Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Watch out! Here is a film scarier than "Jaws". Michael Moore producer Tia Lessin (Trouble the Water) directs the punchy "Citizen Koch" about the autocratic Koch brothers and their supernatural hatred for President Obama and also, by extension, all political engines that don't spin their way, which is to the Right.
The patriarch, Fred Koch was a founder of the harshly conservative John Birch Society, that formed in 1958 as a McCarthy-era war against Communism, or we can at least infer by the documentary, anyone deemed contrary by the hard Right.
The documentary gives us a smidgen of the Reagan 80s taking us to the knife-sharpening attacks against Hillary Clinton during 2007.
By then the Koch brothers pumped money into the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin sprouted to life, (or death) with a voice carrion-shrill and even grating in her absolute disgust for Obama.
The signs came out like vulture talons: Obama the Joker-freak, Obama the Dishonest African, Obama the Socialist Black Panther wanting to overthrow the American white man. Such signs seem scrawled in excrement and no doubt they are just as offensive.
Despite all the antiquated Frankensteinian mob behavior, their party's one term blood lust came to nothing and Obama was elected for a second term.
The film also highlights the deadpan and charmless maneuvers of Governor Scott Walker as he promises to lift up the American worker and sneakily strips away unions of collective bargaining. Teachers stage an all night hearing. Walker and his men leave the building.
A grass-roots backlash begins with murmurs of a recall. The swell looks promising but in the end, Koch Cash proves mightier than the sword.
At times, "Citizen Koch" plays like a Stephen King horror in the mode of "The Shining". Consider that every year The Kochs give an annual retreat at a hotel mansion with turrets and all. Even the color scheme is brown and grim. They also saunter about California golf courses, becoming scaly chameleons according to whatever suits their leather-fat ideals. Many of the men have hard hair and this could be a sequel to "The Stepford Wives".
Money goes well with plaid.
The most compelling part of the film is in the character of Buddy Roemer, the former Governor of Louisiana. Once a die hard Republican, he now feels his party has left him behind. He intends to run against the Max Headroom-like Mitt Romney, for the glare of candidacy, but he can't get a billionaire bankroll and his offices are vacant and listless. The Koch irons will not let him debate. Roemer is an inverse twin of Ralph Nader, forced out of the cash podium, a new self deprecating Everyman and a Mr. Smith. Part of Roemer might be sincere, but if events were different, would he champion the average person?
Money is a steamroller under Koch's brass knuckles and as both a corporate entity and brothers, they have the abundance of power.
Seen in this way, the Koch family is a shiver of sharks, mindless in morality and compromise.
When we are shown veterans scowling into the camera and working out, the atmosphere is cubist in claustrophobia and tension. The screen bubbles in anger. You might want to shake them, informing that its not too late to create a world that they want to see. But even as a woodsy couple scrambles to the polls with the hope of recalling Scott Walker, the supernally dark aura of Charles Koch is close at hand, veiled and unseen, like a right-edgy Wizard of Oz.
Few of us have known this formidable but nebulous man, with his many fingers stretching like an octopus, over his influence of NPR and PBS as he talks of planting rabble rousers in a recording.
The Koch family as a group almost succeeded in making this very film, known as "Citizen Koch" become marginal, unviewable and ultimately insignificant.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org