Hegemonic Influence: A Response to Data & Society
Authored: 07/06/2020, 14:00
On September 18th 2018, Rebecca Lewis of the Data & Society Research Institute published a report detailing the loose connections of 65 individuals across 81 YouTube Channels, whose content ranges from on-the-ground journalism to political commentary. These individuals represent a diverse range of attitudes and backgrounds, and are generally independent in nature, often being self-financed and making self-produced content. It is fair to say that many of them stand in direct competition with mainstream news outlets.
Here is a chart taken from the 11th page of the document. It maps what Lewis has named the “Alternative Influence Network”, and can include any commentator who has acknowledged the existence of at least one other person from an arbitrarily-selected list of individuals, who meet an arbitrarily-selected set of criteria. Outlets like The Guardian were very quick in picking up the report, with articles citing the ‘findings’ being pushed out within the day. Unsurprisingly, both the report and those eager to parrot its narrative carry a familiar message: even the most milquetoast of opinionators need to be suppressed either outright, or in the more subtle demotion of their content by YouTube’s search or recommendation algorithms. Providing a platform for someone is equal to wholesale endorsement of them and all of their views. If we don’t act now, your children will be goose stepping in the streets tomorrow. And so forth.
Soon afterwards, other independent journalists (including some who are mentioned in the report) had already sprung up to tear apart both the logic and the motives of the report, so I won’t bother to rehash any more refutations of Data & Society’s tired points. Rather, I spent a weekend amassing a list of organisations and individuals associated with D&S, and mapped them in a similar vein to produce the chart shown further down. The writings below are intended both as parody, and to exemplify how easily the guilt by association game can be used to paint most anything in a particular light. Of course, when uncovering the “ties” between much older and more established powers, there is far much more of which they can be considered guilty. And conveniently, crippling the ability of independent publishers to function can make sure that neither they, nor the general public, can be confronted with this hypocrisy.
[Project file: hin.gephi]
Describing the Hegemonic Influence Network
The “Hegemonic Influence Network” (HIN) is a consortium of entrenched power structures, whose global influence stretches from the areas of government, military, intelligence and banking, to media, academia and even the oil, mining and food industries. Collectively, they represent the bulk of financial and industrial power in the West, as well the widest-reaching communicative apparatus, and span both sides of the popular political spectrum. The often-termed “philanthropists” of the HIN perpetuate their pre-eminent status in society through mutual financial support between influencers, illegally stamping out competition, selling superstimuli to an unsuspecting public, infiltration of other institutions or social movements, and when necessary, viciously annihilating their dissenters entirely.
The 103 organisations, individuals and families comprising the network that are mentioned here (and the many more that are not) have been responsible for promoting, aiding and abetting, attempting to commit, committing, covering up and otherwise facilitating acts such as:
- Money laundering and tax evasion
- Kidnapping and torture
- Mass murder
- Stalking and harassment
- Rape and child sexual abuse
- Human trafficking
- Organ harvesting
- Human experimentation
- Violent insurrection
- Regime change
- Slander and libel
- False-flag operations
- Predatory lending
- Market manipulation
- Election interference
And a host of others that are usually far less serious. The members of this network have supported one another in a plethora of ways, and these are how the connections between them have been determined. If one influencer has provided direct financial or logistical support to another - like the Obama administration’s support for Al Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army and Islamic State - a connection is drawn. If an individual has worked for an organisation in some capacity, like Joan Donovan and the Council on Foreign Relations, a line is also drawn, along with mutual members, employees and directors of an organisation. Connections are also noted if one member has cited another’s work in use of their own, like Rebecca Lewis being cited by Olivia Solon through The Guardian, and if one member has platformed another via, say, a TV show, podcast or interview, Harvey Weinstein being hosted by Fox News for example. Business partnerships and parental / subsidiary relations are too included, and so are personal relationships between HIN individuals.
[Image link: ‘Hegemonic Influence Network’ chart]
Sitting deeply within this supranational network of influence is the Data & Society Research Institute. Founded in 2013 by danah boyd (whose name is stylised in lowercase), the self-described “research institute” is based in New York, and is staffed by many well-connected individuals, including ex-advisor to president Obama, director Alexander Macgillivray. Although not as radical as some of its fellow HIN members, Data & Society nonetheless receives support from many of these connected groups, often in the form of monied donations, but also in more implicit endorsement through the many mentions they receive in the press - often, with the D&S staff themselves directly penning these articles, and ultimately supporting these other organisations in return, in an arrangement reminiscent of how a corporate lobbyist might draft up a piece of proposed legislation.
