Co-opting Radical Feminism for Corporate Interests

While preeminent American feminist Gloria Steinem’s CIA background receives wide attention on the Internet, it’s a totally taboo topic in either the corporate or the so-called “alternative” media. Steinem’s work for the CIA front group Independent Research Service first entered the public domain  in 1967 when Ramparts magazine exposed both the Independent Research Service and the National Student Association as CIA front organizations.

Fearing unflattering publicity, Steinem gave interviews to both the New York Times and the Washington Post defending her CIA work (see video below). In both articles, she claims to have taken the initiative in contacting Cord Meyers, who headed the CIA’s International Organization Division and their top secret Operation Mockingbird.* Her goal, allegedly, was to seek CIA financing to encourage American participation in the seventh postwar (Soviet-sponsored) World Youth Festival in Vienna in 1959.

The article quotes her: “Far from being shocked by this involvement, I was happy to find some liberals in government who were farsighted and cared enough to get Americans of all political views to attend.”

Steinem served as director of the CIA-funded Independent Research Service from 1958-62. It was her responsibility to organize US students, scholars and writers to attend the yearly World Youth Festival, to observe and takes notes on foreign participants, to distribute pamphlets, flyers and books and to edit a daily propaganda newspaper.

Steinem Threatens to Sue Random House

Steinem’s CIA links came to mainstream media attention a second time in 1979, when the Village Voice ran an article about a chapter Random House had censored from Redstockings Collective’s 1979 book Feminist Revolution. Random House spiked the chapter, which describes Steinem’s earlier CIA work, after Steinem threatened to sue them. This deleted chapter (which you can get free by ordering an out-of-print copy of Feminist Revolution from Redstockings Collective) also suggests her CIA involvement may not have ended in 1969 when she left the International Research Associates. It details the right wing corporate funding which helped Steinem inaugurate Ms Magazine, as well as the magazine’s pivotal role in transforming American feminism from a broad multi-class, multiracial movement to one devoted to divisive male bashing and advancing career opportunities for white upper middle class women.

The original feminists of the sixties and seventies didn’t hate men (at least not the ones I worked with). What they hated was patriarchy and the use of male privilege to deny women and children full equality as human beings.

Operation Mockingbird in Action

In 1960 Clay Felker, a CIA-linked Independent Research Service staffer who accompanied Steinem to the Helsinki World Youth Festival in 1962, became the editor of Esquire magazine, where he published many of Steinem’s early feminist articles. In 1968 Felker started New York magazine, and in 1971 he hired Steinem as contributing editor. It was Felker who published the first edition of Ms Magazine as a New York magazine insert.

As the feminist magazine Off Our Backs states in a 1975 article about the Redstockings scandal, their discovery of Steinem’s earlier CIA employment raised a host of concerns about her sudden installation (mainly by corporate media) as the official leader of the US women’s movement without any previous involvement in feminist groups or campaigns.

Interestingly Ms Magazine‘s first publisher was Elizabeth Forsling Harris, a CIA-connected PR executive who planned John Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade route.

The Turmoil At NOW

In 1966, Steinem was still on the board of directors of International Research Service, when she co-founded National Organization for Women (NOW) with Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. A 2001 article in The American Prospect describes (quoting from The World Split Open by Ruth Rosen) how in 1975 prominent NOW members Carol Hanisch and Kathie Sarachild openly accused Steinem of working for the CIA and “directing the movement toward moderation and capitulation.” Ultimately Friedan herself became concerned “a paralysis of leadership” in the movement “could be due to the CIA” and demanded that Steinem respond.

After three months, Steinem wrote a six-page letter to various feminist publications describing her work on two student festivals in 1959 and 1962 that were funded by the CIA. Aiming to deflect the charge she was or had been a government operative, it stated, “I naively thought then that the ultimate money source didn’t matter, since in my own experience, no control or orders came with it.”

The Off Our Backs article also raises questions about a parallel organization Steinem started (in competition with NOW – starting parallel groups is a common strategy employed by US intelligence to sabotage grassroots organizations) in 1971 called Women’s Action Alliance. Located in the same building as Ms. Despite its name, the WAA wasn’t involved in “action,” as its name suggests. It engaged mainly in information gathering. It had a $20,000 grant from Rockefeller Family Fund for the establishment of a “national clearinghouse information and referral service” on the women’s movement. WAA collected information on key women leaders and their groups and activities, presumably facilitation FBI/CIA efforts to monitor them.

