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Robert Greenwald on the New Film 'Koch Brothers Exposed' -- the 1% at Its Very Worst

Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation debuts their feature-length film, an exposé of the right-wing brothers' massive reach.

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Because people don't trust 30-second [television] spots. You can show me all the data in the world about how many homes [are reached by] the 30-second spot. But the impact is the real key, because regardless how many homes it's in, how many silence it? How many are watching on Tivo and fast-forward through it? And how many, particularly 35 and under, just don't trust TV ads? Versus something forwarded to you from an opera blog, or from a member of your church. 

A: Returning to the Arkansas segment of Koch Brothers Exposed -- the story of a small town that is riven with cancer, apparently because of toxic dumping by a Koch Industries Georgia Pacific factory. The rest of the film -- in very different ways and in very different circumstances -- mostly highlights the Kochs' involvement in government or politics, whether it's the attempt to resegregate the Wake County school system in North Carolina, or the voter ID laws passed by state legislatures across the country, or attempts to scale back Social Security.

Then we go to this community in Arkansas, where way too many people are dying of cancer, and it's a very poignant story. The scenes in the cemetery are just gut-wrenching. What made you decide to use that story, and how did you decide where to place it in the film?

RG: What I've tried to do in as many of the films as possible is to make the personal political, so that people understand it's not them as individuals, and it's not even their fault or a result of the alignment of the stars, but it's the way the system works. Whether it's the individuals in Wal-Mart, whether it's the individuals in Iraq for Sale, it's always important to find those people who exemplify what we're talking about. Because otherwise the discussion is too abstract; it's an abstract discussion about ideology and its consequences. But if you see people bleeding and hurting and paying a price, then it brings it home. So that's the overview.

In this particular case, a couple of things that i read came together. One, that Koch [Industries] was one of the worst 10 polluters. Two, that David Koch was a cancer survivor himself. And, three, that [the Koch brothers] spend enormous amounts of money trying to fight regulations that would protect people from getting sick from their own factories and plants. So putting those three ideas together… [Brave New Foundation filmmakers] Jeff [Cole] and Natalie [Kottke]  spent five months on this -- a story, by the way, just as an aside, one would hope the corporate media would be undertaking, but they're not, partly because they don't have the resources, and partly because they don't care about a poor, black community somewhere getting screwed over. So, because we had the support from the people we did…Natalie was able to put months into finding the community and the people, building a level of trust, going and visiting,and then getting their agreement and encouragement and support for us to be able to go forward.

A: Progressives and liberals -- we know our facts. We like to think we can convince the world to see things our way through reason and facts. But you can't convey the facts without storytelling and narrative, and despite the great number of artists and creative people who identify themselves as either liberal or progressive, the right often does a better job at creating a narrative -- often a narrative with which facts do not comport. What do you have to say to AlterNet readers about the importance of storytelling and narrative?

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