The pseudo-academic reports of D&S are generally focused on technology and its broader effects on society, and are cited with great zeal in mainstream news publications as authorities on the topics touched upon therein, despite authors of the publication often having very scant backgrounds in technology themselves - with writers like ‘Becca’ Lewis instead holding qualifications in areas like film studies and social science. Like the many major news outlets that carry the reports of D&S, the reports themselves are often factually-sparse, and laden with hyperbolic and doom-inducing language (Their ‘Media Manipulation’ series makes frequent mention of the vague threats of brainwashing and even physical attacks as the result of unmitigated publishing freedom) - which may appear as simple appeal to emotion, designed to foster a culture of fear within readers, the kind of uncertain psychological state that may render the public’s mind more open to the types of social and legislative changes that they often promote.
Data & Society derives their funding from a variety of institutions, from Microsoft and Open Society Foundations (which had a conference they organised in Uganda in 2008 banned for what the state saw as the promotion of prostitution), to the National Science Foundation and even the New York Times, an outlet that benefits from the work of Data & Society’s reporters, while failing to mention any of the financial ties between them.
The extensive reach of the HIN is certainly not a recent emergence. Its earlier origins date back even centuries, like the founding of Sweden’s Riksbank in 1668, or Goldman Sachs in 1869. Anglo American plc, an imperial venture of Ernest Oppenheimer, was founded in 1917 in colonial South Africa to expropriate its natural resources - a common function of many of the HIN’s influencers. With a significant share in De Beers Group - a 19th century joint effort of Alfred Beit, Cecil Rhodes and the Rothschild family- Anglo American controls a large portion of the diamonds, metal and coal exports of South Africa, and has in the past been involved in artificially inflating diamond prices, and purchasing blood diamonds from the Angolan UNITA party.
Anglo American-tied Chevron also controls many of the oil, rubber and cocoa assets in Angola’s war-torn Cabinda region, and former partially-owned AngloGold has both supported and profited from human rights abuses of their workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco controls the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves, and their highly-connected associate Genie Energy has a significant stake in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights of Syria, through its subsidiary Afek Oil and Gas.
Nestlé S.A., the third-largest food company in the world by sales (and the largest producer of bottled water), has faced heavy controversy in the past over their business practices, not least because of the workers on their cocoa plantations in West Africa, whom as detailed by an ongoing case from 2005, have been forced into the work via child trafficking and slavery, and have been subjected to abuse, torture and excessive and inhumane working conditions such as fourteen-hour work days. During this case, and their similar admission of using slave labour in Thailand, Nestlé has been assuring consumers of their commitment to promoting human rights worldwide. While the HIN has been exfiltrating the resources of Africa and other less developed nations, an often-termed neo-mercantilist system that has resulted in over $1 trillion of African assets falling under the control of UK corporations alone (a figure that dwarfs the total, legally-mandated foreign aid contributions of the UK to those same countries), their message to the public is often the same.
And the HIN stranglehold over natural resources mirrors their stranglehold over communication. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the world’s largest broadcasting company by employees. With stations all over the world outputting in over 30 languages, the BBC (as well as others in the HIN) has been accused on multiple occasions of broadcasting political propaganda in developing countries. In one instance, the BBC World Service even promoted a violent insurrection in Kyrgyzstan. The Murdoch family-owned News Corp and Fox Corporation conglomerates also control a significant share of news publication, broadcasting and telecommunications giants in the West, as does AT&T, stretching across the television, telephony, broadband, news and gaming industries, holding subsidiaries such as WarnerMedia (and assets like CNN and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.) and AT&T Cybersecurity (formerly AlienVault).
As early as 1985, AT&T has been providing the National Security Agency with warrantless phone call and internet (including email usage) data as part of the NSA’s FAIRVIEW program. In 2005, former AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed the extent of AT&T’s efforts to capture all domestic (American) and international communications for the NSA, which led to a lawsuit from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 2011, AT&T was handing over a billion domestic phone call records to the NSA each day. Similar NSA data-collection programs including MUSCULAR, ECHELON and PRISM involve the harvesting of a global scope of communications, including radio, satellite and optical fibre sources capturing streams from services like Google, Skype and YouTube.
To reinforce their air of legitimacy in the eyes of the public, the HIN news media routinely employs the work of those they term ‘experts’, who are often simply other HIN influencers, including so-called ‘fact-checking’ services such as PolitFact and Snopes - that is, companies that are outsourced the critical judgement of their readers, so that the consumers of the HIN’s reporting need not bother with individual research and reaching their own conclusions on a topic. The funding for these outlets is provided by the Charles Koch Foundation and Open Society Foundations, among others in the HIN. While HIN services unduly stress the need for worry over their ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’ detractors, which often happen to coincide with their competitors in smaller and more independent news outlets, they enjoy the cooperation of NGOs like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for determining ‘hateful’ targets in justifying their tendencies for censorship of people, groups, opinions and general information.
