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FLASHBACK: Democracy Now! Show Funder Censors Anti-War Journalist John Pilger

Where’s the Change?

July 9, 2011

By Bob Feldman

LannanLogo

According to the Lannan Foundation’s Form 990 financial filing for 2008, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! Productions was given three grants, totaling $375,000, by the Lannan Foundation. And that same year the Lannan Foundation also gave three grants, totaling $545,000, to The Nation/Nation Institute alternative left media group and three grants, totaling $475,000, to Foundation for National Progress/Mother Jones magazine.

But the Lannan Foundation apparently doesn’t want to allow anti-war journalists who criticize the Democratic Obama Administration’s failure to end the endless U.S. military intervention in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya-Yemen-Somalia to speak too freely in the United States these days, as indicated by Australian anti-war journalist and anti-war filmmaker John Pilger’s recent experience with Democracy Now!‘s foundation funder. In an article, titled “The Strange Silence of Liberal America,” that was recently posted on the Global Research site, Pilger wrote the following about how the Lannan Foundation apparently operates these days:

“The Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, believes in free speech. The foundation’s website says it is `dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity’. Authors, film-makers, poets make their way to a sanctum of liberalism bankrolled by the billionaire Patrick Lannan in the tradition of Rockefeller and Ford.

“Lannan also awards `grants’ to America’s liberal media, such as Free Speech TV, the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of the magazine Mother Jones), the Nation Institute and the TV and radio programme Democracy Now! In Britain, Lannan has been a supporter of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am one of the judges. In 2008, Patrick Lannan personally supported the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, he is `devoted’ to Obama.

“On 15 June, I was due in Santa Fe, having been invited to share a platform with the distinguished American journalist David Barsamian. The foundation was also to host the US premiere of my new film, The War You Don’t See, which investigates the false image-making of war-makers, especially Obama.

“I was about to leave for Santa Fe when I received an email from the Lannan official organising my visit. The tone was incredulous. `Something has come up,’ she wrote. Patrick Lannan had called her and ordered all my events to be cancelled. `I have no idea what this is all about,’ she wrote.

“Baffled, I asked that the premiere of my film be allowed to go ahead as the US distribution largely depended on it. She repeated that `all’ my events were cancelled, `and this includes the screening of your film’. On the Lannan website `cancelled’ appeared across a picture of me. There was no explanation. None of my phone calls was returned, nor subsequent emails answered. A Kafka world of not-knowing descended.

“The silence lasted a week until, under pressure from local media, the foundation put out a brief statement that too few tickets had been sold to make my visit `viable’ and that `the Foundation regrets that the reason fr the cancellation was not explained to Mr. Pilger or to the public at the time the decision was made’. Doubts were cast by a robust editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, The paper, which has long played a prominent role in promoting Lannan events, disclosed that my visit had been cancelled before the main advertising and previews were published. A full-page interview with me had to be hurriedly pulled. `Pilger and Barsamian could have expected closer to a packed 820-seat Lensic [arts centre].’

“The manager of The Screen, the Santa Fe cinema that had been rented for the premiere, was called late at night and told to kill all his online promotion for my film, but took it upon himself to re-schedule the film for 23 June. It was a sell-out, with many people turned away. The idea that there was no public interest was demonstrably not true.

“Theories? There are many, but nothing is proven. For me, it is all reminiscent of the long shadows cast during the cold war. `Something is going to surface,’ said Barsamian. `They can’t keep the lid on this.’

“My talk on 15 June was to have been about the collusion of American liberalism in a permanent state of war and the demise of cherished freedoms, such as the right to call government to account. In the United States, as in Britain, serious dissent – free speech — has been substantially criminalised. Obama, the black liberal, the PC exemplar, the marketing dream is as much a warmonger as George W. Bush. His score is six wars. Never in US history has a president prosecuted as many whistle-blowers; yet this truth-telling, this exercise of true citizenship, is at the heart of America’s constitutional first amendment. Obama’s greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the United States, including the anti-war movement.

