In the summer of 2005, while the nation’s attention was focused on the imminent loss of New Orleans to flooding, Americans were mostly unaware of another great loss within the yet-to-be-breached levees of this remarkable city six weeks earlier. Jack Minnis, research director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the early 1960s, passed away. His home was later destroyed by the flooding, but his wife Earlene was able to salvage some of Jack’s research files. In 2006, a few survivors of the Civil Rights Movement talked about their memories of Minnis.
Judy Richardson remarked:
“Whenever I speak on campuses about SNCC, I talk about Minnis. …about SNCC’s research department and Jack: He was this crusty older white guy who smoked like a fiend, looked generally unkempt, and could get research from a turnip. He was always finding information — like buried treasure — that would make all the difference.
Even before I started working on Eyes on the Prize and doing commentaries for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, I realized that the way Minnis organized material had affected me. Documenting his analysis absolutely shaped the way I try to present information. The Chronology of Violence in Mississippi that Minnis put together in advance of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project is something I still show to students and teachers. What it proved was that white violence was long-standing and endemic not just the problem of a few racist rednecks. And Minnis’ Chronology was invaluable in helping northern journalists understand the extent of what we were dealing with.”
Gwen Patton said:
“I am convinced that the National Democratic Party of Alabama, which elected the first maiden Black elected official since Reconstruction in Lowndes, Greene, Macon and Bullock Counties, never would have happened if it had not been for Jack Minnis’ incredible research.”
Wally Roberts wrote:
“Jack Minnis was an important influence on my career as a journalist. I first encountered his research methods as a volunteer in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project in 1964 when I read some of the research he had done for SNCC on the power structure of the South and the institutions that fostered and enforced segregation. After that summer, I went on to Brown University where I had been accepted the previous spring, to do graduate work in history. After about six weeks, I had had it with history and felt compelled to quit and find work that would allow me to continue the type of work I had been doing in Mississippi. …Three years later I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.
I went on to write for magazines and other newspapers and did get a couple of other awards until I burnt out on the corporate world and went back into community organizing where I remain today. About 5 years ago l got in touch with Jack through the SNCC list and told him all this and thanked him for his work. … I owe much of my success at this work to Jack.”
In his memoirs, Minnis said:
“I got my first impressions of Jim Forman and SNCC, not from my own observations, but from the comments of Les Dunbar, Director of Southern Regional Council, and Wiley Branton, Director of SRC’s Voter Education Project. They had hired me in the spring of ’62 to appraise the results of voter registration projects to which they had contributed. Since they were distributing funds from tax-exempt foundations, they were sort of edgy about whether recipients would observe the political prohibitions of such grants.
As I perceived it, their difficulty was that SNCC seemed to be operating on principles they didn’t understand. In their world, individuals sought jobs with paychecks, the understanding being they’d do what they were told because the paycheck could be withheld. SNCC was composed of people who’d walked away from opportunities to make good wages, for the chance to work their asses off, under murky and dangerous conditions, for nothing that could be called a paycheck. Their puzzlement was how do you control what people do if you can’t threaten to take away their livelihood? The answer, of course, was that you don’t control them. It was a concept that these essentially good-hearted and well-intentioned folks were not comfortable with.”
Privatization of everything we know and need, for the enrichment of elite private equity investors, is not commonly understood. Many understand that consolidation and deregulation have allowed large corporations to control media and information, but few comprehend how the ultra wealthy have destroyed accountability, transparency and the public interest in broadcasting, radio, digital and print news production and distribution.
In The Rise of Private Equity Media Ownership in the United States: A Public Interest Perspective, Matthew Crain investigates private equity takeovers (1999-2009) in the media sector, and explains how private equity firms function in the financial landscape. Focusing on profit maximization strategies and debt burdens imposed on acquired companies, Crain observes that private equity firms and consortiums pose a challenge to effective media regulation, that is distinct from the corporate media ownership model.
Corporate media rarely discussed the American aristocracy and how their agenda affects society. Consumers blame banks, but they have no idea how financial institutions are used by private equity traders to constantly replenish aristocratic wealth at our expense. They have little awareness of where that wealth came from, and almost never discuss the continuity of aristocratic theft from the public treasury over the last two centuries. Crain’s analysis can thus be considered a primer on the impact of reckless private equity investing, using inherited wealth and investment banks to cannibalize the economy.
Able to evade or avoid regulation associated with publicly traded stocks, private equity firms and consortiums — using holding companies and investment banks — have conducted immense leveraged buyouts that literally ruin companies. Through debt burdens, asset liquidation and wholesale employee termination, the private equity firms enable cash extraction that has imperiled mainstream media, leaving a hollowed out shell, where replacement of journalism by public relations is commonplace.
