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When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stripped state workers of their union rights in 2011, was it simply a classic face-off between labor and management, or a bold political move designed to weaken his party's political opposition? Set against the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy movements, the US Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, and the 2012 presidential campaign, Citizen Koch documents the consequences for democracy when private interests determine who is elected to deliver public good.Written by
PBS was originally set to air this documentary, but reports indicate that David Koch intervened with its broadcast after having a negative reaction to another documentary the network aired called Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (2012), which was also critical of him. See more »
Weak Documentary that Tells You Nothing about the Koch Brothers
Citizen Koch has received some hype based on the fact that PBS refused to air it, reportedly for fear of offending contributor David Koch. Although I cannot discount the possibility of Koch suppressing the film, after having seen the film, it seems just as likely that the film was dumped for poor quality.
Simply put, this film tells you nothing about the Koch Brothers that someone interested enough to watch it would not already know. The Koch Brothers don't even appear in the film that much, figuring in perhaps fifteen minutes of an hour and a half film. Rather than an expose of the Koch Brothers, it is a generalized rant against money in politics, mostly focusing on Wisconsin.
All too often, Citizen Koch fails to explore potentially interesting avenues of investigation. For instance, at one point, the film mentions that the brothers' father was the founder of the extremist John Birch Society. In a better documentary, the filmmakers would have explored their father's influence on them. Are the Koch Brothers still involved in the Society? You can't tell from watching this.
Instead, we get seemingly endless interviews with ordinary Wisconsinites expressing their disapproval of Scott Walker. Most of this will be familiar to anyone even remotely interested in politics. The only twist the filmmakers bring is that they make a point of featuring disgruntled working class Republicans, showing that money in politics is not just a liberal issue. It is open to question how receptive the film's target audience was to this message, though. At the screening I attended, a number of audience members laughed at the thought of a working class Republican.
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