A review of the CIA and the media helps explain how the wealthiest families gained control over a vast majority of Americans’ information. US Intelligence whistle-blowers and mainstream media insiders revealed that a group of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites own or influence virtually all of our media sources that shape our opinions about events at home and abroad. News Anchor Dan Rather typified some insiders’ thoughts about America’s press when he described our media as a “miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states” (Jarecki, 2005).
Wealthiest Direct US Intelligence
The history of US Intelligence, as described by insiders and researchers, supports that elite multinational corporate owners influenced the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency. Through the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA leadership ruled over all other 14+ intelligence agencies (though changes occurred after 2000). These agencies included the FBI, NSA, Army Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, etc.
The highest-ranking CIA whistleblower, former assistant Deputy Director Victor Marchetti, was a 14-year CIA veteran. He and State Department Intelligence analyst John Marks wrote that CIA leaders came from the wealthiest families, some of which had led the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) wartime intelligence group. Marchetti reported that virtually the entire CIA leadership and middle ranks were filled with white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant male family members of corporate moguls and it remained that way with few exceptions (Marchetti and Marks, 1974, pp266-8).
Marchetti and Marks cited a CIA Inspector General’s study in 1964 that found no Black, Jewish or female professionals in the entire CIA, and the agency contained only a few Catholics (Marchetti and Marks, p269). British editor Frances Stonor Saunders also pored through government documents to make similar claims. She listed the family members of the Mellons, J.P. Morgan, and the Vanderbilts, along with the Rockefellers’ lawyers, the Dulles Brothers, amongst other elites in the CIA leadership (Stonor Saunders, 1999, pp.34-5).
CIA’s Early Media Assets
The history of the CIA work for multinational corporate interests further reveals how the wealthiest maintain their vast control over information. Victor Marchetti; Philip Agee, a 12 year CIA veteran; and Frances Stonor Saunders also concurred that US Intelligence generally acts as agents of these corporations rather than working on behalf of all Americans’ interests. Award-winning Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz quoted Phil Agee as summarizing that “the CIA is essentially an instrument for the pursuit of the great transnational corporate interests in the name of ‘national security.’ (Mintz and Cohen, 1977, p.40)”
Multinational corporations have always maintained public relations and psychological operations as a major component for advancing their interests. Their financing of political campaigns helped them gain influence over top politicians. President Harry Truman made this evident when he started the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) in 1948, which merged with the CIA in 1951.
In 1952, OPC Director Frank Wisner supervised 2,800 personnel in the US and 3,100 overseas working on psychological warfare operations with an $82 million budget. Saunders detailed how their budget and personnel increased annually. Individuals such as Charles Douglas Jackson went back and forth between Psychological Operations and Vice-President of Time Inc.’s media empire. Evidence supports that he aided these operations through Time’s magazines (Stonor Saunders, p.40-1, 116-7, 129, 146-9, 152-3).
The New York Times, itself under multinational corporate control, ended up concurring with many of these disclosures. They reported that Wisner had also kept a highly secret “Propaganda Assets Inventory,” representing a network of more than 800 news and public information organizations and individuals. These assets became part of the CIA’s opinion-making propagandists within both American and international mainstream media (Crewden, 1977, p.1).
CIA’s Media Network Controls Hearts and Minds
Frances Stonor Saunders reviewed a trove of buried archival US Intelligence documents that explained their goals. For example, in a 1950 “NSC Directive,” the US Intelligence umbrella group, the National Security Council, described its “psychological warfare… [through] propaganda… to influence [people’s] thoughts and actions… [so that] the subject moves in the direction [they] desire for reasons which he believes to be his own” (Stonor Saunders, p.4).
In the 1950s, CIA propaganda chief Frank Wisner said that he could “play the media like a mighty Wurlitzer (Crewden, 1977, p.1).” By 1977, Watergate muckraking reporter Carl Bernstein wrote a seminal expose on the media. Despite his earlier ’70s Watergate fame, only Rolling Stone magazine published this revealing article. A Senate Intelligence Committee forced CIA Director George Bush, Sr. to admit that “more than 400 journalists had lived double lives, maintaining covert relationships with the CIA,” Bernstein wrote. Others in the CIA told Bernstein that the number was far higher (Bernstein, 1977, pp.55-66.).
The Senate Committee found that virtually all of the leading media companies have top executives, editors and journalists who are paid by the CIA, for example, to reprint CIA written articles verbatim under their names (Bernstein, pp55-66). US Intelligence leaders could eventually boast about their almost complete control over the media. Former veteran CIA agent Ralph McGehee obtained a CIA memo in ’91 that contained such a boast. It claimed that the agency had representatives in every media outlet in the country; these representatives help to spin and censor the news (DiEugenio and Pease, 2003, p.311).
Multinational Corporate Media Control
As previously noted, the CIA supervised the whole of US Intelligence, and CIA leadership came from the families that owned the multinational corporations. Ben Bagdikian, dean of the University of California-Berkeley School of Journalism, explained how multinational corporate owners gained even tighter controls over public information.
During a sabbatical to study the media industry, Bagdikian set out to research another topic before he found out about the ever-consolidating media ownership. Bagdikian detailed how the media industry experienced a huge consolidation trend approaching “monopolization” by a smaller and smaller number of controlling multinational corporations (Bagdikian, 1992, pp.ix, 24-5).
