Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 7 Num. 82

("Quid coniuratio est?")

The following first appeared as "Conspiracy for the Day" on July 14, 1993:

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The Power Elite, the CIA, and the Struggle for Minds

[Excerpted from The Higher Circles by G. William Domhoff. New York, Random House, 1970.]

-+- Capturing the Hearts and Minds of the Masses -+-

The basic premise that guides most policy decisions, foreign and domestic, as stated in a National Security Council report is the "...struggle for survival involving military power, economic productivity, and influence on the minds of men in political, scientific, and moral fields." {1} [See notes below]

This policy is summed up by sociologist Philip Rieff: "...a permanent war economy based on a negative ideology of an absolute enemy." {2} "It is the kind of ideology that can appeal to the 'higher loyalty' which guides upper-class CIA agents when they undertake actions 'contrary to their moral precepts.' {3}. In short, it is the kind of ideology traditionally used by power elites to justify whatever actions are necessary to protect their privilege and position."

The power elite compete with =The Enemy= " the military and economic spheres. The power elite have accepted and marketed a military definition of reality throughout the postwar era [i.e. after WWII]... Closely tied to this is an increasing industrial capacity, encouraged by tax favors and nurtured by defense contracts."

The power elite are also quite serious in their competition for "the minds of men in political, scientific, and moral fields." {1}. "The power elite, for all their sweet reasonableness and liberal rhetoric here at home, have their secretive, not-so-moral side."

"The CIA has become [ca. 1970] one of the most important organizations of the power elite, at home and abroad."

"Members of the power elite, as individuals and as organizations, have purchased newspapers and created magazines to promote their views and/or criticize and ridicule other views. They have withdrawn advertising from mass media to silence opinions they do not favor. They have created university chairs and research institutes to pursue topics of interest to them, at the same time playing an active role as university trustees in getting rid of professors with undesirable views. {4}. They have written and caused to be written articles and books that present their side of every story as attractively and persuasively as is humanly possible."

Some of the early practitioners of "public relations" specialized "in the corporate image and the corporate conscience. Functionally speaking, the public relations departments of large corporations, in conjunction with the giant public relations firms that service many corporations, have become the early warning system of the upper class, picking up and countering the slightest remark or publication that makes funny lines on their sensitive radar. Thanks to them, public opinion is wellmonitored, with an assist of course from the alert social scientists in certain university institutes financed by the big corporations and foundations. Wayward opinions, once detected, are duly corrected by a barrage of printed matter and public pronouncements, unless the advisers consider the situation one in which replies should be avoided... Truly, the attempt to manipulate public opinion has become a conscious and full time profession."

"That some [members of the power elite] are underhanded and will stop at nothing is to be expected within a large collection of mere human beings. But to find out that the power elite as a group are intimately and intricately involved in secretive, manipulative and deceitful operations, and in the name of saving democracy and the open society, is to go beyond the peccadillos of a few personalities to expose another side to the modus operandi of the High and Mighty.

-+- The CIA and the National Student Association -+-

Under the premise that persons between the ages of 18 and 25 are susceptible to political arguments, the American power elite feared a possible loss of allegiance from this group. "Working through the CIA, [the power elite] found their mark in the National Student Association (NSA)... Starting in 1950, apparently, the CIA began to help NSA. {5}

The CIA-NSA relationship continued until 1966, before an idealistic NSA officer finally blew the whistle on the setup. "In some years 80% of the NSA budget was coming from the CIA."

"NSA was not the only student organization utilized by the power elite. They also [co-opted the] International Student Conference... Between 1961 and 1965 they spent $180,000 on the Independent Research Service, which sent American delegations to actively oppose the communists at communist-oriented youth festivals."

"This brief recounting does not even begin to tap the involvement of the CIA and the power elite in student organizations all over the world. For example, it says nothing about the Institute of International Education, which brings many foreign students to this country. {6}... Detailed studies of [these organizations] will have to be left to scholars wishing to research what C. Wright Mills called 'the cultural apparatus' and what Marxists call 'ideological hegemony.' In the meantime, we can rest assured that the power elite are not neglecting young minds." {7}.

-+- Patronizing the Intelligentsia -+-

"Intellectuals... are a narcissistic bunch, full of their own self-importance. They love to talk, they love to see their words in print, and they love to be flattered. The power elite, through the CIA and other organizations, have been very accomodating about these intellectual needs. In fact, patronizing would be a better word. They have given American intellectuals money to start organizations, to hold conferences, and to publish magazines and books. They have encouraged them to meet with intellectuals from all over the world. The result is a series of CIA-financed associations, institutes, and magazines that provide opportunities for discussion, travel, publication, and mutual adulation."

"In what follows I will... focus on the Congress for Cultural Freedom [CCF], an organization which financed such avant-garde magazines as Great Britain's Encounter" In 1967, a CIA agent named Thomas Braden bragged about "his role in putting CIA agents and money into the [CCF] and Encounter." {8}.

"The financing for the [CCF] programs and Encounter's articles came in large measure from two above-board CIA conduits. The first, the Farfield Foundation, is at the heart of the New York Establishment; the second, the Hoblitzelle Foundation, is in the same position in Texas."

"Many people concern themselves with the problem of which intellectuals 'knew' and which were mere dupes, but that is of secondary importance. The point is that some men have views the power elite like, and some don't. The likeable group gets financial, institutional, and mass media support (overtly and covertly) from members of the power elite." {9}.

-+- Using the Experts -+-

"American academia at the major universities is in large measure a collection of experts, with each expert relatively confined to his particular specialty. Some of these experts are more useful than others. The more useful are housed in institutes as well as the traditional departments. They receive research grants from foundations, institutes, corporations and governments to further develop their expertise and train new experts. They often do consulting on the side for industry, government and power elite associations."

"CIA entanglements with the experts are several: hiring them as agents and analysts, supporting their research, financing the publication of their articles and books. The first wellpublicized instance concerned CIA involvement in the Center for International Studies at MIT. {10}. A second instance showed how the CIA and Michigan State University collaborated in propping up the American-created government in South Vietnam. {11}.

However, "to focus too narrowly on the infrastructure of the seamy side [of the power elite] and the minor conduit foundations is to miss the point... All power elite foundations, institutes and associations, above ground and below ground, are involved in ideological combat... [And yet] they ask us to believe that ideology has suddenly ended -- and in our own time, no less."

The temptation to " the power elite propaganda about nonideology is very great. We hear it every day from the nicest people in the most respectable journals. But it must be resisted. Those who want to understand the power structure must stand back and assert in the face of all the power elite's kindness to academics, and all the intellectual establishment's objectivity and scientificality, that all power elite foundations, institutes, and associations are propaganda fronts which are involved in maintaining the legitimacy and respectability of the present Establishment."

"When C. Wright Mills called the power elite 'irresponsible' and accused them of practicing the 'higher immorality,' the intellectual establishment was annoyed... Now, 13 years later [ca. 1970], there can be little doubt about the validity of Mills' indictment... The activities of the CIA at home and abroad in para-military and intellectual undertakings are in themselves enough to expose the power elite and their morality for all to judge... The power elite and their intellectual collaborators have re-affirmed an age-old axiom about governing classes and their word magicians. However they may plead otherwise, they are primarily self-interested partisans, their horizons severely limited by the ideologies and institutions that sustain and justify their privilege, celebrity and power."


{1} Henry M. Jackson, The National Security Council: Jackson Subcommittee Papers on Policy Making at the Presidential Level (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965), p. 76.

{2} Philip Rieff, "Socialism and Sociology," C. Wright Mills and The Power Elite, G. William Domhoff and Hoyt B. Ballard, eds. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), p. 169.

{3} David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, The Espionage Establishment (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 293.

{4} Lionel S. Lewis, "The Academic Axe: Some Trends in Dismissals From Institutions of Higher Learning in America" (Social Problems, Fall, 1964), pp. 156-157; Lionel S. Lewis, "Dismissals from the Academy" (Journal of Higher Education, May, 1966), pp. 257-258.

{5} The following account is based upon three sources: Sol Stern, "NSA-CIA" (Ramparts, March, 1967); Stuart H. Loory, "How CIA Became Involved in NSA" (San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 1967), pp. 1, 12; and the concise summary of all articles and letters on the problem in The New York Times, which appears on pages 1269-72 of The New York Times Index, 1967, Volume 55 (New York: The New York Times Company, 1968).

{6} Michael Holcomb, "Student Exchanges Serve U.S. Policy" (Guardian, January 20, 1968), p. 6.

{7} Michael Holcomb, "The Pass-Through: How the CIA Bankrolled Private Projects" (Newsweek, March 6, 1967).

{8} Thomas Braden, "I'm Glad the CIA Is 'Immoral'" (Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1967), p. 10.

{9} Jason Epstein, "The CIA and the Intellectuals" (The New York Review of Books, April 30, 1967), pp. 19-21.

{10} David Wise and Thomas Ross, The Invisible Government (New York: Random House, 1964), pp. 243-244.

{11} Warren Hinckle, Sol Stern and Robert Scheer, "University on the Make" (Ramparts, April, 1966); Martin Nicolaus, "The Professors, the Policemen, and the Peasants" (Unpublished manuscript, January, 1966).

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