The SPLC, meanwhile, face their own public image problems; in addition to a recent defamation suit filed against them for the false labelling of a ‘hate group’, recent revelations concerning the SPLC co-founder Morris Dees and the alleged infidelities that caused the end of his marriage, including the attempted molestation of his step-daughter, have appeared. The presentation of authority and a dominance over the truth in one’s reporting is an understandably common angle to witness from the HIN, as without an air of trust, it would be difficult for them to retain their hegemony.
Taking influence from Soviet techniques of repression, the HIN is often liberal in their use of language to discredit their opponents amongst attempts to sway popular thought against them - with these critiques often taking the form of unqualified speculations on their mental health (the impact these kinds of polemics may have on innocent citizens is of course, of little concern to the HIN). When the HIN is on the receiving end of criticism, they are quick to decry what they tout as general ‘attacks on the press’, but continue to wage their own attacks against independent outlets. Ex-KGB propagandist Yuri Bezmenov has described the dangers of the consolidation of power under the guise of humanitarian idealism (often with the stated intent of protecting children or citizens in general from harm), and how the fate of such monopolies on action and thought is ultimately their use as tools of abuse.
Intelligence community interference with media is unfortunately not an unusual happenstance, and HIN collaboration in this regard has been taking place for many years. As far back as the 1950’s, writers for mainstream American publications like Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times and dozens more have been colluding with the Central Intelligence Agency, primarily to disseminate information within the interests of the CIA, or viewpoints that hold them in a favourable light. Similarly, the MI5 and MI6 influence with regards to the media based in the UK also has a long and storied history.
Other tactics of the Western intelligence agencies in gaining sway over popular discourse include recruiting journalists with bribes, installing their own agents within existing outlets or grooming them for a life of publicity, and creating their own front organisations entirely. The BBC’s recent admission that their reporting staff has been vetted by MI5 officials came at little surprise - such claims of intelligence involvement in the news date back decades. When power has been exerted over news and other media publications, state / intelligence actors within the HIN will proceed to influence public thought in a number of ways - repeatedly promoting a certain message will carry a higher likelihood of a belief being collectively ingrained, and steering the public dialogue onto certain topics or selectively editing reports may also help to achieve the same end.
A 2005 Rolling Stone article described how the CIA-funded Rendon Group had organised the creation of the Iraqi National Congress, from which a New York Times journalist published false testimony on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, setting the ground for the US-led invasion of the country shortly thereafter. The contributors of mainstream HIN outlets, who laugh at the very notion of maintaining ethics in journalism, have long promoted a similar pro-war footing, with intelligence parties even holding strong influence over the movie and television output of Hollywood, as well as the video game industry.
The HIN and its media is currently facing a waning level of trust among the general public, and their military-style operations launched upon their citizens may be to blame. The Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR (sister of the UK-based Royal Institute of International Affairs), is a US public policy think tank with a vastly disproportionate sway over American media, with the various regions of the publishing industry represented by many of its members stretching from television and online broadcasting to social media and newspaper ownership. The CFR members include the directors of such institutions as well as people operating directly in the political sphere. In 2012, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 was introduced into the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 by the Texas Republican representative and CFR member Mac Thornberry. As described in Buzzfeed by reporter Michael Hastings a year before his untimely death, the act eliminated the ostensible legal barriers to federally-funded propaganda, intended for foreign audiences, being distributed within the US.
In a press release, Thornberry justified the bill by expressing the need to “counter threats”, and “provide transparency” to a formerly ‘hampered’ operation and communication of US federal agencies, as well heightening the efficiency of the military. This kind of rhetoric is shared with the HIN intelligence actors who work within the popular political movements of both the left and the right, orienting their influence into discrediting politicians whom they consider insubordinate, promoting regime change, or otherwise covertly interfering with domestic or foreign affairs. The CFR, who have recently been chastised for their exaltation of propaganda usage and enforcing a centralised social and political narrative onto the developing world, consider ‘gatekeeping’ an imperative to combating disinformation from independent sources.
[Image link: ‘The American Empire and its Media’ diagram, by SWPRS]
The biases of the human mind are vast and well-documented, and psychological operations, or ‘psyops’, are at least as old as the tale of the Trojan Horse. With the rapid technological growth and strides in psychology of the last century however, many parties, especially those within and connected to the HIN, have gained significant ground in exploring, codifying, and experimenting with ways to exploit all of these flaws in human nature (which evolved under the pressures of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and a world of resource uncertainty) - even going so far as to automate the process. The architects of modern communication have paid strong consideration to the work of the late American psychologist B.F. Skinner, in particular his work on operant conditioning and intermittent reinforcement, and the contention that irregular rewards for a behaviour will compel a subject to incessantly repeat that behaviour - the rationale that drives people’s propensity to abusive relationships, the logic of slots machines, as well as the design of social media content feeds.
