The World Today: False Choices – US Primaries 2016
This 2016 program was first broadcast the day after Super Tuesday, in which Bernie Sanders was the clear winner in three states. The documentary provides important perspective for the upcoming 2020 primares. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali interviews Liza Featherstone, author of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton. The latter is a collection of essays by left-leaning feminists.
Featherstone brands Clinton as an “elite” feminist – in contrast to “true” feminists, who are antiwar, anti-imperialist and and anti-racist. Featherstone also brands Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright as elite feminists, for publicly belittling young women for supporting Bernie Sanders. A massive backlash would force both women to apologize.
Both and Ali and Featherstone agree on Sanders and Trump being protest candidates against a corrupt political establishment. Neither can see much difference between Clinton and the Bushes, given they all support the same neoconservative wars of empire. Ali highlights Clinton’s deliberate vote seeking among moderate Republicans, abandoning working class voters (eventually labeling them “deplorables”) comprising the traditional Democratic Party base prior to 1980.
Ali also reminds us that Sanders is the first socialist US presidential candidate in over 100 years. He attributes the allure of socialism for US youth to post-Cold War childhood free of constant anti-communist propagandizing. He gives the example of the election of socialist Kshama Savant to the Seattle City Council in 2013 and 2015 (she was just re-elected in November 2019).
Both Ali and Featherstone correctly predict that Trump will win the Republican nomination. They erroneously predict Clinton winning the presidency.
The final episode of this series has a dual focus: the 1968-71 uprisings that occurred in Japan, Chile, Brazil and France and the birth of the women’s, gay liberation and environmental movements in the US.
Like the earlier three episodes, there’s no real unifying thread in Part 4. It begins by focusing on the birth of the Japanese Red Army, from the perspective of ex-Japanese Red Army member filmmaker Tamotu Adachi. The first global “terrorist” network, the ideologically confused Japanese Red Army eerily foreshadows the birth of Al Qaeda and ISIS thirty years later.
After becoming a filmmaker, Adachi traveled with the Japanese Red Army to Palestine where they engaged in military exercises with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. There, along with German radicals and volunteers from the Irish Republican Army, they smeared themselves with blood-red berry juice and acted out a number of fake battles for the benefit of journalists and filmmakers.
Part 4 also examines the popular overthrow of Chile’s dictator, Brazil’s failed uprising, and successful uprisings by French and Japanese farmers to prevent US military base expansion.
The film concludes with a brief history of US activists who parted company with the antiwar movement to form the women’s liberation, gay liberation and environmental movement. As historian Tariq Ali points out near the end, the 1968 uprisings in the US and the UK were primarily libertarian and focused on individual freedoms. This possibly explains why they took a much different direction in other countries.*
The Secret CIA Campaign to Influence Culture: Covert Cultural Operations
This video is a C-SPAN presentation by British author Frances Stoner Saunders on her 1999 book Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (published in the US as The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters). See The History of CIA Funded Foundations.
According to Saunders, her book was inspired by a 1974 essay Abstract Expressionism: Weapon of the Cold War by Eva Cockcroft. The essay discusses the CIA role in the global promotion of abstract art. Saunders found the notion of a US intelligence agency promoting modern art so bizarre she spent the next two years pouring through congressional archives and interviewing former CIA officers – including Tom Braden* and William Colby (right before he mysteriously fell into the Potomac in 1996).
In the process, she learned the CIA front Congress for Cultural Freedom (started in 1950) funded the publication of literally hundreds of books and magazines, art exhibits and overseas cultural organizations.
In her talk, she also mentions the large number of ex-communists and liberals (eg Arthur Scheslinger) who joined the Congress for Cultural Freedom (even though most of them knew it was CIA-funded).
For me the best parts are at 23 minutes, where she describes feminist Gloria Steinem’s work for a CIA front called the Independent Research Services** and the Q&As. The latter start at 34 minutes. At least three of the four questioners are obvious CIA plants, and she utterly demolishes them.
The CIA posted a review of Saunders’ book on their website
*Braden was a CIA officer from 1947 to 1954 who went on to co-host (as the “voice from the left”) the CNN program Crossfire.
Women’s Estate is about the history of the modern women’s liberation movement. Women’s liberation began in the US in the late 60s and quickly spread to Britain and the rest of the industrialized world. Mitchell compares and contrasts women’s liberation with the earlier feminist movement of 1880-1920, as well as tracing contemporary political influences that shaped it.
Mitchell traces the modern feminist movement to the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan in 1963. In 1966, Friedan would co-found National Organization for Women (NOW) with Gloria Steinem (see Did the CIA Use Gloria Steinem to Subvert the Feminist Movement?). Mitchell classifies NOW as a “reformist” group that limited itself to winning isolated reforms (affirmative action laws, legalized abortion and access to birth control, etc), as opposed to women’s liberation groups which sought to overthrow patriarchy and male-dominated society.
Owing to the immense media attention it received, women’s liberation was the most public revolutionary movement in history. According to Mitchell, its main influences were the mid-sixties black liberation movement, the student movement and the youth (aka “hippy”*) movement.
She traces the official origin of women’s liberation to a protest at Nixon’s 1969 inauguration in which female speakers were taunted with sexually explicit insults. This was the last straw in a long frustrating period in which male antiwar activists edged women out of decision-making and relegated them to typing and tea making.
By 1970, there were women’s liberation groups in all of the developed world, except for Ireland, Austria and Switzerland.
Although women typically experience the most extreme levels of poverty and oppression, the women’s liberation movement, like the earlier suffrage movement, was mainly led by middle class women. According to Mitchell, it’s common for the oppression of underprivileged women to be passed off as natural and unchangeable.
Mitchell devotes most of the book to an analysis of the politics of oppression and the cultural factors (especially so-called “family values) that cause women’s oppression to appear invisible.
In her view, this is why consciousness raising groups were so essential to women’s liberation. By openly sharing their negative treatment by men, women were astonished to learn other women had similar, often identical, experiences. This helped them to acknowledge their individual frustration and suffering was, in actuality, a political problem.
As Mitchell puts it:
The first symptom of oppression is the repression of words: the state of suffering is so total and assumed, it’s not known to be there.
*According to Mitchell, the hippies rebelled against social manipulation and emotional repression by the political establishment without seeking specific political change.
Co-opting Radical Feminism for Corporate Interests
While preeminent American feminist Gloria Steinem’s CIA background receives wide attention on the Internet, it’s a totally taboo topic in either the corporate or the so-called “alternative” media. Steinem’s work for the CIA front group Independent Research Service first entered the public domain in 1967 when Ramparts magazine exposed both the Independent Research Service and the National Student Association as CIA front organizations.
Fearing unflattering publicity, Steinem gave interviews to both the New York Times and the Washington Post defending her CIA work (see video below). In both articles, she claims to have taken the initiative in contacting Cord Meyers, who headed the CIA’s International Organization Division and their top secret Operation Mockingbird.* Her goal, allegedly, was to seek CIA financing to encourage American participation in the seventh postwar (Soviet-sponsored) World Youth Festival in Vienna in 1959.
The article quotes her: “Far from being shocked by this involvement, I was happy to find some liberals in government who were farsighted and cared enough to get Americans of all political views to attend.”
Steinem served as director of the CIA-funded Independent Research Service from 1958-62. It was her responsibility to organize US students, scholars and writers to attend the yearly World Youth Festival, to observe and takes notes on foreign participants, to distribute pamphlets, flyers and books and to edit a daily propaganda newspaper.
Steinem Threatens to Sue Random House
Steinem’s CIA links came to mainstream media attention a second time in 1979, when the Village Voice ran an article about a chapter Random House had censored from Redstockings Collective’s 1979 book Feminist Revolution. Random House spiked the chapter, which describes Steinem’s earlier CIA work, after Steinem threatened to sue them. This deleted chapter (which you can get free by ordering an out-of-print copy of Feminist Revolution from Redstockings Collective) also suggests her CIA involvement may not have ended in 1969 when she left the International Research Associates. It details the right wing corporate funding which helped Steinem inaugurate Ms Magazine, as well as the magazine’s pivotal role in transforming American feminism from a broad multi-class, multiracial movement to one devoted to divisive male bashing and advancing career opportunities for white upper middle class women.
The original feminists of the sixties and seventies didn’t hate men (at least not the ones I worked with). What they hated was patriarchy and the use of male privilege to deny women and children full equality as human beings.
