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Why The Problems With Philip Anschutz Go Beyond Coachella
Joost Heijthuijsen , January 7th, 2017 18:17

Philip Anschutz, an ultra-conservative multi-billionaire, is making a fortune on counterculture via the tours and festivals he promotes. The profits indirectly benefit some grim causes - but what can we do against it, asks Joost Heijthuijsen

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke criticised former US President George Bush on US TV show Late Night with Conan O'Brien. While performing 'House Of Cards' from their London studio for the show, Yorke said that the song's chorus of "Denial, denial" was dedicated to ”that man who walked away from the Kyoto.” George Bush is friendly with fellow oilman Philip Anschutz, the full owner of Coachella, the festival that booked Radiohead several times, including a headlining spot for the upcoming 2017 edition. As a board member of the American Petroleum Institute in 1998 Anschutz was responsible for a multi-million dollar campaign against Kyoto. Of course Anschutz also donated to the Bush campaign. According to Greenpeace (who Radiohead made a campaign video for), “the Anschutz-owned opinion magazine The Weekly Standard has also been a promoter of so-called “climategate” emails. The magazine has served as a platform for prominent career climate skeptics Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green of the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI).”

If you knew that by buying a product you were giving money to an ultra-conservative who works to prevent evolution from being taught in schools, evades taxes, owned a company that was sentenced for insider trading, worked to help kill the Kyoto Protocol, funds ultra-conservative organizations including the Institute for American Valueswhich campaigns for marriage and, uh, against single parenting, supports a group called Colorado Family Values that says gays molest children, gay pedophilia is common and gays support child abuse. If his newspapers call unions ”enemies of the state.” Would you boycott that product?

If the same ultra-conservative was behind one of the best festivals in the world, responsible for booking many of the best acts around, would things be different? Would you think twice, would you act against it? Most products are easy to substitute. But artists and festivals are less replaceable and can create a unique experience. Then cognitive dissonance might kick in. The experience of the music might be more important for you than your moral values. Seeing your favourite band live might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and anyway, perhaps you can compensate later by donating to charity.

This is not about whether or not you think a festival in southern California on a Polo court where you can only drink in certain areas (and then only if you're a VIP) and it's full of Hollywood whoppers sounds like eating a shit sandwich. That’s a matter of taste. If you want to see your favourite punk band from a subtropical pool: that’s your choice. But if going to a gig indirectly undermines some of the values that you and your favourite band supports… well then perhaps it’s time to ask some questions.

Next to aesthetic choices you can make ethical choices about the world we want to live in. Can artists have a positive voice in changing a world? And what can artists and consumers do against millionaires with an agenda that’s more powerful than ours? People on the internet are shouting #boycottcoachella but that’s not the solution if you realise everything else Philip Anschutz owns.

AEG Live is the world's No. 2 live-event promoter. It owns festivals like Coachella and,according to their website, represents artists like Swans, Nick Cave, Buzzcocks, Morrissey, The Melvins, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Blonde Redhead, Cat Power, The National, Pixies and Zola Jesus. And - the times they are a-changing - it also books Bob Dylan. The company is part of Anschutz Entertainment Group. That company owns sports clubs like LA Galaxy, Eisbären Berlin, Los Angeles Kings, 120 arenas and brings out movies like The Chronicles Of Narnia. Anschutz Entertainment Group is part of The Anschutz Corporation, which also deals in oil, telecom and owns conservative newspapers like The Weekly Standard and The Examiner. Owner of Anschutz Corporation is Philip Anschutz, whose worth is estimated at 12.1 billion dollars. He’s one of the 1% that pays extremely large amounts to conservative American lobby groups. Maybe some artists also protest, but the 1% outspends all of us. They can effectively change laws with their money and can put presidents in power. We can only protest against it. Anschutz can easily pay more than one million dollar a year to various candidates and PACs of the Republican Party. And he does. In 2013 he donated $100.000. and in 2014 he donated $200.000 to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, which is now the driving force behind Trump’s shadow transition team.

If you like DJ Snake, Martin Garrix or Steve Angello, artists that are also performing at Coachella 2017, you probably would have reacted indifferent to these facts. Their music is about total entertainment; you’re looking for it so it’s a match. But there’s also a scene that’s built on engagement. Black Flag started in Hermosa Beach, California. They worked on an ecosystem by constantly touring and bringing out their own records. Greg Ginn from Black Flag also put out fIREHOSE, a band by DIY godfather Mike Watt. Both Ginn and fIREHOSE played at the Coachella festival, a three hour drive from Hermosa Beach. AEG also books Billy Bragg in the UK.