Silicon Valley companies and other technological HIN firms have been able to grow their capabilities for applying such logic through the field of predictive analytics, steering user behaviour with a mathematical level of precision. Marc Bernays Randolph is a co-founder and the first CEO of Netflix, whose lineage includes Sigmund Freud as well as Edward Bernays, who is often termed the ‘father of propaganda’, and was also known for leading a misinformation campaign against the Guatemalan government in the 1950’s (for the United Fruit Company, several years after the Banana massacre in Colombia), which acted as the pretext to the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the elected government in 1954.
The selection of title artwork on Netflix (which recently caught attention for its pro-Mossad programming) goes through a heavily curated, and automated selection process when being shown to users. Aided by the use of contextual bandits, user engagement with the service can be measured deeply against various traits of the ‘personalised’ artwork - algorithms will fine tune themselves depending on the recursive user feedback regarding featured actors, scenes or other aesthetic aspects that the user will have a more active response to. Despite the worry of psychological harm that such a method of maximising user attention might evoke, Netflix has openly stated their intentions of depriving their users of sleep.
So too is world finance under the firm grasp of the HIN. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, directs the monetary policy of its 60 central banks and monetary authorities who are members, including the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve System, and the Bank of England. The BIS was founded in 1930, officially for the distribution of German war reparations, and soon came to serve the aims of the Third Reich around the outset of the Second World War. Today, the role of the BIS involves acting as a global hub for financial co-operation, controlling the international flow of currency and assets, establishing future protocols for its members through regular confidential meetings, hosting the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and similar international supervisory and regulatory bodies, and publishing a scholarly journal, the International Journal of Central Banking (IJCB).
The goals of the BIS are manifested heavily through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, two post-Bretton Woods organisations that fulfil similar, yet distinct roles on the world stage - the IMF in harmonising financial and market policies among its 189 members, and the World Bank in facilitating loans to less-developed countries. Both of these Atlanticist institutions have drawn a lot of criticism for their mafia-style approach to providing money to poorer nations. Their structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) are often jointly-conducted processes through which money (often from taxpayers, and often a significant portion of foreign aid budgets of the member nations) is lent or granted to a country, typically on the condition that they liberalise the operation of their markets or open them further to external financial investment. As ex-Chas. T. Main Inc. consultant John Perkins has written, these programmes function more, in practice, as devices for controlling the assets and diplomacy of the borrower countries, and conduits for enriching others in the HIN (such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. or Chevron) over improving infrastructure and general living standards where they are most needed.
The cases of SAPs in Brazil and Jamaica show that the result is often an increasing dependency on the lenders and a declining level of public health access and increased turmoil on part of the borrowers, while as they continue to struggle with their ecological destruction and debt slavery, they are encouraged to grow monocrops for the benefit of expanding HIN investors like Nestlé, driving down the value of their exports on the world market. Institutions modelled after the World Bank, like the African Development Bank, have caused similarly deleterious effects to their respective regions.
As for accountability for the BIS and the work of its shareholders and employees, the bank operates with “immunity from jurisdiction” and inviolability, wherein its “property and assets as well as all the property and assets which are or will be entrusted to it” are free from intervention and governmental oversight, a status recognised by the various authorities responsible for the creation of the BIS. The ‘officials’ of the BIS also enjoy the benefits of a tax-exempt salary, exclusion from the Swiss military service, a diplomatic status, and immunity from arrest or imprisonment, save “in flagrant cases of criminal offence”.
Naturally, this bleeding through of financial interests into wider political affairs is something with which the HIN has a wealth of experience. Revolving doors are such a regular feature within HIN interactions that they have spawned popular terms like ‘Government Sachs’ for example, to describe the constant flow of employees of Goldman Sachs, who paid a $5 billion dollar fine in 2016 for their role in the 2007-2008 financial crisis, into executive positions within the US government.
In the case of Citigroup, executives from the bank such as Michael Froman have regularly cycled between government positions and other financial institutions. CFR fellow Froman, who had already revolved from roles in the US Treasury Department and the European Commission during the 1990’s, brought on rebuke after the Podesta email disclosures, when it was revealed that he had personally hand-picked a prospective cabinet for Barack Obama, a former classmate of Froman at Harvard, that almost entirely correlated with the resulting cabinet, while he was part of Obama’s transition team in October 2008, nearly an entire month before the US presidential election had even taken place. Then-candidate Obama was supporting the bailout of Citigroup which continued into his term, and ultimately saw over $45 billion in government aid delivered to Citi alone.
