As the sinister aims of rightwing media conglomerates like Sinclair Broadcast Group begin to resonate with the public, an infuriating trend is emerging: people pleading for a liberal billionaire to save us from the conservative billionaires.
That inane line of reasoning resurfaced last night when Dan Pfeiffer, a co-host of Pod Save America and a former Obama aide, tweeted (and deleted) this:
What a scintillating idea! I wish my favorite corporate overlord, Jeff Bezos, would face off with an evil corporate overlord like Sinclair to buy up every local news property they could! Pfeiffer later walked that groveling remark back, shrugging his shoulders in another tweet about how of course it would be nice for ownership of local media companies to remain in local hands, but that’s just not how things are anymore. Billionaires owning everything you touch is just How Things Work Now, so you might as well pick your fighter before you’re sold off to another feudal lord!
Pfeiffer wasn’t alone in pining away for Bezos to use his vast wealth to save us all (by pouring that wealth into other corporations):
Others tried to make the paradigm of Bezos-as-Trump-foil more explicit:
While it’s true that the way Bezos is “running” the Washington Post hasn’t had a discernible effect on its coverage—instead, the paper is profitable and hiring at a rapid clip—the Amazon mogul’s tenure has also seen increased hostility to a union drive at the paper, where staffers have essentially been told to sit down, shut up, and take what they were offered because they’re all lucky to have jobs, praise Saint Jeff.
We saw a similar paternalistic instinct at play in the short-lived calls for Oprah, widely deemed a pure-of-heart billionaire, to run against Trump, the villain. What a hell world we live in, where the Democratic Party would even for a second consider recruiting another mega-rich celebrity to try to relate to voters’ material concerns.
There are few political solutions being floated today that rankle more than “the billionaires will save us.” They will not. With Bezos, the world’s richest man, as our most shining example, billionaires become billionaires because they’re highly skilled at subverting what’s good for people in favor or what will enrich them personally. They are oligarchs and monopolists who dodge taxes and treat workers as another expendable resource to be exploited. We are fools for ascribing any degree of magnanimity to their actions.
Even if the billionaire class did know what’s best for our democracy and for humanity, they would abandon it immediately if it threatened their sprawling business empires. The ultra-rich are the problem. Asking them to save us isn’t just magical thinking, it’s a dangerous lie.