Authoritarian Plan to End American Democracy – The Powell Memo

While reading Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism by Henry Giroux, I learned about another element of America’s growing authoritarianism – The Powell Memo, by Lewis F. Powell on August 23, 1971. Mr. Giroux makes the following statements concerning this document:

… there is something more at stake here that points to a combination of power, money, and education in the service of creating an almost lethal restriction on what can be heard, said, learned, and debated in the public sphere. And one starting point for understanding this problem is what has been called the Powell Memo …

This memo is important because it reveals the power that conservatives attributed to the political nature of education and the significance this view had in shaping the long-term strategy they put into place in the 1960s and 1970s to win an ideological war against liberal intellectuals, who argued for holding government and corporate power accountable as a precondition for extending and expanding the promise of an inclusive democracy. …

The Powell Memo was designed to develop a broad-based strategy both to counter dissent and develop a material and ideological infrastructure with the capability to transform the American public consciousness through a conservative pedagogical commitment to reproduce the knowledge, values, ideology, and social relations of the corporate state. For Powell, the war against liberalism and a substantive democracy was primarily a pedagogical and political struggle designed both to win the hearts and minds of the general public and to build a power base capable of eliminating those public spaces, spheres, and institutions that nourish and sustain … an ‘excess of democracy.’ Central to such efforts was Powell’s insistence that conservatives nourish a new generation of scholars … . He also advocated the creation of a conservative speaker’s bureau, staffed by scholars … . In addition, he advocated organizing a corps of conservative public intellectuals who would monitor the dominant media ….

For several decades, right-wing extremists have labored to put into place an ultra-conservative re-education machine – an apparatus for producing and disseminating a public pedagogy in which everything tainted with the stamp of liberal origin and the word ‘public’ would be contested and destroyed. …

Any attempt to understand and engage the current right-wing assault on all vestiges of the social contract, the social state, and democracy itself will have to begin with challenging this massive infrastructure …. What must be clear is that this threat to creating a critically informed citizenry is not merely about a crisis of communication and language but also about the ways in which money and power create the educational conditions that make a mockery out of debate while hijacking any trace of democracy.

The memo was written to Powell’s friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was first implemented with funding from Joseph Coors and Paul Weyrich, who created the Heritage Foundation in 1973. Others joined the effort, including the Koch brothers, who created the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity. Also contributing to the conservative without conscience echo chamber are the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Manhattan Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Claremont Institute, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Middle East Forum, Accuracy in Media, the National Association of Scholars, and David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

Just as Francis Schaeffer helped start the evangelical movement and move religious power into right-wing authoritarian politics, Lewis Powell laid the plan to get corporate powers, like the Koch brothers, into right-wing authoritarian politics. Both power centers are behind the pillaging and disposal of the middle class and all of their social support structure, like Medicare, and replacing our inclusive democracy with an authoritarian, “you’re on your own,” Christian evangelical only, plutocracy.



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About Andy Hailey

Vietnam Vet, UT El Paso Grad, Retired Aerospace Engineer, former union rep, 60's Republican now progressive, web admin, blogger.

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