Gloria Steinem and the CIA

I know that many of the readers of this blog also follow Marcus Ranum’s blog stderr but for the few who don’t, I would strongly urge you to read today’s post. It is truly disturbing about the relationship that feminist icon and founder of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem had with the CIA and a program called MOCKINGBIRD which was, like COINTELPRO, one of the many covert projects of the US government to infiltrate, subvert, disrupt, and destroy progressive movements using a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy by fomenting schisms and conflicts along sectarian lines and thus prevent broader unity emerging among the many disenfranchised and disadvantaged groups.

It is a long and detailed post about events from a long time ago. But a key element is the CIA’s role in using Steinem to steer the emerging feminist movement into directions away from broader social justice concerns.

The accusation is that Steinem’s initial funding for Ms. Magazine came through a CIA cut-out who dropped $1.5 million in start-up cash on pretty ex-model Gloria whose opinions on feminism were aligned with a “divide and conquer” strategy that peeled white feminist women away from the broader social justice movement and student movements. What today we’d call “soccer moms” were lured off into a different set of issues, where they were less likely to be radicalized if they were arguing about whether proper feminists get face lifts, or whatever.

The most damning bit (for me at least) was that when Steinem was asked about her role with the CIA, “Steinem defended the CIA relationship, saying: “In my experience The Agency was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”” I totally agree with Marcus when he says, “In my experience, nobody is stupid enough to think the CIA is liberal, nonviolent, and honorable and I would not want to presume that a famous feminist is stupid.”

Marcus says that he grew increasingly uncomfortable as he went deeper into this and started peeling back the layers.

Suddenly the taste got worse and worse; I was expecting to find a bunch of hair-on-fire conspiracy theory stuff but as soon as I saw MOCKINGBIRD my heart skipped a beat because I knew things were going to get ugly. Look at what the CIA managed to accomplish with their useful idiot, Steinem, and multiply that 50-fold or 100-fold, then ask yourself, “why does shit like FOX and Friends exist?” You’ll realize, slowly as a glacier melts, that Noam Chomsky was not fucking kidding one bit when he wrote about Manufacturing Consent.

The piece is very sobering and disturbing but also utterly gripping. Head over and read it in full.


  1. bmiller says

    I do need to read that book (Manufacturing Consent). I know nothing about the arcane theories of linguistics, where I understand Chomsky is…controversial. But his take on politics seems pretty spot on. (I have read mixed descriptions of the whole Khmer Rouge thing. Maybe like all human beings he had a serious blind spot? But then, those who attack him for that were perfectly OK with the U.S. dropping more bombs on Cambodia than on Germany during WWII, so…)

  2. says

    @bmiller -- there’s a really cool animated summary of Chomsky’s argument:

    Chomsky’s linguistic theory is probably not completely correct but it’s good and important. Don’t confuse that work with his generally being a dissident since forever. One thing about Chomsky’s dissidence is that he has been consistent for a very long time. I think his views are well thought-out but no matter if you agree, they are tenaciously held.

  3. says

    All of which does shed an interesting light on the Wellesley College freshman Hillary Diane Rodham in 1965.

    Hillary Clinton as the CIA’s manchurian candidate? You do realize that the reason they worry about things is because that’s what they’re doing…?

  4. TamDl says

    I always figured that Chomsky was CIA approved. His method involved revealing government secrets using only information that was in the public domain (at least when I used to follow his writings closely back in the 70s and 80s).

    This was brilliant because his encyclopedic knowledge was enormously impressive; yet he revealed nothing that was not already out there. It made the US look ultimately open. He was incredibly informed, yet if he could not create change who could? He would often get asked “what can any of us do”, and after having talked at enormous length with total command of the facts, the best he could come up with was to say we should just keep chipping away.

    Of course this is not to say Chomsky is in league with the CIA, more “if he did not exist they would have had to create him” observation.

    And what is Chomsky’s big insight? ” Manufacturing consent”. The idea of which is not that a lot of heavy industrious activity is required, but that people naturally coalesce around what they see as the elite consensus, and the interest that they share. Nowhere moreso than in academia.

    And another role he plays aside from a few outliers like Hersch is that who would take up the torch, can anyone outproduce Chomsky’s take? Who wants to work that hard.


    One instance of CIA well meaning and liberalism was that they pushed modern art, and were upset at McCarthy’s attacks on the arts community because they saw leadership in those fields as important to the US position on the world stage. Towards that end they did fund many magazines and cultural entities.

    Remember before calling out Steinem, that she said “In her experience…” Her experience was not getting hooked up to the electrodes in a black site, why would they not treat her exactly as she said.

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