As Cain notes, democracy requires public spheres, of which the media system is a core institutional component. Private equity takeovers in the media sector — especially broadcasting, cinema, cable, telecommunications, digital and print publishing — imposes qualitative changes to media firms by these high-stakes investment groups that, “raises issues of adherence to standards of journalistic ethics and values.” Once the cash has been extracted, the social value of media firms as democratic institutions is structurally undermined.
As Crain observes, “Fewer reporters and editors make it easier for public relations firms to place unaltered messages into the news.” “Moreover,” says Crain, “growing pressure to turn a profit on journalistic production contributes to ongoing problems of commercialization of news, especially regarding the blurring distinction between editorial and advertising content.”
“Private equity firms,” remarks Cain, “are fundamentally non-transparent in their basic structure…Whereas publicly traded companies are legally obligated to periodically file extensive financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including detailed accounts of all holdings and subsidiaries, private firms are not subject to such financial disclosures.” This, says Crain, is “antithetical to the public interest obligations of the media sector.”
Registered 350 “local groups” are essentially local chapters of a global non-profit enterprise, with doctrine, agenda and resources supplied by headquarters. As a secular cult, the profit motive is supplanted by ecstasy, similar to rapture in religious cults.
The bliss of belonging to a holy cause blinds 350 adherents to the cognitive dissonance of being tools of Wall Street and followers of false prophets. 350 dominance over the minds of its euphoric followers is thus akin to charismatic Pentecostalism, albeit without any explicit religious context.
To find a religious parallel to 350, the “apostolic socialism” of Peoples Temple comes closest with its “Rainbow Family,” indoctrinated to view capitalism as the Antichrist. In this sense, Jim Jones served as forerunner to con artists like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.
As of 2011, nearly 80% of American adults were online. For young American adults, 33% get news from social networks, 34% watched TV news, and 13% read print or digital content. While TV remains the most popular source of news, more Americans get their news via the Internet than from newspapers or radio.
The percent of online news users who blog about news ranges from 1–5%. Greater percentages use social media to comment on news, but online news users are most likely to use social media to share stories without creating content.
While consumer preference of media venue shifts with technology, the overwhelmingly large percentage of passive consumers of news remains. While they discuss and share news online, news content is still the product of journalists, researchers, PR people and bloggers.
With news content today containing nearly as much public relations propaganda as journalism, social media discussions about news content and production bring both serious scrutiny and outright nonsense. What the Internet offers is a venue where citizen journalism can find an audience, but the skills and practices involved in journalism still demand study, discipline and resources few have access to.
Crowd-funded journalism is fine, but it is no substitute for professional media. As many citizen journalism producers have discovered, it’s hard to cover the news when you can’t afford to cover travel expenses, equipment and salaries for the people doing it.
In May 2011, Pro Publica ran an article by John Sullivan titled ‘PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking News Rooms’. The impetus for the article was the 2010 story of the year, the Gulf oil spill at BPs Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform.
Reporting from the U.S. Coast Guard hearing, New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow observed, “You would go into these hearings, and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters.”
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of 2008 there were three times as many PR people in the US as there were journalists–a shift from 1980, when the numbers were roughly equal. According to the American Society of News Editors, the number of newspaper reporters and editors peaked at 56,900 in 1990, and by 2011, dropped to 41,600. As media critic Robert McChesney observed, “We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country.”
Public Relations is now used by government and industry to influence public opinion on everything from consumerism to militarism. As a result, the number of original news stories is down, and many stories are now generated by government agencies and PR people working hand-in-hand. As a retired editor of the Washington Post remarked, the Internet makes it easy for public relations people to reach out directly to the audience.
As PR Watch reported in 2006, television news now airs video news releases created by corporate and government PR people, within broadcast stories posing as original news. Appearances on TV by PR-coached “experts” are coordinated as “message force multipliers.” PR front groups, funded by the oligarchy, make it difficult for reporters to sort out.
As an example of the influence of PR, the health insurance industry paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight public health care. The Chamber, in turn, paid for ads that ran in 21 states. As the senior VP of communications at the Chamber noted, they also set up coalition groups to push the message online and in the press.
One of the areas the Chamber targets is college campuses. It even hosts video competitions on Facebook.