The ultra-rich HIN makes extensive use of off-shore tax havens, trusts and shell companies for the surreptitious storing of their assets and transferring of their money, with the help of financial talent that is often shared between firms based in the City of London and the British Overseas Territories (BOTs). The black funds held by these institutions, which have their roots in post-WWI Europe and the 20th century banking regulations imposed by the British Empire, may also be provided by the leaders of developing countries.
When the funds of the IMF and other aid programs are not being siphoned to fund the political campaigns of European politicians (in the wake of conflict in uranium-producing Ukraine and the ultimate deposition of the former NATO, EU and IMF-sceptic president) or American NGOs such as the Clinton Foundation, or spent on lavish hotels and expensive meals for American diplomats, they are often granted to the benefit of the senior representatives or bureaucrats of impoverished nations. 20th century Haitian president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was known to have been enriched by aid money that was supposedly intended for the country, from which millions of dollars were spent on a wedding and other luxuries for the leader, while in Pakistan, the IMF had required in 1998 the quashing of multiple corruption charges against foreign electricity companies which had bribed public officials in return for infrastructural work contracts, as a condition for a set of structural adjustment-related loans to the country.
[Image link: IMF Credit Money Withdrawal and Laundering Scheme’ in Ukraine, by Kate Matberg]
Like their contemporaries of the media, the financial players of the HIN, including Mastercard, Visa and Paypal, regularly collude to destroy the transaction ability of both individuals and businesses, synchronising their arbitrarily-defined lists of targets with those of the SPLC, who themselves operate wealthy bank accounts credited to hundreds of millions of dollars in the tax havens of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The tactics (of dubious legality) that the HIN influencers employ against their competitors in the industry do not simply mirror the deplatforming activities carried out by the media - they subsume them. Much of the mainstream and digital press is owned by multinational holding companies that are likely to raise many possible concerns about conflict of interest, such as AT&T and Amazon, but many of the largest publishers are also tightly intertwined with the bureaucracy of central and commercial banks.
HSBC Holdings plc, originally a holding company for The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which formed in 1865 in colonial British Hong Kong, projects a wide degree of influence over the operations of the press of the UK. The position of HSBC as an advertiser and mutual financier of outlets like The Daily Telegraph, belonging to the Jersey-registered Press Holdings, The Guardian, through their parent firm Guardian Media Group plc (GMG), and the BBC, through mutual members of their various governing bodies, is often criticised as a possible avenue for exerting control over the reporting activities of media companies they are quite literally bankrolling - for example, to stifle negative coverage about the dealings of the bank. Anthony Salz, the final acting chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC and a current board member of GMG’s parent Scott Trust Limited, has had an illustrious and lifelong career in law and finance, including a tenure as director of NM Rothschild & Sons, and his period as a solicitor for the law firm Freshfields, during which the company cultivated a close relationship with HSBC.
Both Rona Fairhead, former Chairman of the BBC Trust (and former director of both PepsiCo and HSBC Holdings), and Roger Carr, the former Vice Chairman, have spent time working within the now BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defence manufacturer and a significant contractor for the UK and USA militaries, as a consultant and chairman for the company, respectively, while the current chairman of the BBC David Clementini has formerly held appointments as the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and a director of the Rio Tinto mining group. Philip May, husband of former UK prime minister Theresa May, is also a beneficiary of the UK’s military operations abroad, raising further concern for the potential of conflicts of interest even within the UK government.
Lockheed Martin, whose shares soared in 2001 following the September 11th attacks as well as the subsequent invasion of Iraq, has enjoyed the great expanse in industry in the Middle East due to the increasing need for defence capability in the region, and the justification for additional US spending. In fact, the HIN has overwhelmingly benefited in general from the prior century of strife within and around Western Asia, and have been very close to the events and national / international policies surrounding the calamity in the region.
Decades after the publication of the Clean Break report - the Israeli foreign strategy document prepared in 1996 by American and Israeli individuals such as Meyrav Wurmser who went on to hold senior positions within the US Department of Defense and the Department of State, outlining moves to destabilise Syria, Iraq and other threats to Israel in the Middle East - the goals set forth for Benjamin Netanyahu seem to have been reached in many respects. In a 2007 interview with Democracy Now!, ex-US Army general and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Wesley Clark described the intent of the West to invade multiple Asian and African countries such as Libya, Syria and Sudan - all of which were soon targeted after 9/11, and even more so after the interview was published.