Steinem’s Fascination with Fascist Men

Despite her so-called liberal feminist credentials, Steinem has had a clear preference for right wing men, often with CIA and/or FBI links. She had a nine-year relationship with Stanley Pottinger, a Nixon-Ford assistant attorney general, who played a prominent role in undermining civil rights enforcement under Nixon and Ford. He also obstructed FBI investigations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King, and the ex-Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Latelier.

In 1984 Pottinger was investigated  for participating in Irangate, a CIA scheme to illegally smuggle arms to Iran .**

In the 1980’s, Steinem dated Henry Kissinger.

The Use of Black Feminists to Sabotage Civil Rights Organizing

In the late seventies and early seventies, African American organizers became concerned about a pattern in which agents posing as black feminists infiltrated their community groups in an effort to split off women members into separate organizations. They traced this phenomenon back to 1978 when Steinem put a book called Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman on the cover of Ms Magazine.

The book was allegedly “written” by a Black “feminist” and “activist” named Michele Wallace. In her early twenties Wallace, who like Steinem came out of nowhere (she was a Newsweek book review researcher), was suddenly being touted as the “leader” of Black feminism. In the book, Wallace called abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojouner Truth “ugly” and “stupid” for supporting Black men. She called Black Revolutionaries “chauvinist macho pigs” and advised Black women to “go it alone.”

Gloria Steinem maintained that Wallace’s book would “define the future of Black relationships” and she pushed hard to make sure the book received massive publicity. Gloria Steinem’s efforts triggered a flood of “Hate Black Men” books and films that continues to this day.


*Operation Mockingbird was a secret CIA campaign to influence the media by placing CIA assets on the staff and editorial board of major publishers and media outlets and by paying reporters a small stipend to publish articles favorable to CIA interests. It allegedly ended in 1976 but many researchers believes it continues under a different name to the present day.
**Irangate was a CIA effort to illegally smuggle arms to Iran to obtain funding for the illegal CIA war against Nicaragua.

Comments
  1. sojourner says:

    Amazing! I read a lengthy article, which I can no longer find, on the FBI and CIA being behind the Hippie/drug-culture movement to counter and downplay the true anti-war movement in the 60s.

    The male bashing back then turned many men against feminism, even those of us who saw the blatant discrimination being perpetrated on women by men. My x is a feminist, and she turned me on to women like Camille Paglia who spoke out against this false kind of feminism. But I doubt Linda knows this, or if she does, she never mentioned it to me.

    It figures that the sicko males who run this despotic government would be behind this divide, conquer, rule scenario

    • What really bothers me is I was aware that we were being coopted at the time – though it would be years before we figured out exactly how they were doing it.

      • sojourner says:

        Are you referring, here, to the feminist movement or the anti-war movement, or both?

        Either way, I and most of the men and women I was around at that time, didn’t seem to have a clue that this infiltration by the feds was happening, not even an inkling. I can remember the feeling that we knew the truth and the majority had not a clue, just as I feel most times now. But I was wrong about much then, so how much I am wrong about now?

        The difference then, of course, was that in my youth, I had no real clue that I could be wrong on issues I studied and took a strong position on. Now I know I can be wrong, dead wrong. Life has a way of showing us this.

    • Rob Males says:

      For a detailed account of the military involvement in the 1960’s music and drug scene read Strange Scenes inside the Canyon by David McGowan

    • In response to your question, I’m talking about feminist, antiwar, African American Heritage Museum, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, International Socialist Organization and the Washington State single payer movement. All were infiltrated by informants who disrupted our meetings, stole our mailing lists and sabotaged our data bases.

      • sojourner says:

        Unbelievable, and yet, not! And we are still fed the lie that this a “free country” with the citizenry “represented” by the government.

        But most people have no idea of what you know to be so true. My wife, before we met, was heavily involved in the anti-war movement at Ohio State University. And during this time, she found out that she was on an “FBI watch list.”

