OK, I’ll talk about it: the ‘d’ word

I am going through now the flags that I placed in various passages of the Frances Stonor Saunders book The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters: The Cultural Cold War. I catch a lot  of grief about having a conspiratorial outlook … from people who just don’t know anything. They don’t begin to grasp how their attitudes and ideas, which they think are their unique brand, are really put before them to be found and copied by people who think much further ahead and in broader terms than they do.

I read the book late last year, and is my habit flagged various passages to revisit. The book looks like a cheerleaders pom pom, it has so many flags.  Right away, on page 4, I had highlighted the following

A vital constituent of this effort was ‘psychological warfare’, which was defined as ‘The planned use by a nation of propaganda and activities other than combat which communicate ideas and information intended to influence the opinions, attitudes, emotions and behavior of foreign groups in ways that will support the achievement of national aims.’ Further, the ‘most effective kind of propaganda’ was defined as the kind where the subject moves in the direction you desire for reasons which he believes to be his own’.

That is a passage from a National Security Council Directive from July 10, 1950 regarding the decision that was made, that the U.S. was going to be in the propaganda business, and big time. At that time CIA was prohibited from doing direct propaganda on Americans (a prohibition since discarded, and never much honored anyway). Saunders discusses how CIA invaded the world of arts and letters in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and redefined our culture. It was a huge psy-op costing as much as $200 (?) million in 1950 dollars. CIA stole the money from the Marshall Plan – not sure of the amount. Will run across it later.

jackson-pollock-21I’ll post more as I go along, but understand something very important, just one aspect of the overall CIA effort: What we call “modern art” was a product of this propaganda effort, the purpose to remove from art the ability to offer clear and crisp criticism of power. It is Orwellian in concept, to take away our ability to communicate by substituting garbage for real art. Jackson Pollock, for example, painted shit, as seen here, but received high praise and honor from those who knew to push the cultural agenda forward by acting as opinion leaders. He was backed by CIA money. Did you know that? Hollywood, also under CIA control, made a movie to honor him. The world of modern art is like the world of wine, full of pretense and phonies. None of it is meaningful, uplifting, or informative. Thank you, CIA.

Something very similar happened in music, the  tribal drum we beat. Look around you now for cultural significance or confrontation of authority in the music world, and good luck. There was a time … but most artists that succeed today have an imprimatur from the cultural police … if you think that your love of Taylor Swift came from your own imagination, think again, and read the cited passage above again. She has lots of help.

Of course, people will not look this way or even begin to fathom that we move in directions that others desire for reasons we believe to be our own.

The world that I inhabit is simply a more interesting place with more understanding of power and the means by which the few rule the many. The criticism that I get, that I am somehow delusional, is wrong. People who say that never say why, never want to talk nuts and bolts. Odd, wouldn’t you say?

If you cannot fathom that things could be just a little different than you think, that your perceptions might just possibility be managed by others, I am simply miles ahead in understanding. I did not set out to be that way, it just happened over the decades as I read and read and read, but more importantly, allowed myself to be wrong. As it happens, I have lost ability to communicate with people running around laughing and shouting about elections or obviously managed news and staged events. I cannot help that, and I will not go back to that world. It is boring and, I am afraid, quite stupid.

Evidence of what I wrote above about art and music are to be found in passages of this very important book. Your beliefs may be at odds with that evidence. I suggest you introduce your beliefs to that evidence, and see which survives. My guess, based on experience, is that your beliefs will not be affected by any evidence.

Intellectuals should be windows, and not window dressing

This particular paragraph has stuck in my mind. Perhaps others reading it will think it odd too that even in 1962 it was apparent to some that the civilian government was a sham, and even more incredibly, that there existed an honest intellectual.

On May 11, 1962, Robert Lowell was again invited to the White House, this time for a dinner in honour of André Malraux, then French Minister of Culture. Kennedy joked at the reception that the White House was becoming ‘almost a café for intellectuals.’ But Lowell was skeptical, and wrote after the White House dinner: ‘Then the next morning you read that the Seventh Fleet had been sent somewhere in Asia and you had the funny feeling of how unimportant the artist really was, that this was sort of window dressing and that the real government was somewhere else, and that something much closer to the Pentagon was really running the country … I feel we intellectuals play a very pompous and frivolous role – we should be windows, and not window dressing.” (Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War, p344)