What do you get when you combine Captain Planet with G.I.-Joe villains, add a splash of anti-K Street populism and a bucket of funding from Charles and David Kochs’ donor network?
Meet the “Kronies,” a new online video series that seeks to raise awareness about how well-connected companies use their political muscle in Washington to rig the system in their favor. Using animation straight out of classic Saturday morning cartoons and action figures made with a 3-D printer, "The Kronies" series illustrates how corporations, bureaucrats and politicians work together at the expense of entrepreneurs and the little guy.
The story is told from the perspective of the bad guys — the Kronies themselves — a coalition of characters from the darker corners of America’s political system. Our universe of anti-heroes includes Kaptain Korn, who represents big agriculture, Ariel Stryker, the symbolic stand-in for the military-industrial complex, Parts and Labor, who keeps business protected from competition and Bankor, the master of moral hazard. With help from Big-G, the Kronies use their influence and power to gain access to the G-Force, or — as everyone else calls it — the federal government.
“The Kronies are Mandating, Tarrify-ing, and Boondoggling their way into action,” the Kronie Facebook page shouts, “stomping out market competition with the power of the G-Force!”
Anyway, you get the idea.
The videos, which appeared online last week without any sign as to where they came from or who made them, have been praised across the political spectrum.
"This is literally right-wing propaganda,” said the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter when he introduced the show on the left-leaning site’s digital video program. "So why do I love it?”
At first glance, the website’s origin is cloaked in mystery. It has no mark of branding or funding other than a small copyright notice at the bottom that says it’s a project of Chimera Incorporated. Don't be fooled, Chimera is a fake company. As part of the rollout, the creators of the video established “official” accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
So where did this high quality — and obviously expensive — project come from? Yahoo News has learned that the Kronies grew out of Public Notice, an advocacy group and polling firm that’s part of a sprawling political advocacy network overseen by billionaire activists Charles and David Koch. Public Notice spokesman Bill Riggs confirmed the connection to the Kronies project to Yahoo News in response to an inquiry after several sources informed us of the project’s origins.
Public Notice has passed the project on to another group within the Koch network called Generation Opportunity, which was founded in 2010 to reach out to young people. Generation Opportunity, which produced a viral series of anti-Obamacare Web videos last fall, is considering a broader rollout of the Kronies brand later this year, sources with knowledge of the group’s plans told Yahoo News.
While the funding of the program is tied to the Koch network, the videos are a product of the creative genius of libertarian filmmaker John Papola, the CEO of Emergent Order, a video company based in Austin, Texas. Papola burst onto the online video scene when he produced the “Boom and Bust” rap series, educational videos that teach economics by depicting the rivalry between John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek that have a combined 7.2 million views on YouTube.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Papola, a veteran of Viacom properties Spike TV, Nickelodeon and MTV Animation, described the videos as “Captain Planet without the Malthusian economics and without the earnest ‘save the world’ schlock.”
The Kronies’ message has a wide appeal that can blur traditional political boundaries, he said. It taps into that tiny island of agreement between the tea party right and the Elizabeth Warren left that rails against cronyism and the dominance of major corporations. Said Papola: “I think Noam Chomsky and I can basically wrap arms and sing the same tune on this.”
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.