Theodore Dalrymple famously said that the communist propaganda machine wasn’t in the business of brainwashing its subjects. Its real purpose was to humiliate them, to pump out ever increasing amounts of bullshit just because it could, the most outrageous the lie, the better a show of its power. Orwell must have thought something similar when he wrote 1984, with its Ministry of Peace et al.
Well there sure is something Orwellian about NGOs. I mean what is an NGO? I have some expertise on China, and as an amateur sociologist I have found that putting myself in the feat of an average Chinese in a year X, gives me a good sense of perspective about Western affairs. Sociology was invented by Jews because of the detachment from where they could analyze Western society. Well China being a model of a statist society for millennia, imagine what your average local mandarin would have thought at seeing a British commercial corporation. What’s a corporation? An organization of people for the purpose of making money? And they can own property? If they have debts the owners are not personally responsible? What a bizarre thing that is. How does your government allow a group of people to organize themselves and make money, potentially amounts of money big enough to influence political power. You guys must be crazy.
But the crazy guys had a point, and they made it clear in 1840, when tiny Britain basically ass-raped the Celestial Kingdom. Greed is a powerful thing, and the Chinese government eventually learned to harness it, if 140 years too late. Well now picture yourself in the place of a newly capitalist Chinese official in the 1980s. You’ve been reading about the evil white traders who smuggled opium and shelled Chinese ports when forbidden to trade in drugs, all in the name of freedom of commerce. Well you have freedom of commerce now, sort of. So whitey should be happy? But oh no, they demand democracy now. Human rights! They demand that you give independence to all the random barbarian tribes inside your borders, which you are in process of aculturing, following the pattern of Western countries themselves. WTF is going on here? And the funniest part is that this time is not corporations doing the nagging. The governments nag a bit, but by far the worse of the naggers are this things called NGOs. Non Governmental Organizations. Non government…. yeah, that’s what those nasty corporations of the 19th century were. But these are different. These are groups of people too, but they aren’t working for profit. Then what in hell are they? It makes no sense at all.
It really does make no sense in a foreign perspective. What do this guys want? What do they care about our internal affairs. And where do they get their funding anyway? It must be expensive to go around watching for ‘human rights’ violations and workers conditions and whatnot. And they don’t pay taxes? Wait. They don’t pay taxes. Everyone knows the famous Reagonomics aphorism: “when you tax something you get less of it, when you subsidize something you get more of it”. So that must mean…
Speaking about Reagan, check this paper by Sreeram Chaulia about what these INGOs (International NGOs). It’s really eloquent.
The watershed that brought INGOs to the forefront of global democracy promotion was the Reagan administration’s decision to create the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1983 to roll back Soviet influence. With a stated raison d’etre of “strengthening democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts”
So you have the Government set up an organization to strengthen nongovernmental efforts. Ever heard of an oxymoron? They make dozens of those every day at the State Department. Mr Chaulia goes on:
NED was conceived as a quasi-governmental foundation that funnelled US government funding through INGOs like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and Freedom House. These INGOs in turn ‘targeted’ authoritarian states through a plethora of programmatic activities. NED’s first President, Allen Weinstein, admitted openly that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
Gotta give some credit to that Weinstein guy for being so candid. Then again he has chutzpah in his genes.
The organisation was a deus ex machina in the face of scandalous Congressional investigations into the CIA’s “soft side” operations to destabilise and topple unfriendly regimes that embarrassed the government in the late 1970s. “An NGO helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have.”
So the US government simply changed the responsibility of foreign subversion from the CIA to the State Department. That somehow is an increase in credibility. These guys might think all of us stupid. And they are mostly right. A distant cousin of Mr Weinstein invented public relations after all.
Now on the details:
97 percent of NED’s funding comes from the US State Department (through USAID and before 1999, the USIA), the rest being allocations made by right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation and the Olin Foundation.34 Since its conception, and despite the bipartisan structure, “neoconservatives have held tight control over NED’s agenda and institutional structure.”35 Senior George W. Bush administration figures who are signatories to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which wears aggressive US foreign interventions on its sleeve, have officiated in NED.
You don’t say. I don’t see the contradiction in neocons and bipartidisim; it’s not like the Democrats are free of neocon infestation.
For our purpose, it is interesting to note that compared to humanitarian and development INGOs, which have often promoted US foreign policy objectives,41democratisation and human rights INGOs boast of a far greater preponderance of US government and intelligence operatives. This owes to the fact that democratisation is a sensitive political minefield with direct bearings on international relations. It is too important a foreign policy subject for the US government to hand over reins to the voluntary sector. Armed with the luxury of a sea of democratisation GONGOs (governmental NGOs) and QUANGOs (quasi-governmental NGOs), William DeMars says,
“The US government has a greater capacity than any other single actor in the world to keep track of them, channel them, thwart them, or ride them in a chosen direction.”42
So it seems clear that all of these NGOs that our hypothetical Chinese official was so baffled about, are something much more understandable: they’re a front for agit-prop controlled by the US State Department. I like the concept of GONGOs, an oxymoron made acronym, a symbol of something so evil that it insults even basic logic.
Read the whole thing. And also read this article from China Matters, from where I got the link. China Matters is an amazing blog, whose articles well deserve to spend a whole week of reading. It’s written by Peter Lee, who also writes in Asia Times, probably the best newspaper out there for foreign policy news. The more I read it the more I like the whole set-up. Asia Times is owned by Sondhi Limthongkul, a Sino-thai tycoon who is also a notorious reactionary (in Thailand that means being a monarchist, and anti-Thaksin, the demotist tycoon). The famous Spengler also writes there. I should ask for a job one of these days. That or RT.
See how Peter Lee compares the NED based GONGO network with the old Comintern, the original agit-prop machine. He states that the Comintern wasn’t very effective, but I digress. Communist parties became huge in all the world, causing great social havoc (the Spanish Civil war comes to mind, where workers marched while shouting “Long Live Russia! Death to Spain!”). While the Comintern didn’t actually cause any regime change, the GONGOs also haven’t really succeeded, but the social disruption they cause is also very important. The comparison is apt in great part because the Bolshevik Comintern and the Neocon NED can claim common ancestry: Trotskyism. I don’t know the specifics but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the same group of people just moved from the CPUSA to some QUANGOs and used their old ethnic networks to keep on with their old business.
The post is an old one, and Peter Lee links it to refer to the recent events where the Egyptian junta arrested and charged with subversion to all the America GONGOs in their territory. The USG cried bloody murder, and the media saw fit to emphasize that one of the charged is the Sam Lahood, the son of the USG Transport Secretary. How merry. It reminds me a lot, by cacophony I guess, of that favourite character of Foseti, Corliss Lamont, another communist subversive whose father was a big fish in the USG.
Mencius Moldbug has this theory that Communism is an American invention that was exported to Russia, not the other way around. Well I don’t know if I buy that. I guess his ethnic background sort of impels him to make the argument, which is not a bad one, but a bit stretched as I see it. What sounds more plausible to me is that after Stalin purged the Jews out of the USSR, Trotsky and his movement moved to the US, where little by little they crept into the punditry and policy circles, and in Reagan’s administration they finished the colonization of the American foreign policy racket. Again I’m not saying theirs was a hostile takeover, America had already a long tradition of foreign messianism, see Monroe or Wilson. The neocons brought valuable expertise. And the media offensive we have been seeing for the last 20 years is proof of the new Comintern-ish modus operandi of the USG foreign service.
But they can’t fool China or Russia. Agit-prop is no secret to them. They were doing this stuff decades ago. And as well organized as the Chinese liberal movement or the anti-Putin groups might be, the governments are reacting quite well. Even Egypt is getting it. The day when Facebook will be banned of all non-western countries might be near.