Morrissey has never been shy about his opinions, and often takes action on behalf of them by banning meat at his shows, for instance. In America his live bookings are being done by AEG. The mother company also organises fishing camps and owned a working ranch with 5,200 head of cattle and yearlings, one of the biggest cattle ranching and agricultural operations in the West. Anschutz hosts an annual dove hunt for friends. Morrissey ”saluted LGBT rights” with Blondie in 2015. AEG represented Blondie. AEG books Morrissey. As Teen Vogue and Afropunk reported in posts on Wednesday, Anschutz’s donations have supported anti-LGBTQ organisations for years. Between 2010 and 2013, the Anschutz Foundation gave a combined $190,000 to Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council. According to a 2016 report from the LGBT organisation Freedom For All Americans, ADF “has equated being LGBT with committing incest and bestiality.”

Bands are working with AEG Live.They are engaged, so it can’t be wrong? It seems like everyone is sharing responsibility. That’s typical human behaviour when they are operating in bigger, anonymous systems. Political theorist Hannah Arendt calls this “the banality of evil”: the great evils in history were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal. We can’t simply point the fingers at others. There’s a collective responsibility to eradicate it in our daily lives.

Anschutz fights collective responsibility. He has funded anti-teachers union movies like Waiting For Superman and Won’t Back Down through his holding Walden Media. His newspapers call unions ”enemies of the state.” According to Variety: “Tax records show that the Anschutz Foundation contributed $270,000 over three years to the Center For Union Facts, another Berman group. The foundation contributed $45,000 in 2012, $200,000 in 2011, and $25,000 in 2009. The Center for Union Facts campaigned against the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation which would have made it easier to form unions. It also campaigned against teachers’ unions. Anschutz is a major contributor to charter schools and education reform efforts.” Between 2003 and 2010, the Anschutz Foundation donated at least $210.000 to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a think tank that opposes labor unions.

Of course some of the artists performing will rap or sing about smoking weed and getting laid at Coachella, as usual. Of course Mr. Anschutz with so many companies is virtually hands off in daily operations. If he would interfere an individual booking his employees would not accept that. You could say: Don't portray an agenda or bogeyman where there is none. Freedom means that people can disagree with one another. And artists, that don’t support the agenda of Mr. Anschutz can play at his festivals. But this is not a matter of good versus evil, it’s a matter of banality versus normality, or even worse: banality that actively tries to change normality with financial support and a network, with entertainment companies deeply rooted in society, that tries to change our perceptions.

“When a government controls the media, they can control what you see… and what you don’t see,” was the slogan of China Owns Us. According to Variety it’s “a project of the Center for American Security, which is itself affiliated with the Enterprise Freedom Action Committee. The whole thing is run by Richard Berman, a notorious D.C. figure known for stealth campaigns against unions, animal rights activists, and environmentalists.” Who’s the man behind this campaign? According to Washington Post “tax records indicate that the Anschutz Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Berman’s nonprofits.” It’s ironic that a man with strong ties to the government, owning one of the biggest media companies in the world, accuses a Chinese competitor for exactly the same.

Cruelty and evil are often not as simple as the instincts of a simple criminal, who commits crimes such as burglary, or maybe tax fraud in a direct way. A society can deal with this kind of criminal behaviour using the judicial system. Abstract evils are much more complicated. It’s about creating a system where the actions and thoughts of people are being corrupted by a system. That’s exactly what the banality of evil is about. As a reaction to this term media-analyst Edward S. Herman has emphasised the importance of "normalising the unthinkable." According to him, "doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation.' This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as 'the way things are done'.

Just as he denies climate change the owner of AEG also denied these facts to The Fader in a rare public statement: “Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

"Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organisations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organisation with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of The Anschutz Foundation that certain organisations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.”

The fact that Anschutz rarely gives interviews does not matter. This statement he gave to The Fader also does not matter as long as he can’t deny the facts. Money talks. Anschutz is not only involved in many areas of the entertainment business. He also wants to change it. He barely speaks in public. In a 2004 speech at Hillsdale College he talked about his involvement in Hollywood: "My reasons for getting into the entertainment business weren’t entirely selfless. Hollywood as an industry can at times be insular and doesn’t at times understand the market very well. I saw an opportunity in that fact." It might be true that Hollywood's insular and it's the guy’s money. If he wants to make The Chronicles Of Narnia cause he likes it for his grandchildren, let him. But there’s more. Anschutz also says: "Another lesson I’ve learned is to keep firm control of the creative process."

If a company has shareholders, you can use your shareholder power to change how the company behaves in a socially responsible way. That works, again and again. But what do you do if the company is privately owned and lots of money, millions of dollars the company makes, goes to…?

Anschutz can do with his money whatever he wants. Only a few people in the world (most are his friends, not yours) have the vast amounts of money he has to pay lobby groups. But we can also use our words to oppress his oppression of freedom of speech and freedom of internet, his denial of science. We have to keep asking questions. And so can our favourite artists. Fans can write to their favourite artists to ask why they are operating in these kinds of constructions. Journalists can ask critical questions and investigate … and of course the artists represented by these companies can change the system from within. It’s only entertainment.

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Jan 7, 2017 7:58pm

Obviously, the artists should not work with AEG Live or appear at Coachella.

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Calvin Lahjic
Jan 7, 2017 9:04pm

Scientific studies based on credible empirical evidence do not support the mass hysteria and moral panic that currently surrounds all sexually expressed child/older person relationships, which are invariably cast as "child molestation/child sex abuse/pedophilia." As masturbation and homosexuality were demonized in the past, these irrational emotional responses are based on ignorance and fear, and are promoted by agenda-driven "victimological" academics who argue that all such relationships are intrinsically pervasively harmful. But is this supposed harm intrinsic to the interaction, or does it instead result from the social hysteria that occurs when such a relationship is discovered? Also, there are no legitimate data supporting intrinsic harmfulness, and no credible pathway or mechanism for such harm has been demonstrated. For further discussion,Google "The Missing Mechanism of Harm"

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Niave fool
Jan 8, 2017 1:23am

@Calvin Lahjic: *FACEPALM*
So you're saying pedophilia, abuse etc is OK because academic studies don't focus enough on the perpetrator of harmful behaviour? Why should we stop being empathetic to victims? Please refer us to these scientific studies based on credible and/or empirical evidence.

Your rhetorical question is confused bullshit, harm is a result and a reaction is a result. Don't do things that harm others & we'll all be better off for it.

Next time you feel the need to use a comment section, please stick to the topic of the article. That and don't suggest readers google your phrases, that's a cheap diversion tactic.


Back on topic, it might be good to see more billionaires living out contradictory counterculture dreams... Fingers crossed we get Rupert Murdoch booking raves and Gina Rinehart picking up her rubbish at Burning Man.

^Assuming that old mate Anschutz isn't taking money from those ideologically opposed to him & using that cash for his own evil purposes.

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Mary Italiano
Jan 8, 2017 5:40am

With 10+ billion dollars, Philip Anschutz can do pretty much whatever he wishes. But lately he seems to have reached the conclusion that he is untouchable. That's when people like him begin to lose it. The very fact that he issued a public statement w/r to a current issue is astounding. He is famously reclusive and with one or two exceptions hasn't allowed himself to be quoted in decades. Presumably, this is because he doesn’t ever want to be called on his own words.

In 2012 in Dryden, New York Anschutz tried to impose a fracking project on a town which had recently passed laws prohibiting that activity. He was defeated, but not before he unloaded his company to a Norwegian firm so that the loss would not appear to be his. In 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colorado he orchestrated a land grab for publicly-held parkland near his Broadmoor Hotel, which he will commercialize. With the mayor in his back pocket and the City Council in the mayor’s back pocket, Anschutz acquired the property despite a citizen outcry of historic proportions. He is so confident of victory that he directed his team of lawyers to close on the property even though a pending appeal could overturn the whole deal.

Mr. Anschutz has been known to disallow the bringing of chairs for sitting down at outdoor concerts - thereby packing in more people and making more profit. This is a man who is all about the bottom line.

The entertainment industry is liberal. Mr. Anschutz is an avowed conservative. He has invested heavily in entertainment because there’s a lot of money to be made, not because he has changed his stripes. And he is a brilliant and wiley business man. If it benefits his wallet to state publicly that he is not a bigot, then he will not be a bigot ….. in public. Catch him if you can.

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Jan 8, 2017 11:20am

So much text that results in so little substance. First, the Kyoto Protocol is not a flawless policy ( Second, Waiting For Superman is NOT an "anti-teachers union movie". Rather, it (in part) displays the utter institutional failure of *some* teachers and administrators to be held accountable to the taxpayer (who funds their salaries). Skeptical? Read this example and weep:
Third, your choice to "use our words to oppress his oppression" is a gas in its naivety and absurdity. Anschutz has "quietly pumped more than $1 billion into a charitable outfit which now gives away tens of millions annually in a wide variety of areas" ( Thus, Anschutz has donated more money to charity than you will ever see in your life. Before you engage in a fact-optional juvenile tantrum, at least verify that your positions are defensible.

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Joost Heijthuijsen
Jan 8, 2017 11:56am

In reply to :

Hey anonymous.
If there would be any kind of flawless policy I would believe in God. This article is not about the pro's and cons of Kyoto, but about the values of artists Anschutz works with versus his own values.
Of course Anschutz gives a lot to other charities. I think he's also nice to his cat. I've tried to focus on the grim side of his spending.

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Jan 8, 2017 12:59pm

Fair enough. I do not fault you for you philosophical views (although I do not share), but take issue with selective presentation of details and facts (which results in a distorted presentation). I know very little of Philip Anschutz's life and causes. What I do know is that he has created a large number of jobs (which has benefited many people whether they share his views or not) and acts (versus talks) according to his beliefs. Although I do not share his religious convictions, I admire his successes, charity, and character. As for the entertainers that Anschutz's corporations promote, a sizeable number of them are avaricious, self-indulgent, and venal. If one compares the percentage of wealth that Anschutz has donated to charity to the percentage any of the entertainers you cite have, then I expect that Anschutz's charity surpasses all combined. Stay sharp. Happy New Year.

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Eduardo M. Aguilar
Jan 8, 2017 3:42pm

In reply to :

THE author decided to write about the grim side of Anshutz and the problem with wanting or not to confront this situation: when ethics and money profit are one front of the other. It's not a biography about Mr. Anshutz, but given your concept about what and what not to write about a person, you can start making a hagiography.
In his statement, Mr. Anshutz calls information about the alleged donations "fake news" and "garbage" but in the end he says his foundations stopped funding to organisations that opposes "such causes". When these donations started, didn't he and his team know what the causes of that organisations was? Why he refuses to be specific about names, money given and lapses of time? Because he really doesn't care make a statement about civil rights. Rights, not charity. This is not remorse, it's a face wash.

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Jan 8, 2017 5:11pm

To clarify - In as much as it is possible to know about an almost-recluse, I have made a bit of a study of Mr. Anschutz. Like most brilliant men, he is a complex and sometimes contradictory person. I personally have very good reason to not admire, and thoroughly distrust him. That said, his good works are plentiful - although, after a bit of research, one does get the sense that he always contributes with an agenda.

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Jan 8, 2017 5:20pm

Roger that.

1. What right does a non-American have to criticize *domestic* American political events? You don't pay taxes. You don't serve in the American armed forces. You don't vote. If an American criticizes domestic European political events, then undoubtedly cries of Hegemony, Imperialism, Yankee go home, blah blah blah occur. Hypocrisy.

2. Why would anyone care what Thom Yorke thinks about climate change? Thom Yorke is not a climate scientist. Thom Yorke is not a physicist. Thom Yorke is a singer - nothing more or less. If he really cares about climate change, then he is free to give away all of his money and time to climate science groups. Don't hold your breath.

3. Why is anyone so arrogant to suggest that 'our agenda' is diametrically opposed to Anschutz's agenda? Who comprises 'we'? People who attend Coachella and/or listen to Radiohead?

4. Why is there repeated references to conservative magazines and newspapers as if they are something to oppose? An independent free-thinking individual (which ostensibly this column lauds) MUST be open to all points of view provided they are supported by fact. If one is not open to all points of view - especially those that clash and conflict with one's assumptions - then one is no different than a stupid herd animal.

5. Why does it matter that Anschutz is a member of the "1%"? If his guile, perseverance, education, hard work, and insight facilitated his success, then good on him. People opposed to the "1%" wallow in class envy and self-pity.

6. Why invoke Hannah Arendt with regards to attendees of a music festival? This is a ridiculous argumentum ad verecundiam.

7. Why is it assumed/asserted that an employee of a large media corporation somehow represents the opinions/views of the owner? The writer states "His newspapers call unions ”enemies of the state." Wrong! A single columnist wrote a single column with the title "Public employee unions: Enemies of the state". Incidentally, the online version of the column was renamed "Tide of PR battle turns against public employee unions". From this single column, a reader is to believe that Anschutz's newspapers call unions "enemies of the state."? Absurd and totally misleading.

This essay is a target rich environment for ridicule and criticism, but I have better to do. I find it delightfully ironic that self-promoters of 'free thought', individualism, iconoclasm, blah blah blah are no different than religious fundamentalists in their zeal to experience only what reinforces their narrow view. They just go by a different name.

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Joost Heijthuijsen
Jan 8, 2017 9:06pm

In reply to :

Well, if that's an argument against having an opinion about American political events: Your current president acknowledged not paying federal income taxes for years and did not serve the American armed forces. I feel I'm in good company.

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Jan 8, 2017 10:49pm

You are free to hold any opinion you wish; I suggest nothing to the contrary. However, I take issue with criticizing *domestic* national policy (as opposed to foreign policy, which naturally affects other nations) when one has no connection (e.g. pays taxes, votes, serves in armed forces, owns property, etc) to the country in question. As suggested, it is no more absurd for me to criticize the domestic policies (e.g. tax rates, immigration policies, etc) of Netherlands than it is for a Dutchman to criticize the same for the United States. As an aside, Trump does not become POTUS until 20 January 2017. Finally, as you rightfully state, he has paid no income tax (putatively, few are certain) because of U.S. tax policy (

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Matt Ridout
Jan 9, 2017 9:56am

In reply to :

Free to hold an opinion but not free to express it unless you participate in the tax affairs or reside in the country you are discussing means that a large portion of global news, opinion and comment would be off the table, and is beyond moronic. I would argue that as an international festival that draws many from all over the world it is a perfectly legitimate topic to open up debate about, by anyone. But then I am not as sensitive as you are about any topics of domestic policy being discussed.

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Jan 9, 2017 11:23am

Please do some research when you make statements like that. The bellow statement is wrong and unfair to the artists mentioned. AEG Live DOESN'T represent them. AEG Live lists all the artists that have performed at the festival(s) they run as any festival/venue/promoter does. The fact that you see ticket links doesn't mean AEG Live actually runs those shows. It just fetches event info.

"represents artists like Swans, Nick Cave, Buzzcocks, Morrissey, The Melvins, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Blonde Redhead, Cat Power, The National, Pixies and Zola Jesus."

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Jan 9, 2017 12:41pm

I retract my previous statement. Joost is actually right.

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Jan 9, 2017 2:33pm

In reply to Matt Ridout:

Your argument (i.e. a large portion of global news, opinion and comment would be off the table unless you participate in the tax affairs or reside in the country you are discussing) is facile and reductive or your comprehension of the original essay and rebuttal is poor. Explain why a European citizen has a right to criticize domestic policies and affairs of USA (e.g. tax, immigration, health, etc) and then explain in an identical fashion why an American citizen has a right to criticize domestic policies and affairs of any European country (e.g. tax, immigration, health, etc). Finally, your contention that attendance at a music festival beyond one's borders (i.e. "an international festival that draws many from all over the world") grants one the privilege to criticize the host country's domestic policies is a sophomoric reductio ad absurdum.

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Jan 9, 2017 7:54pm

In reply to :

Do you live, own property in, serve in the armed forces of or otherwise have materially contributory ties to the UK? If not then by your own logic (I use the word loosely) you shouldn't be commenting on this article from a UK publication.

And if that is the case but you still feel that opinions expressed in one country on matters that affect your own give you sufficient cause to comment, you might like to reflect on the objection you claim to have to this article.

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Xiao Pignouf
Jan 9, 2017 8:29pm

Hello, i find your article very interesting and i would like, with your permission, to translate it in french and publish it on a french politically charged website. Of course, with a link to the original article.
Here is the website :

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The Slog
Jan 17, 2017 4:39pm

I am all for boycotting institutions that donate money to aka bribe controlling, illiberal political ideologists of Left or Right, because that would dilute the delusional power of both massively.
However, boycotting businesses who refuse to accept your personal credo is up to individuals: when done by the Herd, it is no better than smashing Jewish shop windows in 1930s Germany.
More Western citizens need to learn the difference between opposing a corrupt régime, and forcibly shutting up opponents.

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