmental destruction that you lament so much). That’s why libertarianism is financed by plutocrats like the Kochs, and that financing is the main reason for its existence and popularity as a fake populist rebellion. The fact that neoliberalism is about shrinking government could come as a surprise only to illiterate US conservatives who think ‘neoliberals’ means ‘nasty latte-sipping Manhattan/Hollywood elitist Clinton-loving libs’.
    .
    > Study after study has found …
    .
    Nice links, but why trust the studies? Isn’t it the case that science knows nothing and we are just free to make stuff up just as we feel like?
    .
    Apart from that, I agree with most of the article.

  • Caitlin: You know I am a fan; always will be. But, your celebration of his death is distasteful and beneath you and what you say you stand for, in my opinion, no more than celebrations of Ms. Ginsburg’s impending death would be by her opponents (a death you likely would NOT celebrate, I’m guessing).

  • Johnstone would be my favorite author if she could stop bringing up her climate change insanity for one damn second. I am in the midst of reading her otherwise intelligent and illuminating essays, then she has to make one of her inane comments about climate change, and as a result, I can’t read her for months afterwards. I agree and learn from everything else she writes, but then with one ignorant, stupid comment, she makes me question everything I believe in. If I agree with everything she says, but then she is so fantastically stupid about something, does that mean everything else she says is also wrong? Is everything I believe in wrong? I can’t take it. I am done with her.

    For those who want to read a review about the Nature article Caitlin refers to, written by someone who is educated on the subject, go here:

    https://judithcurry.com/2019/08/14/the-latest-travesty-in-consensus-enforcement/#more-25088

    • Agreed. Climate hysteria has become a religion divorced from both science (they won’t even have a discussion, let alone a debate) and reality. I agree with nearly everything Caitlin writes, but not this. Perhaps if there room was made for honest debate, for examination of IPCC data (still hidden?), and for examination of climate models that consistently wrongly predict outcomes, we could make come progress on the issue. As things stand, however, climate deniers are marginalized and threatened, something that hardly admits of efforts to bring us on board.
      Thanks for the link.

      • Actually, I consider myself to be an environmentalist. Unlike climate change, I believe humans are destroying the earth with toxic chemicals (I am a chemist, and feel I know something about this), but nobody bothers to discuss this real issue because they are too busy whining about some fabricated non-issue. But I guess that’s part of why the non-issue was created – to distract the imbeciles from what the real environmental issues are.

    • Do you think there’s no such thing as an active lobby (sponsored by certain corporate sectors) promoting what is referred to as ‘climate change denial’?

      • There are people on both sides of this issue that support their positions based on financial interests. Whether you are talking about the business world or academia, however, the vast majority of money to be made is on the side of the warmists. If you do not understand this you have not yet begun to research the issue. (My wife is a professor in a field not related to global warming. I still am trying to convince her to apply for a grant that tangentially mentions global warming because I know if she does she’ll get 2 million dollars instantly).
        Speaking of researching the issue, have you? Researching an issue involves spending equal amounts of time reading the positions on both sides, with an open mind, and coming to a rational conclusion. Adopting a stance on an issue based on what they say on CNN and what will give you the most support from your friends and family is not intellectually honest.
        Here’s a question: Let’s say you and I sat you down in a room for a few months and discussed this issue and I convinced you that global warming is a fabricated issue. Be honest. Would you be willing to stand in front of your friends and family and tell them your new position? If you are like the vast majority, the answer is no. People adopt positions that allow them to fit in. Have you seriously investigated the “denier” side of this issue? (Reading an article by a warmist that “debunks” the deniers positions does not count – they are making strawman arguments).
        Nearly all warmists do not know the first thing about the issue, they simply parrot what they see on TV. Michio Kaku, for example, was asked a question by someone in the audience at a conference. The question had to do with the various sources of surface temperature data (GISS, HadCRUT, etc). Kaku did not know what the guy was talking about! It’s unbelievable. A warmist “expert” does not know the first thing about the issue! But yet he thinks “deniers” should be put in jail. The whole thing is a complete joke.

