Ben Norton was invited to give this talk about the fake left and imperialism. He discusses how the CIA’s “woke” recruitment ad is not new; it is rooted in an “intersectional imperialist” history going back to the first cold war, in which the CIA poured money into cultivating anti-communist, pro-imperialist progressive groups, using fronts like the Congress for Cultural Freedom and billionaire-funded foundations like Ford and Rockefeller.

Ben goes through the book “The Cultural Cold War,” and talks about supposed “leftist” CIA assets like feminist leader Gloria Steinem and Trotskyite civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, then analyzes examples of astroturfed, Nonprofit Industrial Complex-backed pseudo-left campaigns in the US, Western Europe, and Latin America.


Audio / podcast

Links / show notes

At first glance, the Ford Foundation and the black power movement would make an unlikely partnership. After the Second World War, the renowned Foundation was the largest philanthropic organization in the United States and was dedicated to projects of liberal reform. Black power ideology, which promoted self-determination over color-blind assimilation, was often characterized as radical and divisive. But Foundation president McGeorge Bundy chose to engage rather than confront black power’s challenge to racial liberalism through an ambitious, long-term strategy to foster the “social development” of racial minorities. The Ford Foundation not only bankrolled but originated many of the black power era’s hallmark legacies: community control of public schools, ghetto-based economic development initiatives, and race-specific arts and cultural organizations.

In Top Down, Karen Ferguson explores the consequences of this counterintuitive and unequal relationship between the liberal establishment and black activists and their ideas. In essence, the white liberal effort to reforge a national consensus on race had the effect of remaking racial liberalism from the top down—a domestication of black power ideology that still flourishes in current racial politics. Ultimately, this new racial liberalism would help foster a black leadership class—including Barack Obama—while accommodating the intractable inequality that first drew the Ford Foundation to address the “race problem.

  • “Woke” CIA recruitment video:

  • Last but not least, the exclusive Moderate Rebels alternate cut of the CIA intersectional imperialist video: