Citizen Koch (NR)

Documentary 86 June 13, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
Not at all the one-subject exposé its title suggests, Carl Deal and Tia Lessin's scattershot agitprop doc takes the perfidy of the billionaire Koch brothers as its given, offering up montages of Tea Party screamers rather than investigative reporting or rigorous argumentation. It opens with scraps of Palin speeches, Beck bleats, and Limbaugh eruptions. That technique is not far off from the water-chumming those three have made their careers with. Citizen Koch is dedicated only to pissing off people who already agree with it -- and who the filmmakers expect will relish laughing at the old folks who have pickled from soaking in conservative media.

We do see a Koch brother on occasion, but they're a distant and shadowy presence in a film that might have been more fairly titled A Summary of the Citizens United Case and a Bunch of Stuff About Scott Walker's Wisconsin. There's a strong précis explicating the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and some fascinating interviews with Wisconsin Republicans disgusted with Walker, the Koch-funded governor they had just elected, after his move to eliminate collective bargaining rights for unions. Walker insists that America's hard times are the fault of teachers and unionized construction workers, and that the solution is more tax cuts for the wealthy and the slashing of social services. But rather than explore this argument, or the way it gets candied up and fed to anxious Fox watchers, or what the Kochs believe and are striving for, Citizen Koch belches up John Birch fringers spewing racist nonsense and never finds a way to pin those views on the billionaires buying our statehouses. Read Jane Mayer's New Yorker articles on the Kochs instead.
Carl Deal, Tia Lessin Carl Deal, Tia Lessin Variance Films