  2. PeaceFrog says:

    This is really thought provoking. The larger question is how much have the waters been poisoned over the years? We expect civil rights leaders, high profile attorneys, and media luminaries to be real, but the sad reality is that many amount to controlled opposition. A recent documentary on the Mississippi Sovereign Commission’s activities during the civil rights era revealed widespread collusion among high-profile clergy and other trusted members of the black community and the FBI’s COINTELPRO efforts to neutralize the civil rights movement.

    A book that really put this into perspective for me was Dave McGowan’s very well sourced Programmed to Kill. That book delves deep into the heart of the criminality of the military and intelligence apparatus. It also provides some vignettes on personalities reflexively accepted by the public as being bona fide leaders in their filed who actually are governmental tools. In particular, it looks at F.Lee Bailey whose name is synonymous in the public mind with being a top criminal defense attorney. In actuality, a closer analysis of the Boston Strangler case, makes it clear that he sold out his client by defending him for capital murders when he was charged with the relatively less severe charges of rape and burglary before his questionable confession to Bailey. Of course, DeSalvo was killed under circumstances that indicated a murder conspiracy involving several government actors was at play. This is not to say that Bailey, before his disbarment, did not have a long career as a criminal defense attorney after DeSalvo, but, that his fame and fortune may well have been tied to his being appropriated as a tool in a cover-up involving government corruption. The very existence of the Mockingbird Program, by the most powerful and well funded intelligence agency in history (at least the most well funded with clandestine field operatives), undermines the whole concept of a free press.

    • All the US grassroots organizations I ever belonged to were infiltrated by government and/or corporate agents seeking to disrupt our work. Most seem to have been linked to Left Gatekeeping Foundations – left think tanks with groovy names and extremely conservative ideology.

      I find the situation very different here in New Zealand. In the big cities, groups do have their meeting infiltrated by either the police or the intelligence service – but they rarely lead the community organizations as many Left Gatekeeping Foundations do in the US. Because it’s relatively rare, it’s much easier for activists to spot plants and call them out.

      In the US, it’s not uncommon for half the leadership to be government informants.

      • PeaceFrog says:

        The money from the Left Gatekeeping Foundations also creates gatekeepers in public access radio and T.V. This is why, in my opinion, we have NPR criticizing RT as “conspiracy theorists”, and Pacifica Radio (DemocracyNow!) rejecting the 911 Truth movement. I have read several books by and listened to Noam Chomsky’s lectures. I find it hard to believe that he supports the government lie on 911, the JFK assassination, etc. It might be sad to read his FBI file after he passes in light of some of his gatekeeper opinions.

  3. Genie says:

    Gloria Steinem, did more damage to women’s rights than she did to help women have thier rights; the focus was on finances and not labour that is unpaid, as well, she did nothing to promote men taking responsibility for an equal share of the unpaid work that was relegated as “women’s work”.

  4. gerry campeau says:

    Gloria Steinem: How the CIA Used Feminism to Destabilize Society http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Feminism/gloria_steinem-feminism.htm
    Here some interesting info on Gloria’s boyfriend sabotaging civil rights and Watergate
    http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2008/12/deep-throat-rip.html

  5. Good point, PeaceFrog, about Noam Chomsky and 911 and the assassinations. In my view, Chomsky is a classic gatekeeper.

  6. Gary Weglarz says:

    Read “The Cultural Cold War,” by FRANCES STONOR SAUNDERS http://husn.eu/7/thread-who-paid-the-piper-the-cia-and-the-cultural-cold-war.html to see how sophisticated and all encompassing CIA operations were even decades ago in terms of the subtle manipulation of the public mind of Europeans and Americans. The book offers much to think about as we struggle with our respective experiences of cognitive dissonance about why our vaunted “leftists” and “independent media” personalities in the West can’t seem to utter an informed coherent sentence in relation to the events of 9/11.

