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The Powell Memo 41 years later

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Reference: Reclaim Democracy, The Powell Memo (also known as the Powell Manifesto)

    In 1971, Lewis F. Powell, then a corporate lawyer and member of the boards of 11 corporations, wrote a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum was dated August 23, 1971, two months prior to Powell’s nomination by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The Powell Memo did not become available to the public until long after his confirmation to the Court. It was leaked to Jack Anderson, a liberal syndicated columnist, who stirred interest in the document when he cited it as reason to doubt Powell’s legal objectivity. Anderson cautioned that Powell “might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice…in behalf of business interests.”

    Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

    ---------------------------------

    That is Reclaim Democracy's quick summary of the Powell Memo. You can read Powell's memo in its entirety at the Reclaim Democracy link above. It caught my interest when I listened to a commentary about it on the radio (cannot recall which program), but the commentators attributed the Powell Memo as the impetus for the launch of a massive propaganda campaign by right wing plutocrats to change public opinion. What is shocking to me is that an individual with such strong anti-liberal views managed to get himself elected to the Supreme Court of the United States. Quoting Powell:

    "The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

    "The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

    "Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

    "One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction."

    ---------------------------

    There's much more. Powell not only criticizes the influence of the left on society, he lays out a strategy to change it, calling on businessmen "to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people....Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations."

    Today, 41 years after Lewis Powell wrote his infamous memo, we can indeed see the results in all aspects of society of his call for action. The Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute and others have consistently supported the Powell initiative. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News didn't exist then. It wasn't launched until 1996, but filled a needed media void to expand the propaganda campaign further. Fox News has probably been one of the most successful conduits for changing public opinion...and for why so many blue collar workers vote Republican.

    While Rupert Murdoch has fulfilled the media role, the really big money players in the game are the Koch brothers whose influence extends from lobbying Congress, financially supporting (buying) right wing (Tea Party) candidates for office, funding right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO institute, and much more. More than any other plutocrats, they are carrying on the legacy of the Lewis Powell Memo. From the recent Forbes article, Inside The Koch Empire: How The Brothers Plan To Reshape America, by Daniel Fischer:

    "So their revolution has been an evolution, with roots going back half a century to Koch’s first contributions to libertarian causes and Republican candidates. In the mid-1970s their business of changing minds got more formal when Charles cofounded what became the Cato Institute, the first major libertarian think tank. Based in Washington, it has 120 employees devoted to promoting property rights, educational choice and economic freedom. In 1978 the brothers helped found–and still fund–George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the go-to academy for deregulation; they have funded the Federalist Society, which shapes conservative judicial thinking; the pro-market Heritage Foundation; a California-based center skeptical of human-driven climate change; and many other institutions."

    Today as we witness their funding of anti-union "right to work" legislative efforts in Michigan and other states, we must recognize that the Koch brother's vision is not only busting the unions for their wage and benefits policies, but also to destroy their political clout. With the Citizen's United ruling, the only entities that have the financial clout to combat the plutocrats and big corporate donors are the unions. Right to work legislation destroys unions.

    In academia, the Koch brothers are exerting their influence by funding universities in exchange for getting to select professors and curriculum.

    Koch Brothers Fueling Far-Right Academic Centers Across the US

    "...a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU)...accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications.

    "Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previously known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study.
    "

    We should be worried. The ghost of Lewis F. Powell lives today.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    I wrote this post almost a year ago. Since then only Guy Dwyer has discussed the implications of the movement in his thread, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, although he didn't specifically target Lewis Powell himself. I am covering it now because I read an interesting article in the Huffington Post by my favorite psychologist, George Lakoff regarding a recent New York Times article.

    George Lakoff, Huffington Post, November 25, 2013: The New York Times Uncovers Conservative Attacks and Then Prints One; Both Are on the Front Page

    Lakoff reports that for decades, Republican conservatives have been engaged in very effective and extensive long-term communication campaign to change the public discourse and the way people think. He notes that the New York Times has finally reported on this campaign in a November 21st article by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Quoting Lakoff:

    "It's a start, and it's about time. What the Times missed was the far deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideology covering dozens of issues that have been served by these efforts. The Times also missed the reason why the attack on the ACA is more than just anti-Obama politics, but rather part of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states -- all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans."

    I and others have written in other posts about how American brains have been conditioned or wired by a continual barrage of right wing misinformation from several sources, and the repetition of the talking points over and over again does alter our brains. Eternal flame has used the term "brain washed" in describing John Birch Society efforts to convert Americans...and that term is not far off the mark. Lakoff gets more scientific in describing cognitive linguistics and conceptual frames...neural circuits in our brains. Framing words in politics are not neutral and the language used in politics is not neutral. Political words reflect the value-based frames of those trying to change the way we think. Successfully framing public discourse, means you will win the public debate. Lakoff further explains:

    "A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. Daniel Kahneman has since brought frame-based unconscious thought into the public arena in what he has called "System 1 thinking." Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames."

