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Will the Anti-Koch Brigade Boycott MSNBC?

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Unread 05.22.12, 11:20 AM
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Will the Anti-Koch Brigade Boycott MSNBC?

On 05.22.12 10:00 AM posted by Lachlan Markay

Is cable news network MSNBC complicit in the death of Trayvon Martin? The suggestion, of course, is absurd. But under the same logic that liberals have used to tie Koch Industries to the Martin shooting, companies like General Electric and Comcast—owners of MSNBC—would be just as responsible.

The issue arose during a testy interview on MSNBC last week between commentator Martin Bashir and Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries. Karen Finney, a substitute host on Bashir’s program, had previously suggested that Koch Industries, because it supports the American Legislative Exchange Council, had a role in Martin’s death.

ALEC has been falsely tied to passage of Florida’s stand-your-ground law, invoked by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in his defense in the Martin case. But what Bashir didn’t appear to realize is that MSNBC’s parent companies, like Koch, are ALEC members.

That hasn’t dissuaded MSNBC personalities such as Finney and other left-wing commentators from implying that Koch Industries is somehow complicit in Martin’s death. It’s an inflammatory charge, but here’s what the rationale for attacks against Koch boils down to: Zimmerman shot Martin in what may or may not have been a permissible use of force under a law that was not based on ALEC model legislation that Koch had no part in formulating – and somehow Koch is responsible.

The line of attack against Koch starts with the liberal campaign to silence or otherwise neuter ALEC, a non-profit that advises state-level policymakers. The left’s objection to ALEC has nothing to do with the function it serves or the way in which it operates – if it did, liberals would also be criticizing the litany of similar “progressive” organizations. Rather, the objection is that ALEC advances center-right principles: limited government, free markets, and federalism, as the group’s tagline states.

Despite the coordinated and well-funded campaign to take down ALEC, most of the lines of attack against the group have not gained much traction.

In the wake of the Martin shooting, however, the anti-ALEC crusaders have settled on a new tactic. Zimmerman invoked Florida’s “castle doctrine” law, which allows citizens to use deadly force against would-be attackers in some instances. The groups looking to destroy ALEC have pointed out that it has written “model legislation” for similar laws.

“The Trayvon Martin thing was like a gift,” one anti-ALEC activist told Bloomberg.

The shooting helped accelerate the campaign to get ALEC members to drop their support in the face of organized boycotts by liberal groups and their supporters.

The Martin connection, however, is a specious one. ALEC approved its model “castle doctrine” legislation months after Florida passed its own law, meaning that model legislation played no part in forming the Florida law. That hasn’t stopped the attacks.

In fact, the attackers have tried to tie Koch Industries, owned by libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch, to the shooting as well, claiming that by financially supporting ALEC (as a member), the company is complicit.

Koch has pointed out that it not only had no part in forming ALEC’s model legislation (which, again, was not the basis for Florida’s law), but has actually lobbied for additional restrictions on Second Amendment rights – its only involvement on the firearms issue.

But all of these facts aside, if Koch is responsible for the shooting, so too are Comcast and General Electric, both of which are ALEC members. Holden pointed that out in his Bashir interview, and it merits more attention.

Comcast and General Electric happen to own MSNBC, the cable news network on which many of these anti-Koch sentiments have been broadcast, and on which Holden had to battle accusations against his employer.

Should we expect to see a boycott of MSNBC and its sister news organizations? Given that MSNBC has served as the platform to broadcast so many of the attacks against ALEC and Koch, it may be too much to ask.

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