  7. […] the late 1950s, Steinem was hired by the CIA to send non-communist American students to the World Youth Festival, a Soviet-sponsored event, in […]

  8. […] In 1966, Friedan would co-found National Organization for Women (NOW) with Gloria Steinem (see Did the CIA Use Gloria Steinem to Subvert the Feminist Movement?). Mitchell classifies NOW as a “reformist” group that limited itself to winning isolated […]

  9. MirandaHendrickson says:

    Far too much of interest here to comment on properly right now – esp.for one who was (v.rare!) active BOTH in early women’s liberation & NOW, & in “cousin causes” (and, FYI, is 3d generation from Hot Springs…) – so i’ll just try to clarify a few facts on some points i see above:
    (A) Steinem played a zero role in NOW’s ’66 founding, which Friedan & a diverse “coed” group of people did start; both were, though, among the three best-known founders, with Bella Abzug, of the Women’s National Political Caucus in ’71.
    (B) Hilarious – the very notion of my old friends Carol and Kathie being NOW members at all; we were all in NYRadical Women, they later in Redstockings, & Friedan did work with some of these stalwarts & others to look into the odd, sudden installation of movement “leaders”.
    (C) The claims about who may’ve written Michele Wallace’s “Myth” are all news to me, but i do recall her writing quite a lot for our feminist newspaper “Majority Report” in the early ’70s – and of course she’s the child of the terrific artist Faith Ringgold! Not particularly “out of nowhere,” really?
    For those still tut-tutting skeptically about the CIA story, please just try using the name-index in Tom Hayden’s memoir “Reunion” to find his account of being wooed by spooks. (One wonders, given Jane Fonda’s odd current alliances: Did she ever read this, or absorb it?)
    Too many of the “participant-observers” of what went on in that event-dense time have lately been “departing this mortal coil”…but plenty of us are still around, with plenty of history in our heads, and plenty of marbles left, too, to tell the stories that we lived.
    – “Miranda Wilcox Hendrickson,” NYC – 3 Feb 16

    • Bravo for all your hard work for the women’s movement, Miranda. Thanks for commenting. Sorry it took so long to approve your comment, but I was away from my computer in Auckland protesting the TPP signing.

  10. MirandaHendrickson says:

    4 Feb 16 – Where is the rather large comment that i created and posted here yesterday, mostly setting forth some rather importsnt facts and clarifications on this article? Physically, I had to work quite hard, with just one finger!, to produce it, and so i’m pretty dismayed that it hasn’t yet appeared here. My e-mail address appears to the “moderator,” if there is one, and i ask that this person contact me to say that a) what i wrote is ” pending,” b) what i wrote has vanished, and/or c) what i shoukd do now so as to be included. I’m totally befuddled, but would try to re-create my comment if i must – and don’t want the extra labor if it IS still around. Thanks.. – MH

    • MirandaHendrickson says:

      Thanks for getting back to me about the “mystery of the absent post” and for putting it up. Glad you were off doing activist Good Works!
      YOU can very readily see who “Miranda” actually is from the email address you have on file, and you may be likely to have read some of my writings, or know my work otherwise – for instance, the feminist equality symbol was my design. (The Miranda name is just a childhood “pen name”!) And i really should explain my odd allusion, early on, to “Hot Springs” – and apologize for it: somehow, i had gotten the rather mixed-up idea that you yourself are FROM Arkansas, seeing that state named in an article title. Sorry! Best regards – MH

  11. Lewis Liddell Jr. says:

    .I want to believe Gloria Steinem was rehabiliated and that she has learned from her mistake as a CIA operative but she must be a spy for ..mODERATE DEMOCRATS AND MODERATE REPUBL;ICANS TRYING TO DESTROY THE FAR LEFT.

    BECAUSE ITS EXTREMELY UNFAIR OF HER TO DEMEAN BERNIE SANDERS VOTERS AS SEXISTSA

    SANDERS IS A SOCIALIST SO HE’S AUTOMATICALLY A … MALE FEMINIST

    EQUAL RIGHTS.. FOR WOMEN HAS BEEN PART OF SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY FROM THE BEGINNING OF MODERN SOCIALISM WITH OWEN AND FOURIER IN THE 1830’S

    THEY WANTED TO FREE WOMEN FROM BEING HOUSE WIVES THEY THOUGHT MARRIAGES WITHA MAN AS THE BREAD WINNER AND A WOMAN AS A HOUSE WIFE WERE ALMOST LIKE PROSTITUTION.

    AND JANE SANDERS BERNIE’S WIFE ISA FEMINIST.