        • What are the possible harms when we go along with the warmists?

  • Twitter link is kaput

  • Hurrah…. One of the vile, psychopathic Koch’s is dead. And as with such vile psychopathic creatures, who is there to provide ‘fawning hagiography’? Yep, the propaganda arm of the 0.01℅. Also known as the mainstream media. Its like George Bush and John McCain all over again. The more blatant they become, the more people will hopefully wake up.
    Behind every great fortune is a great crime.

  • So glad to read some GOOD news for a change, i.e. that the monster David Koch is dead!! Woo-hoo that really made my day!!! :-)))

    Haven’t felt this good since Thatcher kicked the bucket–or when Reagan finally died. Caitlin is spot on–no need to be ‘respectful’ about the passing away of plutocrats like Koch: he was one of the main financial supporters and promoters of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an extreme right wing pro-big business think tank which drafts pro-big oil laws to, for example, criminalize pipeline demonstrations making such acts as demonstrating against pipelines into a felony offense with many years in jail and massive fines. ALEC and Koch have drafted countless legislation to then give to congressmen to pass into law….always of course favoring big oil, mine and gas interests. ALEC is your enemy #1 if you value public lands, national parks, state forests, and laws to protect wildlife. Glad Koch is gone, good riddance. One down, one more to go! NO apologies 😀

  • Pablo Escobar was loved for his local philanthropy, Al Capon, lots of nice people

  • 4th installment, by Whitney Webb, of Epstein-Maxwell-Mossad-CIA-Lansky-Bronfman-Clinton-etc Deep State saga is published, with the focus on Iran contra – Kashoggi – epstein – clinton – bill barr connection at Mint Press News. read before it diappear!

  • 4th installment, by Whitney Webb, of Epstein-Maxwell-Mossad-CIA-Lansky-Bronfman-Clinton-etc seep state saga is published with focus on Iran contra – Kashoggi – epstein – clinton – bill barr connection at Mint Press News. read before it diappear!

    • sept 27, 2008, christopher ketcham, counterpunch:
      “Since the late 1990s, federal agents have reported systemic communications security breaches at the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, the State Department, and the White House. Several of the alleged breaches, these agents say, can be traced to two hi-tech communications companies, Verint Inc. (formerly Comverse Infosys), and Amdocs Ltd., that respectively provide major wiretap and phone billing/record-keeping software contracts for the U.S. government. Together, Verint and Amdocs form part of the backbone of the government’s domestic intelligence surveillance technology. Both companies are based in Israel – having arisen to prominence from that country’s cornering of the information technology market – and are heavily funded by the Israeli government, with connections to the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence (both companies have a long history of board memberships dominated by current and former Israeli military and intelligence officers).”

      not that this is any breaking news, but rather to appreciate how long it’s been public and still never rose to the public conscience.

  • I really believed in Bruce Wayne, but Alfred stole the show when he got in the Batman costume.
    Remember that episode?
    http://www.johndayblog.com/2019/08/already-in-progress.html
    They say that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy.
    The struggle to define the next structure for global trade and finance is underway. China is both in ascendancy, and infected with parasites, while the western financial and military empire has long been ruled by parasites, and is pervasively diseased, as are all of the surviving tributary states. The tributary states that tried to break away, like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela and Syria got gut-shot, but are still in some kind of existence, never to willfully comply again.
    Their crime was against the Petro-Dollar, the extractive agent of the Petrobuck empire. The mutiny against the Petro-$US is spreading, quietly, with Russia, China and Iran trading outside the $US constructs, forming new trade mechanisms in other currencies.
    We know that China and Russia have massive holdings of physical gold, that Venezuela mines it, and that Iran and Turkey have done gold for oil deals in the past decade to get around US sanctions.
    The US is now using both the global military forces and the $US trade and finance structure as billy clubs, instead of just the military. It takes time to develop alternative trade structures, pricing, and market formats, but that is underway, with China, Russia and Iran being fully invested.
    This is an open secret, and it seems to be why Trump can use the $US as a billy club, now, knowing that it is still possible, and will soon be impossible, whether used now or not.
    Trump can be pretty unconstrained in his short-term actions with the global reserve currency. His battlefield tactics are quite different from the calm that global banking tries to portray, and their ends are not quite the same.
    Trump seems to be fronting for nationalist-invested power elites, not globalist-financial-elites.
    Are there other sides? Can we get another quarterback in the game for the nationalist team, in the second half, maybe?