Bagdikian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter, first noted the history of corporate media control. He detailed how the reform-minded journalism of the early 1900s helped elect reformist politicians such as President Theodore Roosevelt. But, he added, the Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan interests bought control of the most influential media outlets (Bagdikian, pp.210-11). These conservative robber barons installed their own managers. These managers stopped the newspapers from publishing information that threatened their owners’ profits or promoted populist politicians (The film, “America: Freedom to Fascism”, also cites this information, first stated in the Capital by US Congressman Oscar Callaway in 1917).
Bagdikian further explained that most major media outlets have directors on their company boards that also sit on the boards of these major multinational corporations. For example, the Board of Directors of Time magazine and the industry standard-bearer New York Times also sit on corporate boards involved in military defense contracting, oil, and pharmaceuticals, as well as banks, finance and insurance companies. Bagdikian explained that under corporate law, “the director of a company is obliged to act in the interests of his or her own company (Bagdikian, pp.24-5).”
The rare disclosures by The New York Times and other mainstream news sources usually came despite their owners’ political agenda. These disclosures do come more often in The New York Times than the more blatantly conservative news sources such as The New York Post, or The Washington Post, but editors usually limit the content of the disclosures or print other articles that contradict the disclosures. In the introduction of his book, Inventing Reality, Yale-trained political science professor Michael Parenti explained mainstream media’s occasional disclosures by brashly stating, “…like any liar the press is filled with contradictions…without a word of explanation (Parenti, 1986, p.ix).”
Pentagon and US Intelligence Ownership of Media
US Intelligence helped the elite further tighten their control over public information by gaining direct ownership over the vast majority of information sources. For example, one of their own publications, Armed Forces Journal International, revealed that the Pentagon (military intelligence) published 371 magazines in 1971, making it 16 times larger than the nation’s biggest publisher that year. This number increased to 1,203 different periodicals by 1982. The quantity suggests that these 1200 magazine and journal titles straddled many areas of life, thus controlling information that could make it to the pages of news, fashion and sports magazines crowding book chain outlets (Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, 1988, p.20).
In the mid-70s, a Senate intelligence committee issued an investigative report on other US Intelligence media assets. It stated that the CIA owned outright, “more than 200 wire services, newspapers, magazines, and book publishing complexes,” according to Professor Michael Parenti (Parenti, p.233). Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz also detailed this in his book, Power Inc (Mintz and Cohen, p.364).
Following these reports and Carl Bernstein’s Rolling Stone exposé, The New York Times published one of its few disclosures, the aforementioned piece by Crewden, on the CIA and the media. The Times reported another fifty media outlets run by the CIA and added that the CIA secretly commissioned over 1,200 books by 1977, including 200 in 1967 alone (Crewden, 1977). Morton Mintz quoted a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities 1976 report describing how the CIA promoted their own propaganda in that a book written “by one CIA operative was reviewed favorably by another CIA agent in The New York Times (Mintz and Cohen,p.364).”
Furthermore, William Casey, who was in and out of US Intelligence for years before he became CIA director under President Reagan, presents another example of this ownership. Casey led a group of Intelligence officials that founded the Capital Cities media company in 1954. Capital Cities bought the ABC television network in 1985 (Mazzocco, 1994).
And finally, former OSS agent John Elroy McCaw attended meetings of the US Intelligence umbrella group, the National Security Council, as he served on their Advisory Council. He also owned WINS, one of New York City’s top music stations at that time. WABC Program Director Rick Sklar published a memoir detailing how McCaw lead the nationwide promotion of the Top 40 music format that permanently changed radio programming. John McCaw’s four sons gained a large ownership in cable television networks and other communications companies, each accumulating a net worth of at least $750 million (Constantine, 2001, pp.20-3). Other US Intelligence leaders set up similar spheres of influence in music and entertainment.
Advertising Control and Insider Disclosures
The wealthiest have also gained further control over Americans’ information by use of a different tactic. They’ve gained control over media content through advertising. Disclosures from media insiders present general agreement on advertisers’ huge influence over media content.
New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzburger provided one example when he openly admitted that he had his editors put forth the auto industry line in censoring auto safety and pollution issues because otherwise it “would affect the advertising.” Another Times staff member said that stories on the automobile industry in the early 1970s were “more or less put together by the advertisers.” A CBS television news veteran supported this notion in saying that advertising agencies and their affiliates are “always taken into account,” when it came to programming decisions, in order not to offend them (Parenti, p.48-9).
One of the most well-known media insiders, Dan Rather, described the media’s conservative censorship in stark terms. Rather started in journalism working for United Press International in the 1950s. His journalistic achievements moved him up to the position of CBS Southern Bureau chief and then anchorman on the CBS Evening News in 1981. He remained in that position until 2005. In 2002, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) interviewed Dan Rather about the media’s aid in the suppression of dissent in the United States. Rather said, “What you have here is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states” (Jarecki, 2005). However, the above information suggests that we have a more sophisticated version of what takes place in totalitarian states.
John Potash contributed this article by adapting two chapters of his book The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders. A film of the same title based on the book is now available on DVD, www.fbiwarontupac.com.