Opportunity is rapidly vanishing, poorly masked by an institutionalized preference for diversity. Leftist academics in ivory towers are hooked on designer victimology but fail to notice the real victims -- the entire next generation. Meanwhile the rich get richer. Have a nice New World Order.
Anyone who follows today's academic debates on multiculturalism, and by happenstance is also familiar with the power-structure research that engaged students in the sixties and early seventies, is struck by that old truism: the only thing history teaches us is that no one learns from history. By now it's even embarrassing, perhaps because of our soundbite culture. Not only must each generation painstakingly relearn, by trial and error, everything learned by the previous generation, but it's beginning to appear that we have to relearn ourselves that which we knew a scant twenty years earlier. The debate over diversity is one example of this.
Researchers in the sixties discovered that the ruling elites of the West mastered the techniques of multiculturalism at the onset of the Cold War, and employed them time and again to counter the perceived threat from communism. The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was funded first by the CIA and then, after this was exposed in 1967, by the Ford Foundation. CCF created magazines, published books, and conducted conferences throughout the world, in an effort to wean intellectuals to democratic liberalism.
The CIA was also busy in Africa. In an article titled "The CIA as an Equal Opportunity Employer" that first appeared in 1969 in Ramparts and was reprinted in the Black Panther newspaper and elsewhere, members from the Africa Research Group presented convincing evidence that "the CIA has promoted black cultural nationalism to reinforce neo-colonialism in Africa." In their introduction they added that "activists in the black colony within the United States can easily see the relevance to their own situation; in many cases the same techniques and occasionally the same individuals are used to control the political implications of Afro-American culture."
But this is lost history, found today only on dusty library shelves or buried in obscure databases. None of it is mentioned in the current debate over diversity, not even in one of the most lucid essays, an opinion piece by David Rieff that appeared in a recent Harper's. Rieff paints a picture of multiculturalism and shows, in broad strokes, how multiculturalism serves capitalism. To appreciate the significance of multiculturalism we must, as Rieff does, look at the academic arguments from someplace in the real world, or at least from off campus. But we must also be aware of our own historical legacy: psychological warfare and the secret state, the mass media and the culture of spectacle, the role of foundations, and above all, the interests and techniques of the elite globalists who won the Cold War.
From the time that this war began in 1947, the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations, in cooperation with the CIA, began funding programs at major U.S. universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Columbia. They began with an emphasis on Russian studies, but by the mid-1960s these three foundations and the CIA had a near-monopoly on all international studies in the U.S. This phenomenon, a big-money, top-down affair born out of strategic considerations, is the precursor of today's academic multiculturalism.
Some defenders of academic diversity pretend that the elitist shoe is on the other foot, and note that their critics are funded by certain conservative foundations. Sara Diamond tracks the Olin Foundation and Smith-Richardson money behind Dinesh D'Souza and the National Association of Scholars (NAS), two of the more vocal critics of multiculturalism. Diamond points out that the Smith-Richardson Foundation has its own CIA connections, even though they pale in significance alongside the Carnegie - Ford - Rockefeller nexus. But Diamond's major error is in framing her arguments in terms of right and left. This allows the real dynamics to escape her radar.
The ruling elite that finds diversity useful is an elite operating at a level which transcends right and left. While there is an ideological right that is battling the left, and while they do enjoy funding from other conservatives, these folks are not the problem because they do not have substantial power. Nothing shows this better than the fact that this ideological right has always been as concerned as the left over the real source of power, the elite globalists. This began with the Reece Committee on the role of foundations in 1954, continued through the 1960s with the John Birch Society's attacks on the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and later on the Trilateral Commission, and continues today with Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Spotlight, and others. It's not a right-left problem, but rather a top-bottom problem.
Secondly, whatever the funding enjoyed by D'Souza and NAS, one must recognize that the ideological right has long been motivated by a Constitutionally-based, protectionist patriotism that hates big government. Too often the patriotic component has devolved into what can only be described as racism and imperialism. But in 1993 they are once again isolationist, at a time when louder mainstream voices want to assume the role of the world's policeman. And today the populist, ideological right (as opposed to the corporate, Republican, elitist right found on the CFR roster) is also opposed to NAFTA, every bit as firmly as the trade-union Democrats. The ideological right, in other words, takes ideas seriously -- a characteristic of those who lack power. It's just possible that diversity for its own sake deserves to be criticized because it replaces the search for truth with a situationist relativism based on personal experience. This too is a consideration that defies simplistic left-right categories.
For those who feel that the forces behind the debate are instructive, it's worthwhile noting that the Ford Foundation began supporting feminist groups and women's studies programs in the early 1970s. Just ten years earlier they were busy training Indonesian elites (using Berkeley professors as instructors) to take over from Sukarno, which occurred soon after a CIA-sponsored coup in 1965 that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. Did the folks at Ford Foundation have a bleeding change of heart, or are they continuing the same battle on another front? It would appear to be the latter. David R. Hunter, considered the "godfather of progressive philanthropy" by hip heirs such as George Pillsbury, began his new career co-opting the next generation after spending four years at the Ford Foundation. The ruling elite knows exactly what it's doing, and they are remarkably consistent.
When Ramparts blew the whistle on the CIA's domestic cultural activities in 1967, President Johnson appointed a committee consisting of elitists Nicholas Katzenbach (Rhodes scholar and former Ford Foundation fellow), OSS old-boy John Gardner (Carnegie Corporation president, 1955-1965), and CIA director Richard Helms to study the problem. The Katzenbach Committee reported that they expected private foundations, which had grown from 2,200 in 1955 to 18,000 in 1967, to take over the CIA's funding of international organizations, and recommended a "public-private mechanism" to give grants openly. Sixteen years later a Democratic Congress adopted this recommendation by establishing the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). By now it requires a leap of good faith to draw distinctions among complicated overlapping networks of CIA funding, NED funding, and funding by foundations such as Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller. The same people are behind all three, and they seem to be getting richer every day. They promote the two-party system because it keeps the rest of us off track.
Consider the issue of women in the workplace. Everyone agrees that increased opportunities for women are wonderful, but what effect has this had on family income? Here's the sobering answer, from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, no less:
The average weekly take home pay of a worker who entered the workforce in 1989 is $5.68 less today than thirty years ago. This is also reflected in hourly wages. Compared to 1959, there has been a slight increase, 60 cents an hour. But hourly wages are down from their peak in 1973. The 1950s were our boom time. In that one decade hourly wages grew by 83 cents. It took the following three decades to add a mere 60 cents. Families made do by doubling up in the workforce. Between 1955 and 1989 female participation in the work force rose from 35.7 percent to 57.4 percent. Even so, family income stayed flat. Median family income in 1973 was $32,109. Half a generation later in 1988 it was, in constant 1988 dollars, $32,191, a gain of $82. We also started the 1980s as the largest creditor nation in history. We are now the largest debtor.... As a debtor nation, we must expect that the people we owe money to will be better off than we are.
Consider, too, the situation of African-Americans. As soon as the ghettos erupted in the mid-1960s, Johnson's war on poverty began pouring funds on the flames. This was followed with Nixon's "black capitalism," and by the early 1970s affirmative action was institutionalized by edict from above in both the public sector and in major private corporations that held government contracts. But twenty years later only the politicians, pundits, and movie stars pretend that any of this is significant; it's the Jesse Jacksons and black personalities on television who justify what they've got by emphasizing how far we've come thanks to the civil rights struggle. Meanwhile the young in the ghettos, and increasingly even on campuses, know that these front-office PR slots were filled long ago. It's not a problem of inequality; for the next generation there's already a rough equality in anticipated misery. The big problem is that opportunities are vanishing altogether, without regard to race, gender, or sexual orientation.
