By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Our media is a melting-pot of misinformation, bought and owned by billionaires and oligarchs, whether it is public, private, or foundation-funded. Information is integral, propaganda is power, and media is money. Control of the media leads directly to control of the minds of those who consume it, and like all patterns of consumption, it is sustained by profit, but its purpose is much deeper, more pervasive and permanent: social control.
The aim of consumption is to preserve and protect the social order as it exists, to distract a significant – or targeted – portion of the population with being concerned only about progress within the social order, about making more money, consuming more products, climbing this ever-distant and seemingly always just-out-of-reach ladder. The consumer society as we know it today was a product of the early 20th century, born out of an era of deep social unrest, where the ‘Robber Baron’ industrialists – the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans, Harrimans, Astors, and Vanderbilts – created such vast fortunes, and dominated the entire economy, bought the politicians, owned the courts, and exploited the people. The poor and working class were in open rebellion, empowered with radical philosophies of resistance and revolution, organized by anarchists and socialists, immigrants and intellectuals. They threatened the entire social order. At the same time, the middle class was not yet consumer based, but rather consisting of professionals and those who earned some – even if a very minimal – benefit from the social order. They were informed through an expansion of the media, through the printing-press and ‘Muckraker journalism’, highly critical of the ruling oligarchs and their lack of concern for the welfare of mankind, yet also born of the university system which was designed to produce intellectuals and professionals concerned with reform, not revolution, concerned with preserving social order instead of overturning the social order.
This was called the Progressive Movement, and though there was critique and concern and the excesses of the ruling class, there was an equal concern about the unrest of the lower class. It was in this context that universities became reorganized and reoriented under the control of the ruling oligarchs, with industrialists and bankers sitting on their boards, founding new schools, and sponsoring the social sciences. The social sciences were conceived as a means toward producing intellectuals who were concerned with maintaining social control: with analyzing specific facets of the social order (politics, economics, sociology, etc) and then offering critiques and reforms to that system, with the objective of making it more secure, more permanent. Major philanthropic foundations were founded in the early 20th century, such as the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, with the purpose of engaging in social engineering for social control. They became the primary financiers of social science research and university programs. This was stated quite explicitly by the President of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1933, who wrote that the Foundation’s policies:
were directed to the general problem of human behavior, with the aim of control through understanding. The Social sciences, for example, will concern themselves with the rationalization of social control; the Media and Natural sciences propose a closely coordinated study of sciences which underlie personal understanding and personal control. Many procedures will be explicitly co-operative between [Foundation] divisions. The Medical and Natural Sciences will, through psychiatry and psychobiology, have a strong interest in the problems of mental disease.
These oligarchs controlled the banking institutions of the modern society, and in particular, the central banking system, responsible for printing the currencies, setting interest rates, and thus, controlling the finances of both industry and government. The mechanism of control was through debt. Through their control of banking and finance, this small group of oligarchs were able to influence, of not control, the corporate world and the governmental world, allowing for domination of the economic and political spheres of life. However, it was through the production of knowledge itself that they came to dominate the social world. This was – and remains – the primary objective and activity of foundations and their offspring organizations. This required continued control of universities, maintenance of foundation-funded social engineering (what is commonly called “philanthropy”), the creation and control of major think tanks (responsible for creating social cohesion between elites and organizing public and foreign policy), and domination of the media.
The production of knowledge was not undertaken with the benevolent desire of ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake,’ but rather with a very clear purpose, as stated in the above-mentioned Rockefeller Foundation quote: control. Those who rule over society, whomever they are, and in whatever era they exist, understand very clearly the power and purpose of knowledge. After all, they have the power because they have the knowledge of what power is and how to attain it. An educated population – one which is capable of reading and writing and developing basic skills and techniques – has been a very important component of a modern, industrial society. It has contributed to the development of what we can call the modern ‘Technocratic’ society, built by the growth of science, technology, communication and information. There is, however, a problem for the ruling class, one which must be watched very closely: while it is important to provide a minimum of education, skills and expertise, it is important to maintain the overall control of consciousness and thought. It is one thing to provide an individual with the ability to understand specific sectors of society and to advance, reform, evolve and change those sectors, to update and evolve, to advance and progress; it is quite another thing, however, to allow an individual to develop the thinking capacity to reflect and understand the wider world in which he or she lives, to question the very nature and composition of society, to reflect on the purpose of humanity and the social order upon which it depends. This type of reflection is and has always been deeply dangerous to any ruling groups through history, and today is no exception.
Just think of the individual capacity of the human mind to obtain and retain masses of information. Think of the average high school girl or high school boy, consuming so much information of entertainment, celebrities, sports, and pop culture: they can tell you every detail of every celebrity’s life, every sports team, player, and all the intricate details of interaction and interest. The sheer wealth of information is impressive to say the least. The unfortunate reality, however, is that it is useless information: it has no point or purpose in the lives of those who consume it. It doesn’t matter who Kim Kardashian is or who she is doing this week. Paris Hilton is an absurd emblem of a society that worships irrelevance. It is really of no personal significance whether or not “your” [insert sport here] team wins or loses a game, it’s just a game, and unless you are playing or know personally someone who is playing, it doesn’t actually impact your life in any meaningful way. These are cultural distractions designed to fill the minds of the masses with useless and insignificant information. The consumer society which was developed in the early 20th century was not simply a society built on the consumption of products and services, but of information. It served to distract the emerging middle class away from questions of social and human concern, and to possibilities of personal and financial progress, to ownership, to products, to a vision of ‘desire’ around which their life was designed to aspire. Humanoids like Paris Hilton – and I hesitate to call such a person an ‘individual’ – serve not only to ‘distract’, but to destroy. Through our worship of wealth, our reveling in irrelevance, we create the image of prosperity, of possibility, of potential and indeed, purpose. The Paris Hilton’s and Kim Car-crash-ian disasters of this world are a symbol of a society that gives priority and purpose to intellectually vacant, vapid, and vacuous entities. Worst of all, is that the youth look to these empty examples of existence as not simply worthy of entertainment, but emulation. Truly, such a state is symptomatic of a severely sick society.
Yet, something is changing. We can feel it in the air, hear it in the wind, taste it on our tongue, smell it in our sinus, and are beginning to experience it in our everyday existence. The Technological Revolution which has brought about this modern ‘Technocratic’ society, this highly-controlled and overly-dominated social order, has created its own antithesis, this thing we call ‘balance’. While technology has facilitated greater control over mankind, with new and scientifically-developed techniques of domination, it has also facilitated the rapid expansion of information and communication. This has allowed for more information than ever before to be consumed by more people than ever before in all of human history. And now, unlike ever before, people are able to communicate with each other, around the world, not through a lens of power – not through the media, the government, corporations, or other institutions – but as individuals, as equals, to listen, speak, and understand each other as individual human beings occupying the same small world, and though we may never meet in person, we exist together, and our struggle is the same.
It is easy to say that we are in unprecedented times. Within such times, unprecedented challenges emerge, challenges for both the people and the powerful. So while we are faced with an elite – increasingly globally interconnected and intertwined – who are armed with more techniques of control and domination than have ever-before been imagined, the elite are faced with an increasingly unprecedented challenge, where the dominated peoples of the world are able to see and speak to one another as individuals, not simply observe as outsiders, where we have access to and the ability to analyze and disseminate more information than ever before. Even the major philanthropic foundations, who have long funded ‘alternative’ media as a means to provide an outlet for moderated dissent, are incapable of controlling the new production of knowledge that is taking place, which is informing individuals and activists around the world. This new ‘independent media’ is largely dependent upon the readers and direct ‘consumers’ of the information itself, not higher ‘sponsors’ and patrons.
I am a member of this ‘independent media,’ as a researcher, writer, and at times, a journalist. I engage in ‘production of knowledge’ much like a foundation-sponsored academic would, though I do so with a distinctly different purpose: not to control for the benefit of entrenched power, but to liberate by means of empowering people with information. For this, I have been accused of being a “propagandist” and “biased,” while the major intellectuals, media pundits, journalists and academics of our institutionally-dominated world declare themselves “neutral,” “unbiased,” “dispassionate,” and “disinterested observers.” I make no reservations about my bias, about by non-neutrality, I do not hold back my passion and I am very interested, and not simply an observer, but at times a participant. I see no value in declaring a lack of passion or a neutral position in situations of domination and oppression, of exploitation and obfuscation. If I am a propagandist, I am a propagandist for the people, not the powerful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The unfortunate reality of being very independent, with no university, foundation, corporate, or institutional ties of any kind, is that my ability to continue being independent, my ability to continue researching, writing, and disseminating information, is dependent upon the people who ‘consume’ that information itself. My funds are entirely derived of donations from readers and supporters around the world, and so I ask you now that if you so desire, to please support my efforts to continue being a loud-mouthed, annoying, frustrating pest of a person for those in power who think they control everything and everyone without a word of dissent from us plebs and proles below. I truly wish I could provide all my research and writing entirely free, and there are few things that bother me more than asking for money, but unfortunately, I do need to eat and pay rent. So I am asking now for your financial support toward my journalistic endeavours (note: this is separate from The People’s Book Project, which will be getting a big update quite soon).
In the past two months, I have been almost exclusively researching, writing, and speaking about the Quebec Student Movement, the Maple Spring, and to be honest, I have never been so busy or received so much support and encouragement from readers. So now I ask, if possible, to please make a donation of any amount (every bit helps, truly!), so that I can continue trying my best to be the most infuriating individual to those in power that I can be!
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
 Lily E. Kay, “Rethinking Institutions: Philanthropy as an Historigraphic Problem of Knowledge and Power,” Minerva (Vol. 35, 1997), page 290.