HIN influencers, even those that fall outside of the stereotypical regions of these kinds of duties, such as lobbying groups and military contractors, still exercise influence over the affairs of the Middle East and North Africa. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, whose dealings with their Ethiopian coffee farmers has already earned them a well-known reputation, was presented an Award by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah in 1998 - a fund that also organises dinners between seniors of the Israeli military, think tanks, defence and other industry players, politicians, and the various sponsors of the fund. As HIN firms within Silicon Valley and elsewhere take further steps to inextricably tie themselves with the military industrial complex, the lines between the everyday technology that we often find ourselves reliant upon, and a multi-billion dollar government contractor that lobbies to invade a country that poses no immediate domestic threat, grow blurry.
In 2016, Netflix published The White Helmets, a PR puff piece for the Syrian-based organisation of the same name. Though far from being the only mainstream media outlet to lavish praise upon the Helmets (founded in 2013 by former UK intelligence officer and private military contractor James Le Mesurier), their affiliations with Al-Nusra Front (AKA al-Qaeda in the Levant) are of no concern to Netflix. The leader of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was banned from entering the US when travelling to an accept an Award from the NGO-collaboration InterAction (much to the chagrin of the HIN), and the cinematographer of the film was also denied entry to the States while attempting to travel to Los Angeles, for the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) awarded to the film in 2017 - both potentially for terrorism-related associations of the individuals. But even after war zones become somewhat alleviated from their heavy HIN influence, the misery they leave in their wake continues to be perpetuated.
The effects of foreign intervention can be disastrous on a nation, and innocent civilians are likely to bear the brunt of the devastation and collapse, often being thrown into a situation of vulnerability that may cause them to be the victim of human trafficking - a phenomenon that the HIN is sadly all too familiar with. After the 2011 collapse of Libya following the ouster and death of HIN-critic Muammar Gaddafi, the ensuing chaos of the region predictably gave rise to the ideal conditions for the humanitarian crisis which has seen millions of refugees and migrants leave their homes for destinations in the EU and Turkey. The HIN capitalised on this in many ways.
From the Italian collection of Libyan coastal travellers to the overturned Israel / UNHCR plans to resettle illegal migrants in Israel into Western countries, the motives of private, national and supranational bodies for importing populations from poorer states into Europe, capitalistic or otherwise, are quite clear. These operations are also aided largely by publicly-funded NGOs including Médecins Sans Frontières (AKA Doctors Without Borders - a group co-founded by CIA-associate Bernard Kouchner, which spent time in Libya before Gaddafi’s removal, providing support in rebel-held areas) and IsraAID. A 2016 report by GEFIRA revealed that ‘charities’ like MSF, Save the Children and Sea-Watch illegally facilitated the transfer of thousands of migrants from Africa into Italy through the Mediterranean Sea, with the consent of EU authorities. This direct assistance to the work of human traffickers in Libya has enabled the flourishing of Libya’s slave markets as well as encouraged the undertaking of the Mediterranean journey which has seen thousands of migrants drown in their attempts to reach Europe since the start of the Libyan crisis.
For those who make it across alive, many find themselves subject to further enslavement upon reaching the European coast, including sexual slavery, and even organ harvesting (A former Greek foreign minister described how the liberal dispensing of visas to unaccompanied children “means organ trade”). And despite the noted increases of violent crime and housing prices, stunted wages, fall in worker leverage and IQ, and costs to public budgets that high or uncontrolled immigration rates are correlated with (along with the tendency for governments or ministers to downplay or cover these issues up), HIN influencers routinely promote the interflow of populations, generally to their own heavy financial benefit.
Within the confluence of human trafficking and private monetary gain sits the ever-expanding industries of pornography and pharmaceutical drugs. MindGeek, the premier figure of the growing digital porn industry, holds a monopoly on popular brands as well as data collection efforts within the field. The DMCA notice-happy HIN company, who themselves benefit from the systematic copyright infringement of their own employees’ work, may too profit from the coercion and trafficking of women and minors by networks of brands like GirlsDoPorn (which a Californian court has recently heard funnels their proceeds through shell entities in Vanuatu that are legally-tied to the laundering operations of Ukrainian arms traffickers and the Sinaloa Cartel) in order to produce porn films to populate their websites with.
Employees of MindGeek have also alleged the company to directly groom and recruit underaged girls for a career in pornography in American states such as Florida, a hotbed of trafficking networks. The prevalence of prostitution in the eastern / central USA and California, spurred on in part by a demand for pornography as well as situations of migration, is also catalysed and fuelled by America’s worsening opioid addiction crisis, and the HIN-dominated pharmaceutical industry that profits from this infirmity. Over the course of decades, drug companies like Purdue Pharma, owned by the billionaire “philanthropists” of the Sackler family, engineered this epidemic via their fraudulent and anti-competitive practices, including the misbranding of their products and providing financial kickbacks to retailers and doctors to help move their OxyContin pills.