What's left of the left has yet to even acknowledge this, which makes the proponents of diversity seem irrelevant and even a bit suspicious. It's as if the multiculturalists are protesting too much. Trapped by the cognitive dissonance engendered by hard evidence and common sense, their words lash out reactively in an effort to justify themselves. What else can they do? As David Rieff notes, their relationship to the real world is peripheral:
For all their writings on power, hegemony, and oppression, the campus multiculturalists seem indifferent to the question of where they fit into the material scheme of things. Perhaps it's tenure, with its way of shielding the senior staff from the rigors of someone else's bottom-line thinking. Working for an institution in which neither pay nor promotion is connected to performance, job security is guaranteed (after tenure is attained), and pension arrangements are probably the finest in any industry in the country -- no wonder a poststructuralist can easily believe that words are deeds. She or he can afford to.
In real terms, however, the battle over multiculturalism is a battle over scarce resources and shrinking opportunities. To recognize this much does not deny the related battle over national identity, but does caution us to take the more extreme pronouncements pro and con with a grain of salt.
For young white males without exceptional advantages, it's closer to a glass floor. Math doesn't play language games: if you quota something in you also quota something out. Someone must pay for the sins of the elite. When the diversity-mongers target white males, at best they are almost half correct -- many (not all) older white males have enjoyed advantages. But then when they make someone pay, they are all wrong: it's always the young and innocent who bear the brunt of their policies. It would make as much sense for U.S. institutions to impose sanctions on young women today, simply because historically they have enjoyed exemption from the military draft.
The fact that affirmative action appeared so rapidly over twenty years ago, without opposition from entrenched interests, should have provided a clue. It may have been designed to defuse civil unrest, but this remedy was forced from above, not from below. In a poll commissioned by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, which plans to organize minorities in support of traditional family values, only 36.6 percent of Hispanics, 37.6 percent of blacks, and 10 percent of whites agreed with the statement that "African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities should received special preference in hiring to make up for past inequalities." The agenda of victimology, defined by George Will as "the proliferation of groups nursing grievances and demanding entitlements," is not an agenda shared widely off campus.
It appears that those who are most vocal in support of affirmative action are those, reasonably enough, who are most dependent on it to maintain their advantage. The ruling elite are experts at manipulating their own interests; they know how to divide and conquer, which is why they continue to rule. As inequality becomes increasingly obvious, those who are less equal begin to see society in terms of "us" and "them." The dominant culture shades this definition by using the mass media to emphasize our differences at every opportunity. Conventional wisdom becomes articulated within narrow parameters, which is another way of saying that the questions offered for public debate are rigged.
The objective is to define "us" and "them" in ways that do not threaten the established order. Today everyone can see that there is more Balkanization on campus, and more racism in society, than there was when affirmative action began over twenty years ago. And for twenty years now one can hardly get through the day without being reminded that race is something that matters, from TV sitcoms all the way down to common application forms (it would have been unthinkable to ask about one's race on an application form in the 1960s). We are not fighting the system anymore, we're fighting each other.
Multiculturalism fails to challenge the underlying assumption of all affirmative action rationales, namely that opportunities are scarce and there's not enough for everyone. There is much evidence to substantiate this, particularly as the U.S. tries to remain competitive in a new global economy. Perhaps we should take the global perspective seriously and hunker down for hard times. It's just poor business sense to build a factory in the U.S. if you can build it in Mexico (2000 have moved already). In 1983 the cost of an hour's labor time here was $12.26. The hourly savings for using foreign labor that year amounted to $10.81 in Mexico, $10.09 in Singapore, $6.06 in Japan, and $10.97 in Korea.
Perhaps America's only potential advantage is the technical lead we enjoy in certain areas. If we can play this card well, it might partially compensate for a declining industrial base. Here, too, affirmative action has it all backwards. A huge pool of talent -- the ones, incidentally, who have most of the skills needed in a society that wants to emphasize technical innovation, merit, and quality -- are underemployed and demoralized by affirmative action policies.