    Okay there is much more in Lakoff's excellent HP article covering how the conservative and the liberal brains differ in their thinking. I recommend reading it at the HP link above. I should also disclose that I am a fan of Lakoff, and I keep his book, The Political Mind, by my bed. I often read parts of chapters to remind myself that I need to be continually aware of not falling into the framing trap that lies out there for all of us. Framing words in politics as being used by conservatives is a form of subtle "brain washing" that we may not even be aware of as our public discourse and attitudes have shifted more and more to the right, especially since Reagan. It is planned that way by some very smart wealthy people...it is not a spontaneous grass roots movement.
  • Libertarian
    garden city, NY
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    Schmidt Wrote: Reference: Reclaim Democracy, The Powell Memo (also known as the Powell Manifesto)

    In 1971, Lewis F. Powell, then a corporate lawyer and member of the boards of 11 corporations, wrote a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum was dated August 23, 1971, two months prior to Powell’s nomination by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The Powell Memo did not become available to the public until long after his confirmation to the Court. It was leaked to Jack Anderson, a liberal syndicated columnist, who stirred interest in the document when he cited it as reason to doubt Powell’s legal objectivity. Anderson cautioned that Powell “might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice…in behalf of business interests.”

    Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

    ---------------------------------

    That is Reclaim Democracy's quick summary of the Powell Memo. You can read Powell's memo in its entirety at the Reclaim Democracy link above. It caught my interest when I listened to a commentary about it on the radio (cannot recall which program), but the commentators attributed the Powell Memo as the impetus for the launch of a massive propaganda campaign by right wing plutocrats to change public opinion. What is shocking to me is that an individual with such strong anti-liberal views managed to get himself elected to the Supreme Court of the United States. Quoting Powell:

    "The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

    "The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

    "Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

    "One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction."

    ---------------------------

    There's much more. Powell not only criticizes the influence of the left on society, he lays out a strategy to change it, calling on businessmen "to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people....Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations."

    Today, 41 years after Lewis Powell wrote his infamous memo, we can indeed see the results in all aspects of society of his call for action. The Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute and others have consistently supported the Powell initiative. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News didn't exist then. It wasn't launched until 1996, but filled a needed media void to expand the propaganda campaign further. Fox News has probably been one of the most successful conduits for changing public opinion...and for why so many blue collar workers vote Republican.

    While Rupert Murdoch has fulfilled the media role, the really big money players in the game are the Koch brothers whose influence extends from lobbying Congress, financially supporting (buying) right wing (Tea Party) candidates for office, funding right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO institute, and much more. More than any other plutocrats, they are carrying on the legacy of the Lewis Powell Memo. From the recent Forbes article, Inside The Koch Empire: How The Brothers Plan To Reshape America, by Daniel Fischer:

    "So their revolution has been an evolution, with roots going back half a century to Koch’s first contributions to libertarian causes and Republican candidates. In the mid-1970s their business of changing minds got more formal when Charles cofounded what became the Cato Institute, the first major libertarian think tank. Based in Washington, it has 120 employees devoted to promoting property rights, educational choice and economic freedom. In 1978 the brothers helped found–and still fund–George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the go-to academy for deregulation; they have funded the Federalist Society, which shapes conservative judicial thinking; the pro-market Heritage Foundation; a California-based center skeptical of human-driven climate change; and many other institutions."

    Today as we witness their funding of anti-union "right to work" legislative efforts in Michigan and other states, we must recognize that the Koch brother's vision is not only busting the unions for their wage and benefits policies, but also to destroy their political clout. With the Citizen's United ruling, the only entities that have the financial clout to combat the plutocrats and big corporate donors are the unions. Right to work legislation destroys unions.

    In academia, the Koch brothers are exerting their influence by funding universities in exchange for getting to select professors and curriculum.

    Koch Brothers Fueling Far-Right Academic Centers Across the US

    "...a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU)...accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications.

    "Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previously known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study.
    "

    We should be worried. The ghost of Lewis F. Powell lives today.
  • Libertarian
    garden city, NY
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    I am recently arrived to these discussions and am astonished that there has not been an avalanche of commentary recognizing what all of us more or less oldsters, you know college graduates who had to include calculus and physics as part of their undergraduate education, whether they majored in arts or sciences, recognize as the hi-jacking of the country by the un-christian and rather ruthless oligarchs exemplified by the Koch brothers and the Rupert Murdochs of the world.

    I wrote my then senator, Hillory Clinton, soon after she voted to grant then President Bush, plenipotentiary power to go to war, that no republic lasted more than three centuries, before it was captured by an oligarchy which soon reverted to one person rule: Julius Caeser and Adolph Hitler to name the most prominent. Most significantly, those powers were not seized; they were voted on and conceded by popular assemblies.