The Sackler ‘empire’, which includes a worldwide collection of art galleries in the family name, is not the only HIN influencer purporting to act in the interests of the public whilst doing precisely the opposite, though. In addition to Insys Therapeutics, the now-bankrupt Maricopa County, Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that was recently found to have bribed doctors to excessively prescribe their fentanyl products to unsuspecting patients, ‘charities’ such as the Oxfam confederation have carried out an array of abuses of power during their operations in Haiti and elsewhere.
The Caribbean country, which already existed in a state of despair before the earthquake of 2010 had even struck, had been let down and exploited even further by organisations like Oxfam, which had ignored concerns about the reported rape of young girls being carried out by its staff, and the disappearance of almost $500m of aid money given to the American Red Cross for developmental projects. A mere couple of weeks after the earthquake had struck, members of the New Life Children’s Refuge were arrested in their attempt to smuggle 33 Haitian children over the border of the Dominican Republic. After the resulting intervention of then-UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, all but one of the NLCR members had their related child-abduction charges dropped - while the leader, Laura Silsby (now Laura Gayler) - whose legal advisor was himself arrested soon after on human trafficking-related charges - had all of her more serious charges dropped.
These are far from the only associations of the Clintons with networks of abuse however. Insys Therapeutics, Purdue Pharma and Paul Petersen - the former Maricopa County Assessor charged with selling children throughout Arizona and elsewhere - were all donors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Clare Bronfman of the Bronfman family, who is facing sentencing for her senior involvement in NXIVM, the Hollywood and “Arizona Mafia”-tied cult whose members have been responsible for acts including child sexual exploitation and the enslavement of young women throughout the US and Mexico, donated to her 2008 campaign.
As far as transparency and legal accountability for the actions of the HIN goes, such justice is few and far between. The mass surveillance of the domestic population of the UK, despite being ruled to be illegal, goes unpunished by the courts. Obscure private funds are directed towards political psyops in support of establishment networks, and public money has been appropriated for slush funds to pay off victims of abuses, sexual and otherwise, by government employees. While some HIN influencers tout the benefits of child trafficking and its profits, others who investigate such networks find their efforts mysteriously cut short. While over 1400 British children in Rotherham, and many others elsewhere, were being raped, beaten and pimped by gangs, police and local councillors (under the Home Offices of David Blunkett, Theresa May and others) had not only helped to repress any related complaints, but were heard to have actively joined in with the abuse themselves.
Several years before the widely-publicised revelations of deeply-tied HIN associate, alleged blackmailer and prolific child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, attempts at investigation were being quenched by mainstream HIN broadcasters, as were investigations regarding Harvey Weinstein and employees of those same outlets. As violence in the opioid addiction-stricken communities of the US continues to escalate, and their victims, often young and female, are forced into further desperation, Purdue Pharma has sought bankruptcy, while facing a considerable amount of class-action lawsuits, and shortly after wiring $1 billion out of the States to Sackler-held accounts in Guernsey and elsewhere.
Heir to the du Pont fortune Robert H. Richards IV, whose family had assisted with the federal prohibition of cannabis, a facet of the drug war they stand to benefit from fiscally, was spared a prison sentence after being convicted for the rape of his 3-year-old daughter. And in light of the revelations of Laura Silsby’s trafficking attempts, news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast soon ran articles attempting to downplay the events, and cover for the misconduct of Silsby, the future AlertSense Vice President of Marketing.
But what happens when the monopolistic (and hegemonic) power of the HIN is contested? The Coca-Cola Company has come under fire a number of times over the years for the vicious treatment of the workers of its various bottling plants around the world, and union leaders in particular - the human rights violations that Coca-Cola, in close co-operation with local militaries, has been held responsible for, include the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of both protesters and union workers (not to mention an alleged press cover-up of vehicular manslaughter that resulted in the deaths of ten Tanzanian children). Chevron’s Malongo complex is surrounded by landmines, as they remain legally exempt from the Ottawa Treaty banning of their use.
In the Western world, where most of the HIN is based, citizens who object to the imperialism or lack of concern for human life of the HIN, or even express distrust of them, may be labelled as ‘extremists’, or ‘terrorists’ and summarily face a punishment, either censorious or physically repressive in nature. It is difficult to say for sure what the future of these crackdowns on dissent may resemble, but looking towards developments in technology may be a good indicator - In the latest suite of Microsoft’s 365 software, new functionality in Word Online documents includes the correction of less “inclusive” language, subject to Microsoft’s definition of ‘inclusion’ - their blog post on the release gives the example of the term ‘police officer’ being substituted for ‘policeman’.