Operation Mockingbird in Action
In 1960 Clay Felker, a CIA-linked Independent Research Service staffer who accompanied Steinem to the Helsinki World Youth Festival in 1962, became the editor of Esquire magazine, where he published many of Steinem’s early feminist articles. In 1968 Felker started New York magazine, and in 1971 he hired Steinem as contributing editor. It was Felker who published the first edition of Ms Magazine as a New York magazine insert.
As the feminist magazine Off Our Backs states in a 1975 article about the Redstockings scandal, their discovery of Steinem’s earlier CIA employment raised a host of concerns about her sudden installation (mainly by corporate media) as the official leader of the US women’s movement without any previous involvement in feminist groups or campaigns.
Interestingly Ms Magazine‘s first publisher was Elizabeth Forsling Harris, a CIA-connected PR executive who planned John Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade route.
The Turmoil At NOW
In 1966, Steinem was still on the board of directors of International Research Service, when she co-founded National Organization for Women (NOW) with Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. A 2001 article in The American Prospect describes (quoting from The World Split Open by Ruth Rosen) how in 1975 prominent NOW members Carol Hanisch and Kathie Sarachild openly accused Steinem of working for the CIA and “directing the movement toward moderation and capitulation.” Ultimately Friedan herself became concerned “a paralysis of leadership” in the movement “could be due to the CIA” and demanded that Steinem respond.
After three months, Steinem wrote a six-page letter to various feminist publications describing her work on two student festivals in 1959 and 1962 that were funded by the CIA. Aiming to deflect the charge she was or had been a government operative, it stated, “I naively thought then that the ultimate money source didn’t matter, since in my own experience, no control or orders came with it.”
The Off Our Backs article also raises questions about a parallel organization Steinem started (in competition with NOW – starting parallel groups is a common strategy employed by US intelligence to sabotage grassroots organizations) in 1971 called Women’s Action Alliance. Located in the same building as Ms. Despite its name, the WAA wasn’t involved in “action,” as its name suggests. It engaged mainly in information gathering. It had a $20,000 grant from Rockefeller Family Fund for the establishment of a “national clearinghouse information and referral service” on the women’s movement. WAA collected information on key women leaders and their groups and activities, presumably facilitation FBI/CIA efforts to monitor them.
Steinem’s Fascination with Fascist Men
Despite her so-called liberal feminist credentials, Steinem has had a clear preference for right wing men, often with CIA and/or FBI links. She had a nine-year relationship with Stanley Pottinger, a Nixon-Ford assistant attorney general, who played a prominent role in undermining civil rights enforcement under Nixon and Ford. He also obstructed FBI investigations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King, and the ex-Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Latelier.
In 1984 Pottinger was also investigated for participating in Irangate, a CIA scheme to illegally smuggle arms to Iran .
In the 1980’s, Steinem dated Henry Kissinger.
The Use of Black Feminists to Sabotage Civil Rights Organizing
In the late seventies and early seventies, African American organizers became concerned about a pattern in which agents posing as black feminists infiltrated their community groups in an effort to split off women members into separate organizations. They traced this phenomenon back to 1978 when Steinem put a book called Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman on the cover of Ms Magazine.
The book was allegedly “written” by a Black “feminist” and “activist” named Michele Wallace. In her early twenties Wallace, who like Steinem came out of nowhere (she was a Newsweek book review researcher), was suddenly being touted as the “leader” of Black feminism. In the book, Wallace called abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojouner Truth “ugly” and “stupid” for supporting Black men. She called Black Revolutionaries “chauvinist macho pigs” and advised Black women to “go it alone.”
Gloria Steinem maintained that Wallace’s book would “define the future of Black relationships” and she pushed hard to make sure the book received massive publicity. Gloria Steinem’s efforts triggered a flood of “Hate Black Men” books and films that continues to this day.
*Operation Mockingbird was a secret CIA campaign to influence the media by placing CIA assets on the staff and editorial board of major publishers and media outlets and by paying reporters a small stipend to publish articles favorable to CIA interests. It allegedly ended in 1976 but many researchers believes it continues under a different name to the present day.
**Irangate was a CIA effort to illegally smuggle arms to Iran to obtain funding for the illegal CIA war against Nicaragua.