Recent literacy tests by the Education Department, the most comprehensive in two decades, show that American adults aged 21 to 25 scored significantly lower than eight years ago, and that about 40 million American adults of all ages have difficulty reading a simple sentence. Men outscored women in document and quantitative literacy, and white adults scored significantly higher than any of the other nine racial and ethnic groups surveyed. Over half of all minorities admitted to college under affirmative action programs drop out before graduating; 30 percent before the end of their freshman year. America does not have the time or resources to bring everyone up to the same level, so instead it appears to be "dumbing down" our culture by denying opportunities and challenges to our most capable young people. This attempt at social leveling is a poor second choice.
None of these dire trends are of any concern to the ruling elites who have the power to address them. They are citizens of the world, and no one -- now not even the Soviet bloc -- stands in their way. They have no need for borders; free trade is what they want and what they will eventually get. Many on Wall Street prefer unrestricted immigration, which would drive down wages and fold up our few remaining unions. For ruling elites, private security provides insulation and "social decay" is just an irrelevant phrase. A massive amount of money, some $1 trillion, is traded every day on currency exchanges around the world. On those rare occasions when money laundering is discovered, the tax man gets too greedy, or regulators become pesky, one nation can be played off against another. And there is disturbing evidence that even the CIA operates at the level of offshore banking and drug-running, presumably after they determine that their already-bloated budgets, picked from our pockets, simply don't meet their needs.
The owners of corporate America have the resources to move offshore or south of the border, while the rest of us are here for the duration. If we were all tightening our belts together, there might be some basis for programs designed to redistribute opportunities. But the rich are getting richer at the same time that they institute policies such as affirmative action and NAFTA. It doesn't pass the smell test. The campus left speaks of equality, and then forgets about justice by ignoring economic and class distinctions. This failure is so fundamental that multiculturalists should no longer be considered "leftists." As long as they claim this description, some of us -- those who still feel that elites ought to be accountable -- are beginning to feel more comfortable as "populists."
Back on campus, the debate rages over the quality of politically- correct (PC) courses and the propriety of speech codes designed to penalize so-called "hate" speech. Multiculturalism is pervasive throughout the humanities, but English and art classes seem to attract most of the PC professors. At the University of Maryland, Josephine Withers taught "Contemporary Issues in Feminist Art" in 1993. Nine of her students, in an effort to propagate the awareness of rape as a feminist issue, tacked up hundreds of fliers bearing the heading "Notice: These Men Are Potential Rapists." The names underneath were chosen arbitrarily from the student directory. Some of those named were not amused. This is not "hate speech," because in this case the perpetrators -- the nine women -- are victims of a "male-identified" culture, and are simply expressing sensitivity to their own oppression.
For an example of actionable hate speech, we go to the University of Pennsylvania. The theft of 14,000 copies of the student newspaper by black students unhappy with a white columnist went unpunished at Penn. But a white male freshman was hauled before the school's judicial board after yelling "water buffalo" at a group of black sorority sisters creating a disturbance under his dormitory window.
Some of the steam has gone out of campus speech codes because of recent court decisions that have declared them unconstitutional. But political correctness and multiculturalism is still rampant inside some classrooms. Scholars from NAS have expressed concern over standards of scholarship and rising campus tensions. Thoughtful progressives like Barbara Epstein worry that "a politics that is organized around defending identities ... forces people's experience into categories that are too narrow." Todd Gitlin, a former 1960s student leader who now teaches at Berkeley, echoes similar sentiments:
The academic left has degenerated into a loose aggregation of margins -- often cannibalistic, romancing the varieties of otherness, speaking in tongues. In this new interest-group pluralism, the shopping center of identity politics makes a fetish of the virtues of the minority, which, in the end, is not only intellectually stultifying but also politically suicidal.... Authentic liberals have good reason to worry that the elevation of "difference" to a first principle is undermining everyone's capacity to see, or change, the world as a whole.
The critics of course content object to some of the sensitivity training programs and techniques that are in vogue on the multicultural campus. Many universities now require PC sensitivity exposure of some sort for incoming freshmen. The NAS worries that such programs are making the situation on campus worse, not better:
"Sensitivity training" programs designed to cultivate "correct thought" about complicated normative, social, and political issues do not teach tolerance but impose orthodoxy. And when these programs favor manipulative psychological techniques over honest discussion, they also undermine the intellectual purposes of higher education and anger those subjected to them. If entire programs of study or required courses relentlessly pursue issues of "race, gender, and class" in preference to all other approaches to assessing the human condition, one can expect the increasing division of the campus along similar lines.
Ethical questions should be raised when such techniques are applied with a political agenda. In the late 1960s in California, a group with liberal Protestant connections calling itself the "Urban Plunge" organized sensitivity immersions for white liberals from the suburbs. After several days or more of intensive ghetto exposure organized by charismatic Plunge staffers, interspersed with group "attack therapy" sessions, many participants were duly impressed. I attended two or three "Plunges" in 1967-1968 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In early 1970, when I believed in pacifism and was appealing a conviction for draft resistance, the Los Angeles "Plunge" invited me to speak to the weekend participants. I arrived at the scheduled time and discovered that new techniques were being used: everyone had been deprived of sleep and food for two days in an effort to sensitize them to the Third World. Tempers were understandably short. As I walked in, fists were flying between a staffer and participant. Disgusted with the whole scene, I immediately walked back out.
In 1968, despite all the mistakes and stupidity of that era, victimology as self-justification was not yet in vogue. Poverty program militants acted more like kings on their own turf than like victims; they even seemed to enjoy themselves. Women didn't start complaining until a year or two later. Hispanics were only recently recognized on a par with blacks, even in the huge barrios of Los Angeles. Draft resisters risked prison in an effort to stop the machine, and many who served in Vietnam felt an obligation to society and risked everything. In this social stew there were many demands for justice but few self-serving claims to entitlements. Today, however, Lehrman discovers that victimology is all the rage:
Terms like sexism, racism, and homophobia have bloated beyond all recognition, and the more politicized the campus, the more frequently they're thrown around.... [T]hose with the most oppressed identities are the most respected.... The irony is not only that these students (who, at the schools I visited at least, were overwhelmingly white and upper-middle class) probably have not come into contact with much oppression, but that they are the first generation of women who have grown up with so many options open to them.
For such multiculturalists ... what is or is not desirable is, therefore, entirely a matter of taste (about which there should be no disputing), not a matter of truth that can be disputed in terms of empirical evidence and reasons. We are left with a question that should be embarrassing to the multiculturalists, though they are not likely to feel its pinch. When they proclaim the desirability of the multicultural, they dispute about matters that should not be disputed. What, then, can possibly be their grounds of preference? Since in their terms it cannot appeal to any relevant body of truth, what they demand in the name of multiculturalism must arise from a wish for power or self-esteem.
But perhaps learning has always occurred more frequently outside of the classroom. In 1968 I noticed from a puff piece in our campus yearbook that a university trustee, John McCone, was a former CIA director. In the library there was exactly one book to be found that was critical of the CIA (The Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, published in 1964) and it included some material on McCone. Then I began looking at the other University of Southern California trustees, and discovered some of the people behind Governor Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
No one ever assigned me readings on power-structure research; the established order never encourages anyone to research or expose its inner workings. I became interested on my own, with help from soon-defunct magazines like Ramparts. (Years later a former postal worker told me that at his post office, the feds collected lists of Ramparts subscribers.) When it comes to naming and describing the ruling elite, the facts are inconvenient for those who are nursing careers. Students at Columbia published impressive research on the trustees at their university in 1968, but not a hint of this made it into the major media. It was reported as long-haired, pot-smoking draft dodgers who spontaneously decided to take over the campus for no reason at all. Film at eleven.
Professors know little about ruling elites because they do know how to recognize a career-stopper when they see one. The fact that administrators are actively promoting multiculturalism should have set off alarm bells for class-conscious leftists who haven't yet deluded themselves about the role of the university. This support by the administration ought to clearly suggest that multiculturalism is endorsed by the ruling elite because they find it useful.