In his classic orientation to American politics, Indispensable Enemies, Walter Karp described conflict between the two national political parties as largely a game of charades–choreographed by Wall Street. While party loyalists are quick to point out differences over religion and civil rights, the point Karp makes is that they both serve Wall Street, which means America is now a bi-partisan fascist oligarchy.
Since the Reagan administration, both parties have worked overtime to privatize public wealth, and to manipulate social movements to their advantage. While it is well-known that the Wise Use Movement, Christian Coalition and the Tea Party used bigotry to advance Republican interests, little attention has been paid to social engineering by the Democrats.
As affiliated entities, MoveOn, 1Sky, Avaaz, Ceres, Purpose and 350 enable the Democratic Party to market itself as a friend of the environment and supporter of democracy, while simultaneously serving Wall Street’s agenda. What those familiar with serious fraud might call “the long con”.
Short cons include “humanitarian war” and carbon market schemes like fossil fuel divestment, that support American imperialism by consolidating Wall Street control of institutions, markets and NGOs. Using foundations as intermediaries, the fascist oligarchy on the Democrat side has a legal money laundry for promoting such fraud as the “new economy”.
As Cory Morningstar described The Art of Social Engineering by Avaaz, “Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests.”
Meanwhile, sister organizations of Avaaz work with elites like Rockefeller, Gates and Soros in “shaping global society by utilizing and building upon strategic psychological marketing, soft power, technology and social media.” “More importantly,” notes Morningstar, “The non-profit industrial complex must be understood as a mainspring and the instrument of power, the very support and foundation of imperial domination.”
As Morningstar continues, ‘Global society has been, and continues to be, manipulated to believe that NGOs are representative of “civil society” which has allowed the “humanitarian industrial complex” to become missionaries of empire.’ In this brave new world, NGOs like Avaaz, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch lead civil society in supporting American hegemony through military intervention.
In Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Morningstar reports that Avaaz is the operational name of the Global Engagement and Organizing Fund, a non-profit organization incorporated in 2006. Founded by ResPublica and the Democratic Party front group MoveOn, the core purpose of Avaaz was to build US influence in the Middle East and Asia. ResPublica is led by Tom Perriello, Ricken Patel, and Tom Pravda.
Open Society Institute – created by convicted hedge fund inside trader George Soros – is a major funder of Avaaz, MoveOn and Human Rights Watch. Avaaz destabilization campaigns in Libya, Syria and Bolivia demonstrate the value of NGOs in exercising “soft power” to overthrow foreign regimes hostile to American dominance. As a close friend of President Obama, Perriello was one of the most pro-war Democrats in Congress.
In Welcome to the Brave New World, Morningstar examines Perriello’s career and relationship with war criminals like Obama and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Both Avaaz and 350 board members supported the attack on Syria.) Avaaz, says Morningstar, is arguably “the world’s most powerful NGO.”
Excerpts from the McKibben’s Divestment Tour: Brought to You by Wall Street series by Cory Morningstar:
- Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) is a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). CERES funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.
- WBCSD is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.
- One third of the CERES network companies are in the Fortune 500. Since 2001, CERES has received millions from Wall Street corporations and foundations.
- CERES president Mindy Lubber promotes “sustainable capitalism” at Forbes. Bill McKibben (founder of 350) was an esteemed guest of CERES conferences in 2007 and 2013.
- 1Sky, which merged with 350 in 2011, was created by the Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Betsy Taylor of 1Sky/350 is on the CERES board of directors.
- In 2012, Bill McKibben and Peter Buffett (oil train tycoon Warren Buffet’s son) headlined the Strategies for a New Economy conference. Between 2003 and 2011, NoVo (Buffet’s foundation) donated $26 million to Tides Foundation, which in turn funds CERES and 350.
- Suzanne Nossel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton, is on the Tides board of directors.
350’s shameless usurping of Civil Rights icons in their propaganda is ripe for ridicule. Comparing the Rockefeller-sponsored Blue Team to the Freedom Riders, or the police-escorted People’s Climate March to the marches from Selma to Montgomery, or college campus divestment to BDS in South Africa is a sacrilege.
Absolution for the sin of consumerism is implied in 350’s scapegoating of industry that fulfills consumer demand. 350’s revolutionary rhetoric, that panders to progressive identity, exploits progressive frustration while institutionalizing progressive powerlessness.
Real revolution requires commitment, sacrifice and hardship. 350’s Love Boat champagne circuit somehow fails to measure up to that standard.
The revolutionary 1960s were challenging for us as American teenagers, and bewildering for our parents. Feminism, racial equality, and rejection of religion set us apart from their generation. Social phenomena that unfolded during my high school years alone (1967-70) were astounding: