Editor’s note: While we ponder on the death and legacy of David Koch, we have some excerpts from writer Mark Ames as the broke the original story of the tea party.
Back in the early-mid 1960s, Charles Koch was just another 20-something oil heir. It was then that he first encountered a libertarian guru by the name of Robert LeFevre.
In the decade or so before gaining influence over Charles Koch’s world, Robert LeFevre made his living as a professional Red-baiter, union-buster, and loyal lieutenant for one of the nation’s most notorious anti-Semites. Working his way up the fringes of the far-right during the McCarthy Era, he finally landed his own corporate-funded free-market gig, “the Freedom School,” (also known as “Rampart College”), which his backers wanted to turn into the nation’s premier libertarian indoctrination camp.
In a speech, Charles Koch gave to an audience of libertarians in the late 1990s, Koch revealed that his conversion came in 1964, when he enrolled in Freedom School in an intensive two-week total immersion program in radical libertarian ideology, where property is the basis of human freedom, and the state—along with any public organization or even the notion of “public good”—is the very definition of “tyranny.”
As Charles Koch explained, “Bob LeFevre’s Freedom School where I began developing a passionate commitment to liberty as the form of social organization most in harmony with reality and man’s nature, because [Freedom School] is where I was first exposed in-depth to such thinkers as Mises and Hayek.”
Awkwardly for Koch, Freedom School didn’t just teach radical pro-property libertarianism, it also published a series of Holocaust-denial articles through its in-house magazine, Ramparts Journal. The first of those articles was published in 1966, two years after Charles Koch joined Freedom School as executive, trustee and funder.
Even if one were to accept the most extreme and exaggerated indictment of Hitler and the national socialists for their activities after 1939 made by anybody fit to remain outside a mental hospital, it is almost alarmingly easy to demonstrate that the atrocities of the Allies in the same period were more numerous as to victims and were carried out for the most part by methods more brutal and painful than alleged extermination in gas ovens.
Harry Elmer Barnes, Rampart Journal 1966
The Holocaust-denial articles in Ramparts Journal were significant enough to be included today on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Denial Timeline.” Also under Koch’s watch, LeFevre created a history program headed by one of the biggest names in early Holocaust-denialism, James J. Martin
After LeFevre’s Freedom School collapsed in 1968, Charles Koch continued to promote the works and careers of Holocaust deniers through his growing network of libertarian organizations, including the Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute and Reason.
As late as 1980, the Cato Institute was still publishing works by notorious “revisionists” including Martin, and Harry Elmer Barnes (the inspiration for the neo-Nazi Barnes Review journal, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most virulent anti-Semitic organizations around”).
Indeed, in the late 1970s, Martin even had a seat on the board of trustees at the Koch-founded Center for Libertarian Studies, which described itself as “sister organizations” with the Cato Institute, with whom they “coordinate their plans and their programs.”
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in November 1980, Koch quickly revamped the libertarianism he’d been building up for over a decade, cutting free the more extremist far-right proponents from his network. To make his movement mainstream, he cut his official ties with the far-right radicals like LeFevre, with the libertarian Holocaust deniers like Martin, and with co-founder of Cato Institute Murray Rothbard (who backed David Duke), among others. He then moved his more mainstream libertarian machine into Washington D.C., where it has remained the most influential ideas mill of the past three decades. Today, that fringe-right element has been wiped out of the official libertarian record, buried and forgotten.
Check out more of Mark Ames’ Journalism at Exiled Online