  • For some reason my mind keeps seeing in my reality that the name of the luxury resort town whee the G-7 is meeting is called “Bizarritz”.

  • Once again Caitlin writes about how America is such a bullshit nation and how that bullshit has baffled so many American brains.

    • Pollsters regularly report that a vast majority of Americans, when asked if America is on the right track or the wrong track, say that they feel America is on the wrong track. A recent Comcast/Murdoch poll says only 33% of Americans say America is going in the right direction, while 60% say its on the wrong track. Americans may not be as baffled as people think. (And note who’s paying for the poll, which most likely means the pollsters tried to slant their results to make the money happy …. and 33 to 60 is the best they could do)

  • As a lowly old man the lives and deeds of ” the Masters and the Owners ” pulling the strings behind the curtains here in these United States are of little normal interest to me. Mr. Koch in dying gets his deeds plastered everywhere:
    https://theweek.com/articles/860632
    https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/08/23/after-life-incalculable-harm-billionaire-climate-denialist-and-right-wing-villain?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=email

  • Another thing about wealthy philanthropists, much of their giving goes to high culture, high profile organizations, e.g. elite universities, museums, symphony orchestras etc. I’m not saying that those are not worthy enterprises, but rather I am pointing out that they tend to represent and serve the ruling class. In other words, the rich are giving to further the interests of the rich.

  • Well said – save the misguided climate change hysteria. I had a similar reaction well reading of David Koch’s death. Greg Palast wrote about how the Koch brother’s were actually stealing oil from a Tribe’s oil tanks.
    The other thing is, many fear being labeled if they criticize a Jew, Black or Gay – never mind the rest – the alphabet let me make up what am I crowd, so they stay mute. I gagged at all the lionizing of Barbara Bush’s and George H.W, Bush’s deaths. Anyway, thanks again for your writing.

    • You gagged? At least you’re lucky you don’t live in Maine where Channel 6 in Portland stationed a reporter across the bay from the Bush family compound for hours at a time and broadcast incessant drooling over this criminal family!

  • Somehow I doubt memorial services for Mr. Koch will even approach the totally ridiculous extravagant multiple location send off orchestrated for everyone’s good buddy globalist and poster child for term limits John McCain. But then again, I suspect much if not all of that particular nonsense was funded by government. What, no pyramid? Is that what RIP means, rest in pyramid? BTW, how’s that think tank peacenik deal initiated by Charles and George coming along?

    https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2019/07/01/new-soroskoch-funded-think-tank-claims-to-oppose-us-forever-war/

  • Money buys anything, even sainthood.

    A few years ago I was teaching a comparative religion class, and – when talking about the ethics of Jesus – I asked my class who was the most generous, unselfishly giving person they could think of. The answer I got: Bill Gates.

    • Yes, those who exploit the populace the most are often coined as the most generous by the MSM. 60 Minutes et al regularly runs pieces on the ultra wealthy with emphasis on their charitable endeavors. Horrible.

      • If a person is not exploiting the populace, then they don’t have enough money to be called generous by the millionaires in the MSM. The lady who volunteers with her church helping in the soup kitchen after working her two jobs will never be admired by the millionaires on TV. But writing a check with lots of zeroes in it will draw them like flies. Especially when the PR event has a free bar and buffet.