    ALSO HOW DOES SHE NOT .KNOW THAT BERNE SANDER.S WANT PICK A SOCIAIST WOMAN AS HIS RUNNING MATE LIKE ELIZABETH WARREN

    AND THENN AFTER BERNIE SANDERS ADMINISTRATION ELIZABETH WARREN WILL BE THE FIRSAT WOMAN PRESIDENT.

    ALSO IF A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN WOMAN LIKE CARLY FIORN.A

    IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT WHY SETTLE FOR HILLARY CLINTON A MODERATE DEMOCRAT

    ?

    AND A CAPITALIST

    WHY NOT WAIT TILL WE HAVE A ….I.SOCIALIUST WOMAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN THE DEMOCRTATIC PRIMARY

    AND HOW COME GLORIA WHO CLAIMS TO BE A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST DID NOT

    RUN HERSELF FOR PRESIDENT SO WE DID NOT HAVE THE HORRIBLE CHOICE OF A CAPITALIST WOMAN

    OR A SOCIALIST MAN

    WHEN WE WOULD HAVE A SOCIALIST WOMAN?

    I BELIEVE SINCERELY IN EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN

    AND I REALLY WANTA WOMAN PRESIDENT

    BUT NOT HILLARY IFA SOCIALIST OF EITHER GENDER IS RUNNING AGAINST HER
    ECAUSE WANT A A SOCIETY WHERE THERE IS NO RICH OR POOR WHERE WEALTH AND RESOURCES ARE SHARED EQUALLY

    AND I NEED IT EVEN MORE AS SOME ONE ON DISABILITY WITHA MENTAL ILNESSS WHO’S DISABILITY POAYMRENT IS SO LOW I HAVE TO STAY WITH MY PARENTS.
    B…..TI………..

  12. Thanks for your comment, Lewis. You touch on a subject very dear to my heart – namely the infiltration of the CIA of the so-called “non-Communist left.” This was first exposed by Frances Stonor Saunders in her 1999 Who Paid the Piper, which I reviewed a year and a half ago: https://stuartjeannebramhall.com/2014/09/02/the-history-of-cia-funded-foundations/

    It doesn’t surprise me a bit that Steinem has come out against Bernie Sanders.
    This has been the whole pattern of her life – sabotaging anti-corporate activists and politicians seeking to turn the US into a real democracy.

  13. […] year, Millennials showing the way to their politically immature and distracted elders like Gloria Steinem, to go past the superficial identity diversions offered by plutocrats to the core issues of […]

  14. […] year, Millennials showing the way to their politically immature and distracted elders like Gloria Steinem, to go past the superficial identity diversions offered by plutocrats to the core issues of […]

  15. […] to the multi-cultural and multi-gendered Establishment.” Identity politics promoted by the likes of a recycled Gloria Steinem is the base of the gender side of Clinton’s campaign. According […]

  16. […] to the multi-cultural and multi-gendered Establishment.” Identity politics promoted by the likes of a recycled Gloria Steinem is the base of the gender side of Clinton’s campaign. According […]

  17. […] ** Steinem even had her own CIA case officer – see Did the CIA Use Gloria Steinem to Subvert the Feminist Movement? […]

  18. srogouski says:

    Reblogged this on Writers Without Money and commented:
    I’ve always known that Gloria Steinem had been involved with the National Student Association, a CIA front group, as an undergraduate. But I never quite realized just how important her connection to the CIA had been to her career. I suppose her recent insinuation that younger female supporters of Bernie Sanders have become socialists just to meet guys — as if that’s a problem for women who aren’t socialists — demonstrates she’s still an establishment shill posing as a radical.

  19. […] Now, how are the citizens conditioned to be content with their lot, wherever it may be in the caste system? One way is through hypnopaedic conditioning: as children are sleeping, they hear recordings that subliminally teach them to conform. This is comparable to how we passively, thoughtlessly watch TV and accept every entertaining image, as if we were sleeping. TV, movies, and popular music these days are all mindless nonsense, or they bombard us with propaganda, either that of divisive political correctness, or of materialist pleasure (overt sexuality, the ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’ would-be philosophy, etc.). The CIA started influencing world media with Operation Mockingbird back in the 1950s, and it is doubtful if they ever stopped; one of the most influential feminists of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Gloria Steinem, who helped in the shift from second wave to third wave and radical ‘Marxist’ feminism, had CIA connections. […]

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