“The reaction to the Lannan ban has been illuminating. The brave, like the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were appalled and said so. Similarly, many ordinary Americans called into radio stations and have written to me, recognising a symptom of far greater suppression. But some exalted liberal voices have been affronted that I dared whisper the word, censorship, about such a beacon of `cultural freedom’. The embarrassment of those who wish to point both ways is palpable. Others have pulled down the shutters and said nothing. Given their patron’s ruthless show of power, it is understandable. For them, the Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote, `When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

“The War You Don’t See” is available on www.johnpilger.com

(Not surprisingly, neither The Nation, Democracy Now! nor Mother Jones magazine has apparently provided its readers, listeners or viewers with much information about either the historic or current business activities of Lannan family members or about which transnational corporate stocks are contained in the investment portfolio of the Lannan Foundation. Yet, according to its Form 990 financial filing, on December 31, 2008 the Lannan Foundation owned $942,000 worth of Microsoft stock, $953,683 of Disney Company stock, $1,267,640 worth of Wells Fargo stock, $1,389,789 worth of Coca-Cola Company stock, $1,580,982 worth of Wal-Mart stock and $44,145 worth of Goldman Sachs stock.–bf)

 

40 Years After CIA & ITT’s 1973 Coup In Chile: A Look At Democracy Now!’s ITT-Lannan Foundation Connection | Part 2

Where’s the Change?

Jan 7, 2014

by Bob Feldman

weatherunderground

Bernardine Dohrn addresses a radical gathering in 1969. Picture: David Fenton Source: Getty Images

On Sept. 28, 1973 the now-defunct Weather Underground anti-imperialist political group sent a letter and communique to various underground newspapers and aboveground U.S. media outlets. The letter from the Weather Underground stated the following:

“Dear Friends,

“We are sending this communique to newspapers and radio stations around the country. Our purpose is to help explain the role of ITT and the U.S. in the overthrow of President Salvador Allende and the popular government of Chile…This communique accompanies the bombing of the Headquarters for Latin America of ITT in New York City, which was carried out today…”

And the Weather Underground’s September 28, 1973 communique included the following text:

“Tonight we attacked the ITT headquarters for America in New York City, in support of the people in Chile, and to add our voice to the international expression of outrage and anger at the involvement of ITT and the U.S. government in the overthrow of socialist Chile…

“Without the machinations of ITT and the U.S. government these events would not have happened. In spite of their insolent denials they stand indicted by their own words and deeds. The blood of thousands of people is on their hands.

The John Stauber Interview

johnstauber-newleftnow-

New Left Now

April 25, 2013

 

New Left Now: It’s great to talk with you today, John. I came across your Counterpunch article, The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats recently, and New Left Now is keen to talk to you about it and related fronts. So, if I understand your take on this, the progressive movement is largely ineffectual, and for some fairly obvious reasons. What role does the Congressional Progressive Caucus have to play in the mix here? Why have we not seen more efficacy in what they purport to do or represent?

Paid to Lose | The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats

Paid to Lose | The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition March 15-17, 2013

by John Stauber

There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run “the Progressive Movement.”   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a “nonpartisan non-profit corporation” that will  ‘‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’

“Manufactured Dissent”: The Financial Bearings of the “Progressive Left Media”

Global Research

By Prof. James F. Tracy

3 August 2012

 

"Manufactured Dissent": The Financial Bearings of  the "Progressive Left Media"

 

Since the early 2000s US-based “left-progressive” media that purport to be independent have received tens of millions in grants and contributions while they have ignored some of the most important news stories of our time. History suggests a relationship between elite philanthropic sponsorship of such outlets and self-censorship toward pressing events and issues while concurrently maintaining a public semblance of issue-oriented rebellion and dissent.

Why do the self-proclaimed left-progressive “independent” media repeatedly overlook, obfuscate or otherwise leave unexamined some of the most momentous geopolitical and environmental events of our time—September 11th and related false flag terror events, the United Nations’ “Agenda 21,” the genuinely grave environmental threats posed by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, geoengineering (weather modification), and the dire health effects of genetically modified organisms?[1] In fact, these phenomena together point to a verifiable transnational political economic framework against which a mass social movement could readily emerge.

Yet over the past decade the actual function of such journalistic outlets has increasingly been to “manufacture dissent”–in other words, to act as the controlled opposition to the financial oligarchs and an encroaching scientific dictatorship that to an already significant degree controls the planet and oversees human thought and activity. Indeed, many alternative media outlets that appear to be independent of the power structure are funded by the very forces they are reporting on through their heavy reliance on the largesse of major philanthropic foundations.

With the across-the-board deregulation of the transnational financial system in the late 1990s and consequent enrichment of Wall Street and London-based investment banks and hedge funds, the resources of such foundations and charities have increased tremendously. Consequently, the overall funding of “activist” organizations and “alternative” media has climbed sharply, making possible the broadly disseminated appearance of strident voices speaking truth to power. In fact, the protesters and journalists alike are often tethered to the purse strings of the powerful. As a result,

“Dissent has been compartmentalized. Separate “issue oriented” protest movements (e.g. environment, anti-globalization, peace, women’s rights, climate change) are encouraged and generally funded as opposed to a cohesive mass movement.”[2]

The efforts of financial elites to influence left-progressive political opinion goes back a century or more. In the early 1900s, for example, the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations decisively shaped the trajectory of elementary and higher education. Yet a less-examined development is how such influence extended to the mass media. A specific instance of such interests seeking to influence the Left community specifically is the establishment of The New Republic magazine at a decisive time in US history.

Purchased Political Opinion: The Founding of The New Republic


Throughout the twentieth century powerful financial interests have sought to anticipate and direct American left wing social movements and political activity by penetrating their opinion-shaping apparatus. This was seldom difficult because progressives were usually strapped for funds while at the same time eager for a mouthpiece to reach the masses. In 1914 Wall Street’s most powerful banking house, J.P. Morgan, was willing to provide both. “The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold,” historian Carroll Quigley explains.

“(1) to keep informed about the thinking of Left-wing or liberal groups;

(2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so that they could “blow off steam,” and

(3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went “radical.” There was nothing really new about this decision, since other financiers had talked about it and even attempted it earlier. What made it decisively important this time was the combination of its adoption by the dominant Wall Street financier, at a time when tax policy was driving all financiers to seek tax-exempt refuges for their fortunes, and at a time when the ultimate in Left-wing radicalism was about to appear under the banner of the Third International.”[3]

As an example, in 1914 Morgan partner and East Asia agent Willard Straight established The New Republic with money from himself and his wife, Dorothy Payne Whitney of the Payne Whitney fortune. “’Use your wealth to put ideas into circulation,’ Straight had told his wife. ‘Others will give to churches and hospitals.’”[4]

The idea of funding such an organ partly developed between the wealthy couple after they read Herbert Croly’s The Promise of American Life, in which the well-known liberal author assailed the foundations of traditional Progressivism, with its Jeffersonian doctrine of free enterprise and inclination for decentralized, unrestrictive government. In such a laissez-faire arrangement, Croly reasoned, the strong would always take advantage of the weak. “Only a strong central government could control and equitably distribute the benefits of industrial capitalism. … guided by a strong and farsighted leader.” Toward this end Croly proposed a “constructive” or “New Nationalism”, and a medium to reach a captive audience could promote such ideals on a regular basis.[5]

As Croly recalls, Straight

“hunted me up and asked me to make a report for him on the kind of social education which would be most fruitful in a democracy. Thereafter I saw him frequently, and in one of our conversations we discussed a plan for a new weekly which would apply to American life, as it developed, the political and social ideas which I had sketched in the book … We hoped to make it the mouthpiece of those Americans to whom disinterested thinking and its result in convictions were important agents of the adjustment between human beings and the society in which they live.”[6]

Straight designated Croly editor-in-chief of The New Republic‘s and the young socialist writer Walter Lippmann, who by his mid-twenties was an adviser to presidents and a member of the shadowy Round Table Groups, was approached to be a founding editorial board member and subsequently entrusted with gearing the American readership toward a more favorable view of Britain.

Croly later noted how Straight was hardly liberal or progressive in his views. Rather, he was a regular international banker and saw the magazine’s purpose “simply [as] a medium for advancing certain designs of such international bankers, notably to blunt the isolationism and anti-British sentiments so prevalent among many American progressives, while providing them with a vehicle for expression of their progressive views in literature, art, music, social reform, and even domestic polices.”[7]

Following establishment of The New Republic, Straight considered purchasing The New York Evening Post or The Washington Herald. “He longed for a daily newspaper,” Croly recalls, “which would communicate public information in the guise of news as well as in the guise of opinion and which would be read by hundreds of thousands of people instead of only tens of thousands, to serve as his personal medium of expression.”[8]

Straight and Payne Whitney’s son, “Mike” Straight, carried on The New Republic through the 1940s in close alignment with Left and labor organizations, even providing Henry Wallace with a position on the editorial staff in 1946 and backing Wallace’s 1948 presidential bid.

With Willard Straight’s early death in 1918 another Morgan partner, Tom Lamont, apparently became the bank’s representative to the Left, supporting The Saturday Review of Literature in the 1920s and 1930s, and owning the New York Post from 1918 to 1924. Lamont, his wife Flora, and son Corliss were major patrons to a variety of Left concerns, including the American Communist Party and Trade Union Services Incorporated, which in the late 1940s published fifteen union organs for CIO unions. Frederick Vanderbilt Field, another well-heeled Wall Street banker, sat on the editorial boards of The New Masses and the Daily Worker—New York’s official Communist newspapers.[9]

Progressive-Left Media’s Financing Today


Since the 1990s the framework for guiding the Left has developed into a vast combine of powerful, well-funded philanthropic foundations that function on the behalf of their wealthy owners as a well-oiled mechanism of opinion management. Such philanthropic entities oversee formidable wealth that today’s heirs to the Straight and Payne Whitney tradition seek to shield from taxation while. At the same time they are able to employ such resources to influence political thought, discourse, and action. Further, following the broad-based 1999 protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, global elite interests recognized the importance of developing the means to “manufacture dissent.”

Such foundations no doubt exert at least subtle influence over the editorial decisions of the vulnerable progressive media beholden to them for financing. This is partially due to the personnel of the foundations themselves. The task of doling out money frequently falls to foundation officials who are retired political advocates with certain notions about what organizations should be funded and, moreover, how the money should be spent. As Michael Shuman, former director of the Institute for Policy Studies observed in the late 1990s,

“A number of program officers at progressive foundations are former activists who decided to move from the demand to the supply side to enjoy better salaries, benefits and working hours. Yet they still want to live like activists vicariously… by exercising influence over grantees through innumerable meetings, reports, conferences and “suggestions” . . . Many progressive funders treat their grantees like disobedient children who need to be constantly watched and disciplined.”[10]

Doling out grant money to a journalistic outlet is especially controversial since genuine journalism is inherently political given its inclination toward pursuing and examining the decisions and policies of power elites. As Ron Curran of the Independent Media Institute notes, money from foundations “has engendered a climate of secrecy at IAJ (Institute for Alternative Journalism n/k/a Independent Media Institute [IMI]) that’s in direct conflict with IAJ’s role as a progressive media organization.” He continues, “the only money nonprofits can get these days is from private foundations–and those foundations want to control the political agenda.”[11]

If funding is any indication of sheer influence over progressive media, that influence has grown by leaps and bounds at the foremost left media outlets since the 1990s. For example, between 1990 and 1995 the four major progressive print news outlets, The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, and Mother Jones received a combined $537,500 in grants and contributions. In 2010, however, The Nation Institute (The Nation) alone received $2,267,184 in funding, The Progressive took in $1,310,889, the Institute for Public Affairs (In These Times) accepted $961,015, and the Foundation for National Progress (Mother Jones) collected $4,725,235.[12] These figures are for grants and contributions alone and do not include revenue generated from subscription sales and other promotions. Alongside the overall compromised nature such funding can bring, the tremendous increase over the past decade suggests one reason for why specific subject matter that is off-limits for coverage or discussion.

With the development of the internet several new alternative-progressive outlets have emerged between the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Alternet, Democracy Now, and satellite channel Link TV. Recognizing their influence a vast array of “public support” has likewise made these multi-million dollar operations alongside their print-based forebears.

For example, between 2003 and 2010 Democracy Now has taken in $25,577,243—an annual average of $3,197,155, with 2010 assets after liabilities of $11,760,006. Between 2006 and 2010 the Pacific News Service received $26,867,417, or $5,373,483 annually.  The Foundation for National Progress (Mother Jones) brought in $46,623,197, or $4,662,320, and Link TV raised $54,839,710 between 2001 and 2009 for average annual funding of $6,093,301.(Figure 1)

Media Organization

501(c) 3
Total Support 2001-2010
Average Annual Support 2001-2010

Net Assets After Liabilities (2010)

Democracy Now
Productions Inc.