    • You might enjoy this story. I was a conference for foster kids and our abysmal governor now senator Angus King got up to speak and lauded Bill Gates. The next speaker was a girl in foster care who immediately said, “Not all of us admire Bill Gates.” Thank god for the honesty of children, and how depressing that your students have not an inkling.

  • One night, a very long time ago, I had this vivid dream that I was a the host of a midday televised gambling game show that took place on the steps of a building across the street from the New York Stock Exchange.
    Right next to the statue at the top of the stairs were a row of guillotines containing the filthy rich human swine bleeding humanity. I would go to each of them and list their crimes to the viewers who would bet on which head rolled down the steps would get to the bottom first second and third. After the bets were in a bell would ring and the heads would be chopped from the bodies and the race began to wild cheering. It is strange, but I remember that dream, maybe it was not a dream but a vision I have of my next life!

  • Another great bunch of philanthropists are the Sacklers. Museums around the world are erasing their name from the walls because they’re now seen as having fueled the opioid epidemic.

  • Here’s Global Justice Now’s 2016 report on the most toxic “philanthropist” of all, the Gates Foundation.

    https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/resources/gated-development-gates-foundation-always-force-good

  • Totally agree with you on every word you’ve spoken. May this prick rot in hell. The REALLY good news with these pricks, is all the money they have spent their lives accumilating, they can’t take with them. L.O.L. The second thing, no matter how much money they HAVE accumilated throughout their lives, they will still, at the end of the day DIE.

    • for some it’s only too bad that you can only die once.

  • Three cheers – Caitlin and commenters aren’t buying the old view of rich ‘Western’ people being philanthropists (good) and Russian rich people being oligarchs (bad). Language matters.

  • Another bullseye Caitlin Johnstone! I read the news this morning and knew you would not disappoint. Here is a short summary by the also excellent Greg Palast on the nature of David Koch’s “philanthropy.”

    https://www.gregpalast.com/king-koch-is-gone/

  • in one of my many previous lives, i worked part time for a small non-profit self-help organization for new immigrants and ghostly visa-over-stayers in Chicago. it was a residential building with the director’s family living upstairs and the first floor and the basement for the community people in need. As a fundraising effort, i visited the venerable Chicago Community Foundation, located in one of the magnificent old high-rises on the intimidating Michigan Ave in the heart of Downtown Chicago. i was struck by the interior that was as fancy as a five-star hotel, reminding me how the self-help center was hot and crowded in that summer. here it was, the most revered community “philanthrophy” organization in Chicago, spending all the donated $$$ in making itself so high-class, authoritative and intimidating. they didn’t have to do anything else at all to put me right in my place. in fact, i didn’t feel like even trying to persuade them to give us their fucking arrogant corrupting $$$. and we never got much of their help. they knew we weren’t buying or selling their B$.

  • My personal favorite is when some mega-billionaire tries to tell people that they should help a cause supported by the oligarch by ‘volunteering their own ‘free’ time (after working their 3 jobs to pay the bills of course). Somebody with more money than God (remember, rich people aren’t even allowed into heaven), who could fully fund anything they wanted to fund, tries to appear civic-minded by telling others to go work for free. That always warms my little heart.

  • Great article Caitlin!

  • We can use the plutocrats/oligarchs tools against them. Whenever i want to donate even a few bucks to a web cause i look to the list of donors on the site. No list of donors i do not donate. Usually they send a thank you also. This i keep on file as proof of my “philanthropy”. The web allows us ordinary folks to make common cause and actually get stuff done. i suggest you make your FB page a Group pg and Public. It is now not difficult to control trolls and spam.

    • What is Facebook?

    • wut?????

  • Interesting that you get around to Epstein. First name that came to my mind from the first of your Koch remarks. At any rate good for us that another depraved reprobate is dead.

  • During a previous French revolution, fresh chopped heads of plutocrats were loaded into cannons and fired over the cheering masses. Sometimes history repeats itself. Veritas vos Liberate !

    (you’re wrong on global warming, but that’s O/T during departed plutocrat rejoicing)

    • The ice caps are melting.

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