When the sale of the Post was announced, writers, editors, and producers sought to determine Bezos’ politics for a simple reason. How the media judges one’s billions determines whether one will be celebrated or scrutinized. Which sort of rich person is Bezos: a Bloomberg (good) or a Koch (bad)?
Bezos needn’t worry. Since the 2006 election cycle the contributions of Amazon’s political action committee have favored Democrats. Most of his personal contributions have gone to Democrats, too, including to liberal stalwarts John Conyers and Pat Leahy, though he also has donated to Republicans Slade Gorton and Meg Whitman. He gave millions to bring same-sex marriage to Washington State, and $100,000 to defeat the state income tax increase championed by Bill Gates Sr. He supports the Internet sales tax making its way through Congress.
Libertarian Reason magazine says Bezos has donated to its Reason Foundation. “If Bezos is a libertarian, however,” wrote New Yorker editor David Remnick, in what has to be the week’s most condescending sentence, “he is not one of the deeply conservative mold of the Koch brothers, who have shown signs of wanting to buy mainstream publications, including the Los Angeles Times.” Here Remnick, without any real evidence, is offering a sort of benediction for the Internet tycoon, cleansing him of any association with the dread word “conservative,” and signaling to fellow manufacturers of taste and opinion that the new owner of the Post, unlike you-know-who, is not to be feared and loathed. He is playing the traditional role of media gatekeeper, keeping friends in and conservatives out.
There’s been a lot of wind about Bezos’ big media buy (though it hasn’t involved the hysterical ninnyism of coverage of the potential purchase of the LA Times by the Koch brothers). But I think there’s an important angle to the story that no one’s touched on yet.
As the country descends further into socialism and class warfare, rich people–and I mean really, really rich people–are realizing that they need media organizations to run interference for them, to keep them from from being demonized and turned into enemies of the state.
No matter how friendly you are with liberal causes–and all indications are that Bezos is pretty friendly–you can never be friendly enough to keep the media from turning on you if they think they can make enough hay out of it. (See coverage of one Gates, Bill during the anti-trust mania of the Clinton administration.) But now the really rich founder of Amazon.com is owner and patron of one of the top news media organizations in the country. There’s at least one paper that won’t say his company should be broken up for the good of the country.