Yes
$25.577,243 (from 2003)
$3,197,155
$11,760,006

Schumann Center for Media and Democracy

Yes
NA
$3,471,682 (2010)
$33,314,688

Nation Institute (The Nation)
Yes
$22,246,533
$2,224,653
$4,798,831

Pacific News Service
Yes
$26,867,417 (2006-2010)
$5,373,483
$712,011

Foundation for National Progress (Mother Jones)
Yes
$46,623,19

$4,662,320
-$1,189,040

The Progressive
Yes
$8,702,146
$870,215
$5,493,782

Link TV
Yes
$54,839,710 (excludes 2010)
$6,093,301
$1,533,308

Institute for Public Affairs (In These Times)
Yes
$4,469,119 (excludes 2006, 2007)
$558,640
-$114,532

Institute for Independent Media (Alternet)
Yes
$14,441,678
$1,444,168
$900,585

Figure 1. Grants, Gifts, Contributions, and Membership Fees of Select “Independent Progressive” Media or Media-Related Organizations 2001-2010 (unless otherwise noted). Based on 2001-2010 IRS Form 990s.

Bill Moyers’ Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which funds The Nation Institute and online news organ Truthout, has net assets of $33,314,688 and brought in $3,471,682 in 2010 income.[13] Because these organizations assert under their 501c3 status that they have no overt political agenda, all income is untaxed.[14] Nor are they required to list the sources of their funding—even especially generous contributions. As the early 1990s grant figures for The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, and Mother Jones suggest, nickel-and-dime contributions constitute a small percentage of such outlets’ overall “public” support.

Funding and Self-Censorship / Conclusion


Given the extent of foundation funding for left-progressive media, it is not surprising how such venues police themselves and proceed with the wishes of their wealthy benefactors in mind. As Croly observed concerning The New Republic, the Straights and Payne Whitneys “could always withdraw their financial support, if they ceased to approve of the policy of the paper; and in that event it would go out of existence as a consequence of their disapproval.”[15] Indeed, this is the left news media’s greatest fear.

In light of these dynamics and the big money at stake the progressive media’s censorial practices are understandable. At the same time self-censorship involves a fairly implicit set of social and behavioral processes. As Warren Breed discovered several decades ago, journalists’ socialization and workplace routinization constitute a process whereby newsworkers themselves internalize the mindset and wishes of their publishers, thereby making overt censorship unnecessary.[16]
We may conclude that a similar process is in play when today’s “progressive” journalists and their editors share or accept many of the same interests, sentiments and expectations of those who hold the purse strings–and who would likely disapprove of attending to certain “controversial” or “conspiratorial” topics and issues.

With this in mind the foremost concern with such media is the uniform declaration of their “alternative” and “independent” missions–claims that are as problematic and misleading as Fox News’ “fair and balanced” mantle. A more appropriate (and honest) moniker for the foundation-funded press is a caveat emptor-style proclamation: “The following content is intended to impart the illusion of empowerment and dissent, yet can leave you uninformed of the most pressing issues of our time, in accordance with the wishes of our sponsors.”

 

Notes

[1] On false flag terror see Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, New York: Routledge, 2005. On Fukushima see Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Ongoing Crisis of World Nuclear Radiation, ed. Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa: Centre for Research on Globalization, January 25, 2012, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28870. For ongoing reportage see Enviroreporter.com. On Agenda 21 see Rachel Koire, Behind the Green Mask: UN Agenda 21, The Post-Sustainability Press, 2011. On geoengineering and weather modification see Project Censored 2012 Story #9, “Government Sponsored Technologies for Weather Modification,” Censored 2012: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2010-2011, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011, 84-90, http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/9-government-sponsored-technologies-for-weather-modification/. On genetically modified organisms see Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods, White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007, and F. William Engdahl, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, Ottawa: Centre for Research on Globalization, 2007.

[2] Michel Chossudovsky, “Manufacturing Dissent: The Antiglobalization Movement is Funded by the Corporate Elites,” GlobalResearch.ca, September 20, 2011, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21110

[3] Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World In Our Time, New York: MacMillan, 1966, 938.

[4] Ronald Steele, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1980, 60. Payne Whitney would continue to fund the publication until 1953.

[5] Steele, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, 59.

[6] Herbert Croly, Willard Straight, New York: Macmillan & Company, 1924, 472.

[7] Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 940.

[8] Croly, Willard Straight, 474.

[9] Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 945-946.

[10] Michael Shuman, “Why do Progressive Foundations Give too Little to too Many?” The Nation, January 12, 1998, 11-16, The Nation ( January 12): 11–16. Available at http://www.tni.org/archives/act/2112

[11] Ron Curran 1997. “Buying the News.” San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 8, 1997. Cited in Bob Feldman, “Reports from the Field: Left Media and Left Think Tanks—Foundation Managed Protest,” Critical Sociology 33 (2007), 427-446. Available at www.irasilver.org/ wp-content/ uploads/ 2011/ 08/Reading-Foundations-Feldman.pdf

[12] Feldman, “Reports from the Field.”

[13] All tax-related information obtained through GuideStar, http://www2.guidestar.org/Home.aspx, and Foundation Center, http://foundationcenter.org/

[14] Progressive-left finger pointers such as Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America are similarly awash in foundation funding and require separate treatment.

[15] Croly, Willard Straight, 474.

[16] Warren Breed, “Social Control in the Newsroom: A Functional Analysis,” Social Forces, 33:4 (May 1955), 326-335. Available at https://umdrive.memphis.edu


James F. Tracy
is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University and blogs at www.memorygap.org

Open Eyes

Editorial

By Jay Taber

Jul 24, 2012

Intercontinental Cry

Seducing as photo ops with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at summer camps funded by convicted inside trader George Soros might be, the idea of young missionaries sowing seeds of democracy along side CIA operatives might seem a little bit silly. Yet, missionaries worldwide — desperate for a chance to do something important and worthwhile with their lives — enroll in programs choreographed to provide cover for covert ops conducted by the NSA and CIA aimed at overthrowing governments and undercutting democratic movements that don’t heel to Wall Street and the Pentagon.

While U.S. agencies with names like USAID, United States Institute of Peace, and National Endowment for Democracy woo the innocent with t-shirts, flags and exotic trips abroad, the fact is they are about as likely to foment democratic revolutions as other American teenagers in helicopter gunships mowing down civilians in the streets of Baghdad. At least the Peace Corps didn’t act like toy Che brigades.

I only saw one CIA-sponsored NGO live, and that was at the 2003 anti-war demonstration in San Francisco’s UN Plaza. With tens of thousands filling the streets converging on the plaza to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq, the small contingent on the edge of the plaza holding expensive pro-war signs, and using amplified noisemakers in order to disrupt peace presenters on stage, was clearly not a genuine grassroots group.

In the Wrong Kind of Green article on fake revolutions in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, we learn how Wall Street think tanks merge seamlessly with US Government front groups to create the spectacular illusions of rainbow revolutions and Arab Spring. With funding from the CIA, NED, Soros’ Open Society Institute, and the Ford Foundation, the toy Che brigades have become instrumental in whitewashing Wall Street’s dirty deeds around the globe.

This reality may be hard for American liberals to swallow, but better this bitter pill than raising the specter of another blowback like 9/11. What goes around comes around.

For Americans who want to exercise their responsibilities as citizens or as human beings, there really are very few opportunities to do so effectively without taking enormous risks way out of proportion to what they are capable of handling. You see them repeatedly attempting to assuage their frustrations with this state of affairs by donating money to philanthropies, but the sad truth is that these are merely another form of chaneling dissent controlled by the individuals and institutions that cause all the problems in the first place.

Giving to MoveOn or becoming a Soros baby is an act of acquiescing to this brutal system; trying to actually change that system makes one an outsider–marginalized to the land of no resources.

Until a sufficient number recognize the charade for what it is, and begin helping and funding resistance rather than reform, nothing substantive will change. There are those willing to take large risks, but they cannot endure without backing from those who lack the courage.

Fortunately, it isn’t all that difficult to find them once one realizes that mainstream philanthropy is a farce. The real fighters are the ones demonized by the market and the media daily; I could probably pick up any local newspaper and tell you where your money would be well-spent and where it would just go down the drain.

In the old days of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA), official US Government organizations were more candid about overthrowing governments that did not succumb to domination by US corporate or military misadventures. Then Wikileaks happened upon US State Department cables and our view of international diplomacy changed forever.

Today, CIA-sponsored rainbow revolutions — financed by National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) — use puppet NGOs to destabilize non-compliant foreign regimes. Thanks to whistle-blowers and Wikileaks, we now know how US embassy diplomatic pouches are used to smuggle currency to these Trojan horses.

In an ironic twist of fate, we also get a glimpse of how the US State Department strategically undermines the world indigenous peoples’ movement and human rights in general. To put it mildly, it isn’t a pretty picture.

Reading the December 2010 IPS report on COP 16, I was reminded of earlier conferences, where the European forces of globalization divided up other peoples’ lands by international agreement. Not having transcripts from those 16th-19th century proceedings, I can only imagine the invocation of church, state and market interests that combined in setting forth those self-congratulatory plans.

Watching the privileged and powerful at the climate change talks in Cancun, religious bigotry took a back seat to state and market propaganda, but the contempt for indigenous peoples and their sense of the sacred was front and center. With only the state of Bolivia dissenting from the state and market narrative, the concept of saving the planet or extending human rights through this international forum was trampled by hoards of self-congratulatory bureaucrats and career activists whose funding depends on maintaining this progressive hoax.

While expecting such behavior from craven opportunists like BINGO delegates, I was surprised to see progressive media falling so quickly into line. Perhaps they were simply playing up to their social milieu; maybe they were hoping to get a NED grant for covering the back of US Secretary of State Clinton. Whatever the reason, it was a sorry display of lackey journalism; my only response is that if they’re not with us, then they’re against us.

Even the Mother Jones article on Cancun read like a press release from the US State Department. After successfully undermining Kyoto and setting the stage for the REDD Ponzi scheme, the only task left in the climate charade was to marginalize the indigenous nations whose lands are to be recolonized. With all the current notoriety from Cablegate, I’m sure that Secretary Clinton appreciated the progressive media support.

Back in 2006, an article in En Camino observed,

Though democracy is often conceived of as a political form based on popular sovereignty and participation, its most commonly understood meaning is a thoroughly streamlined version–a system in which a small elite rules by confining mass participation to leadership choice in controlled elections.

Polyarchies —  a form of restricted democracy that accommodates capitalist principles in otherwise threatening contexts — permitted the US to make a relatively smooth transition from supporting dictatorships in the Philippines and Nicaragua, for example, to supporting democratization movements in those same countries. As it turns out, limited “democracy” often serves US interests more effectively than authoritarianism.

In the Philippines and Nicaragua, the US began financing ostensibly pro-democracy groups, facilitating their rise to positions of power out of proportion to their numbers or the strength of their ideas, within broader democratization movements. Selected Philippine and Nicaraguan NGOs and political parties received financing (direct and indirect) from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and sister organizations that allowed them to create a much higher profile than their left-wing competitors.

When the dictatorships ended, these pro-US elite groups were well-placed to take power, as the examples of Corazon Aquino (Philippines) and Violeta Chamorro (Nicaragua) illustrate. The replacement of dictatorships in Latin America with polyarchies brought with it the widespread implementation of neoliberal economic reforms.

Americans, as we see time and time again, are incredibly naive about world politics. By and large, they accept government propaganda, no matter how absurd. They bought the Cold War script, the drug war script, and the War on Terror script, mostly without a second thought. They even bought the Hope and Change script, electing a Wall Street toady to fight as their champion against the powers that be.

Apparently, American gullibility knows no bounds. As evidenced by the popularity of the color-coded revolutions myth, they enthusiastically embrace the notion that a few thousand people armed with nothing but iphones can topple dictators, replacing them with authentic democracies due solely to their sincerity and good wishes.

Of course, power vacuums are filled by those who are prepared, not to mention connected. And when you’re talking about reorganizing a society of tens or hundreds of millions of people, those connections — be they economic, religious, or military — count. How many times have we seen righteous indignation betrayed by notorious factions in cahoots with the IMF, World Bank, or CIA?

Whatever one might think about Egypt’s Mubarak or other dictators who’ve fallen out of favor with the US and the EU, popular uprisings have political backgrounds, social context, and often unintended consequences. And when you’re talking about regime change within totalitarian states, there is always a back story of international intrigue, as well as conspiracies to seize power.

In other words, things are never what they seem, especially if one’s sources of information are the governments of intervening world powers, or the corporate media that does their bidding.

To state it bluntly, when the U.S. government and the former colonial powers of Western Europe decide to abandon dictators and proxy governments, they have to fabricate a narrative that conceals their sordid past, as well as reveals disingenuous outlines of their desired future. Both require distortion of the present. In the case of Egypt, that distortion is aided by not asking key questions.

Writing at Cyrano’s Journal a year ago, Jared Israel examined the media narrative of the insurrection in Egypt, what it does and doesn’t tell us, and how it is even contrived to fit a preconceived pattern. Patterns exist, but in order to see them, one has to open one’s eyes.

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, an author, a correspondent to Fourth World Eye, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as the administrative director of Public Good Project.]