Donna Shalala, now secretary of Health and Human Services, once remarked:
The university is institutionally racist. American society is racist and sexist. Covert racism is just as bad today as overt racism was thirty years ago. In the 1960s we were frustrated about all this. But now, we are in a position to do something about it.
1. Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (New York: Free Press, 1989), 333 pages.
2. Dan Schechter, Michael Ansara, and David Kolodney, "The CIA as an Equal Opportunity Employer," Ramparts, June 1969, pp. 25-33. Reprinted with an introduction in Ellen Ray, William Schaap, Karl van Meter, and Louis Wolf, eds., Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa (Secaucus NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1979), pp. 50-69.
3. David Rieff, "Multiculturalism's Silent Partner: It's the newly globalized consumer economy, stupid." Harper's, August 1993, pp. 62-72.
4. Sigmund Diamond, Compromised Campus: The Collaboration of Universities with the Intelligence Community, 1945-1955 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 371 pages; David Horowitz, "Sinews of Empire," Ramparts, October 1969, pp. 32-42.
5. Sara Diamond, "The Funding of the NAS." In Patricia Aufderheide, ed., Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding (Saint Paul MN: Graywolf Press, 1992), pp. 89-96. This essay first appeared in Z Magazine, February 1991.
6. Compare Sigmund Diamond's discussion of the Reece Committee in Compromised Campus and Pat Robertson's discussion of same in The New World Order (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991).
7. I'm indebted to Ace Hayes for this sentence.
8. David Ransom, "Ford Country: Building an Elite for Indonesia." In Steve Weissman, ed., The Trojan Horse: A Radical Look at Foreign Aid (Palo Alto CA: Ramparts Press, 1975), pp. 93-116.
9. Kathleen Teltsch, "Adviser Helping the Rich Discover Worthy Causes," New York Times, 14 October 1984, p. 50.
10. Who's Who in America, 1984-1985 (Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1984).
11. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Deficit by Default" (14th edition of an annual series beginning with Fiscal Year 1976), July 31, 1990, pp. xiv - xvii.
12. Rieff, p. 63.
13. Ibid., p. 66.
14. Pat Aufderheide, ed., Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding (Saint Paul MN: Graywolf Press, 1992), p. 232.
15. Ralph Z. Hallow, "Christian Coalition to Court Minorities: Blacks, Hispanics Back Key Stands," Washington Times, 10 September 1993, p. A5.
16. George F. Will, "Literary Politics." In Aufderheide, ed., p. 24.
17. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Handbook of Labor Statistics (Washington: 1985), p. 435, Table 132.
18. Carol Innerst, "America's Illiterates Increasing: Survey Disputes U.S. Self-Image," Washington Times, 9 September 1993, p. A1, A10.
19. C. Vann Woodward, "Freedom and the Universities." In Aufderheide, ed., p. 32.
20. Janet Naylor, "'Potential Rapists' Flier Stirs UMd. Flap," Washington Times, 7 May 1993, p. A1, A7.
21. Carol Innerst, "The Hackney Hubbub: PC Debate at Penn Trails Clinton's Pick for NEH," Washington Times, 14 June 1993, p. D1, D2.
22. National Association of Scholars, "The Wrong Way to Reduce Campus Tensions." In Aufderheide, ed., pp. 7-10.
23. Barbara Epstein, "Political Correctness and Identity Politics." In Aufderheide, ed., pp. 148-54.
24. Todd Gitlin, "On the Virtues of a Loose Canon." In Aufderheide, ed., pp. 185-90.
25. Karen Lehrman, "Off Course," Mother Jones, September-October 1993, pp. 45-51, 64, 66, 68.
26. Shalala is quoted in Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p. 13.
27. National Association of Scholars, p. 9.
28. Lehrman, pp. 64, 66, 68.
29. Ibid., p. 66.
30. Mortimer J. Adler, "Multiculturalism, Transculturalism, and the Great Books." In Aufderheide, ed., pp. 59-64.
31. Shalala is quoted in D'Souza, p. 16.
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