Microsoft has also been criticised lately for similar incursions into language processing, namely their work with Chinese military-affiliated researchers: the collaborative artificial intelligence work with scientists adjacent to China’s Central Military Commission “could have clear applications for surveillance and censorship”, quotes Financial Times, with China arguably already leading the world with developments in facial recognition technologies - the intents of which can hardly be argued for as benevolent. Such Stasi-esque applications of machine learning are not unique to the tech sector, though. Hatomaten, a “research collaboration between the FOI, the Police and Uppsala University” is a voluntary language training program intended for Swedish users to submit examples of what they deem to be ‘hateful text’, to then be used for the automatic identification and subsequent suppression of digital content (e.g. discussions or news stories) that is judged to match the training data.
Those in the West who contradict the narratives of the HIN can already end up finding themselves on the receiving end of violent reproach, as well as doxing, stalking, deplatforming and shaming at the hands of black bloc-presenting terrorists and gangs with extensive ties to HIN influencers. As the exposure of personal information and attempted expulsion from the rest of society is inherent to the tactics of the HIN, it is important to note of the growing extent of facial recognition developments in the US and elsewhere, and consider their possible applications in the context of dissenting voices, particularly in low-income, high-ethnic minority regions like the urban centres of New York City, Chicago and Detroit. In the developing world, contravening the actions of the HIN can carry even more open persecutions, by the state or otherwise.
This explication is merely a partial representation of the total size and sway of power of the Hegemonic Influence Network. The accompanying HIN chart shows an average of just over 3 connections of each influencer to the others in the network, but in reality, the ties may be far more numerous and subtle than the direct connections that have been drawn here. Only a single connection between entities has been used to denote a tie, whereas many connections of different kinds will exist in reality.
The complex and varied interplays of grantmaking foundations, hedge funds and shadow banks are a few such examples that have not been discussed much in this article. Because of the nature of positions in government, which have also not been covered here, only a limited view into the importance of revolving doors can also be expressed. In addition, it is important to take note of what the graph tells us about how the influence of the HIN is upheld and proliferated among the various nodes of the network. Most often, the most-connected nodes are the ones of media companies and their correspondents. This lays bare the role of the media in propping up figures that are amicable to the broader goals of the network. As general gatekeepers for the network, and thus, broader general influence on the global political, financial or industrial stage, positive exposure within the media serves as a key indicator to the rest of the HIN in who may be trusted to work with or help carry out the network’s aims.
Though not as much of a ‘dogwhistle’, membership in certain well-connected NGOs help to fulfil the same role. The Data & Society Research Institute is shown to have the largest closeness centrality in the network. This exhibits in part the diverse connections they hold, to news companies like the Wall Street Journal, telecommunications giants like Comcast, educational entities like the New York University, 501(c)(3) foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and consulting firms like Eurasia Group, among others. This would theoretically enable them to carry out a plurality of tasks for the benefit (consolidation of wealth and power) of the network. Considering their function as an initiator of refined propaganda against independent journalists, and their concern for technology like artificial intelligence within the area of media, in particular the potential application by voices who would not have had the capital needed to reach the audience capacities of more traditional media outlets, it is likely that they are aware of this role.
Not always does the network act strictly as a monolithic force with completely aligned intentions - often, the smaller and more centralised powers like Chatham House, the CFR or the Bilderberg Committee (or even the nobility and families that are prominent within these groups) will act to keep others in the network running in lock-step with their goals, like social media firms being pressured into erasing social or political dissidents. But while it is obvious that not all of the staff of Data & Society or The Guardian are as openly extreme as others in the HIN, there is little doubt that the strong mutual support and free flow of money between those who are a part of it results in a network of ever-increasing influence, lending itself less and less to transparency, and becoming more difficult to scrutinise or prevent from carrying out horrific abuses of power. When moving forward with policy in an increasingly connected world, it is crucial that we ask ourselves the following:
- Do our dominant economic, political and social paradigms upheld by the majority of world media primarily enforce an unchanging status quo of power?
- Is the HIN’s sphere of influence acting primarily to the benefit of the average citizen of the world, or rather for those who possess that power?
- Does the HIN directly encourage, or benefit from, the economic or political upheaval or destabilisation of certain countries and regions?
- What kind of methods does the HIN use to sustain power, and convey its messages? Are these ethical?
- Does a small, centralised and often-unaccountable body of wealth and power help uphold the West’s ideals of democracy and individual liberty?
- How would the ability of independent, unsponsored journalism being stifled or outright censored affect the world that we live in?
- Is the HIN working towards a kind of world that we want our children to grow up in?
To wrap this up, here are some prescient quotes from Frederick Douglass:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it
never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and
you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which
will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are
resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of
tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they
Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”
“Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence and pestilence is followed by death.”