    I never received a response.

    This is the central question of this republic. Whether oligarchs are going to be allowed to manipulate the country into their most comfortable state; Fascism: rule by the super rich and the corporate elite (basically, the same thing, with the exception of naifs like Bill Gates, and
    perhaps even Warren Buffett sorts. They need to remember the fate of the Grachi brothers of Republican Rome, murdered by their aristocratic peers for agitating for the less well off of the Roman Republic.

    Wasn't control by the oligarchs basically Alexander Hamilton's attitude? Maybe Aaron Burr was onto something.
  • Democrat
    Missouri
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    Our world and into the future, there will be more conspiracy in our social order. There continues to be an increasing flow of money to fund an agenda to reduce the middle class. Serfdom is the role that the 1% or less desires for all of us. This Thanksgiving I will give thanks to my parents, family, church, schooling, University and the privileges to serve my country and above all, my God and Holy Father. All that life has given me provides me insight to what these social demons pursue disrupting a better life I desire. You mention Gates and Buffet, which is fresh air when you listen to what these mega-fund individuals provide to our social needs. I remember Buffet boasting to Gates he's giving away 99% of his fortune compared to Gates 95%. Isn't that something to rejoice in hearing. The new organization Buffet and Gates are creating with other 1%'ers as a Giving society with several already signed up to provide entrepreneurships, aid to the less fortunate, free medical care, student funding, research and even a desire to help pay off the national debt. It is music great enough to continue to hear over and over. We get caught listening to the Krogh's, Cheney's, Trump, and countless others that push government reform into an agenda destroying our rights to pursue a quality life. Around the world are social demons that desire to pulverize America in oblivion and rule with an iron fist. Some believe we desire destruction because of our meddling into their country for our own greed for their resources. Yes, we have meddle to much. Education is key to raising up America because we too have much ignorance teaching us false religion and fears of one another. If you talk to your neighbor regularly and you have many many friends, you are a minority. Our society is too fearful of each other, which contributes to distrust, guns, murder, drugs, greed and a desire to prey on each other. It is written that God destroyed the earth and at the time society was pretty dismal. Maybe not too far in the future our world as we know it is becoming closer to a termination event. This blog has been posting discussions on nuclear weapons and political bickering in our country and the world. We have posted things about crazy leaders and tense situations around the world. Yes, it is time for humans to have a faith healing and a coming together of common sense and sane ideals. The next world disaster will not be won by guns, nuclear weapons and leaders with medals on their uniform, it will be won by the people who are truly the peace makers. I'm afraid capitalism will not rule, it will be more socialistic in nature. People and nature will blend together in harmony. You can call it "Heaven".
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Good replies to my original post. As many of you know, I have shifted much of my thinking away from who people are, to the psychology of how they became that way. How much of it has to do with one's genes versus life's experiences? And when in one's development are the brains most malleable to experiences? I have made posts about how good stimuli are necessary for baby's and child brains in order to grow up to be caring and responsible...and critical thinkers and not wholly reflexive thinkers. I have pretty much decided that the experiences in the period from birth up to maybe age 21 are extremely important for defining who we are for the rest of our lives...the making of the foundation for our worldviews. Then I came across this YouTube video that shatters that idea.

    The Brain Washing of My Dad

    It's a trailer for a documentary movie about a woman's dad who shifted his political views based solely on listening to right wing talk radio and watching right wing TV. Watch it. It's kind of scary. You can skip the commercial at the front.

    Edgie, when you state: "Whether oligarchs are going to be allowed to manipulate the country into their most comfortable state; Fascism: rule by the super rich and the corporate elite..." they will no doubt need the right wing media to reach that goal.

    Peoples comments at the end of the video show that this woman is not alone.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Dallas, TX
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    Yes, conservatives don't even know how to apply their own ideology.

    It's a fraudulent, mental illness driven political movement.

    And to me, it seems "progressivism" and "limited" government never need not be in conflict per se. So I have no problem describing myself as both a "Progressive" and a "Conservative."
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Carlitos Wrote: Yes, conservatives don't even know how to apply their own ideology.

    It's a fraudulent, mental illness driven political movement.

    And to me, it seems "progressivism" and "limited" government never need not be in conflict per se. So I have no problem describing myself as both a "Progressive" and a "Conservative."
    The obvious choice in limiting the size of government is to reduce the size of the military-industrial complex. That is difficult to do as long as "fear" rules us...or at least rules many Republicans. Libertarians would be happy to do that, but they are caught up in the bigger Republican messaging. And many of them would opt for massive deregulation and elimination or downsizing of some departments (e.g. EPA) first...you know...the government is "inherently evil" syndrome.