(Michael Minnicino, Printed in the Executive Intelligence Review) Non-profit foundations have long been a favorite instrument by which one or another oligarchical faction has been able to discreetly test and implement new ideas in social control. The power of the biggest foundations is legendary. Since the end of the last century, institutions like the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, or the Russell Sage Foundation have been able to routinely override the objections of elected officials and go on to completely shape America’s education policy, its public health policy, and even the operations of the Federal government itself.
Less well-known than these mega-foundations is the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. Despite its relative obscurity, the Macy Foundation is, perhaps, more responsible for the nastier aspects of today’s social reality in America than any other single institution. During and immediately after World War II, the Macy Foundation was utilized by a combination which included the British secret services, corrupt sections of American intelligence, plus treasonous members of the U.S. establishment, to conduct a vast social experiment. The overall purpose of the experiment was to end the uncontrolled optimism of a population that had just won a world war and had started to rebuild the world, and instead, to redirect that energy inward upon itself.
Three parts of that experiment became so successful, that most people today think of them as some “natural” evolution of Western society, rather than as an unnatural deformation imposed from the outside. The “Sexual Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s–which decisively accelerated today’s collapse of the nuclear family–could not have occurred in the form in which it did, without the Macy Foundation’s almost singlehanded sponsorship of the development and dissemination of oral contraceptives. Similarly, the Macy Foundation was a primary actor in creating the “Psychedelic Revolution,” thereby turning a postwar population that hitherto looked at sleeping pills with suspicion, into today’s America, which routinely takes a new drug for every new mood, and prescribes psychoactive substances to its children by the millions of doses. And perhaps most importantly, it was the Macy Foundation that helped to pervert American citizens’ world-renowned sense of technological optimism, into the now-pervasive ideology of the “Information Age.”
The crowning irony is that the majority of the postwar Baby Boomer generation–precisely the generation targetted by the Macy Foundation program–today celebrates the foundation’s evil accomplishments as their own happiest memories! Even as you read this, some 50-year-old of your acquaintance is pausing from a frenzied session of Internet stock speculation to reminisce over the golden days of collegiate “free love” and LSD. But, as every good brainwasher knows, it is important to induce the victim to identify with the ideology of his tormentor.
– Eugenics And `Shock Trauma’ –
The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation was created in New York City in 1930 to “support scientific investigations of the fundamental aspects of health.” This Macy family is not connected to the famous department store family, but is an old Nantucket whaling and clipper ship clan that made early investments in the oil industry. In 1872, the Macys’ Long Island Oil Company became part of the growing Standard Oil empire of John D. Rockefeller.
When the Macys set up their foundation, they were actually creating an arm’s-length proprietary for the Rockefeller Foundation. The new foundation’s security clearance was established by its first executive secretary, Brig. Gen. Marlborough Churchill. A distant relation of Winston Churchill’s family, the general had commanded the military intelligence division of the U.S. Army during the last year of World War|I, and on into the immediate postwar period. In this assignment, Churchill worked with “The Enquiry,” the extra-legal intelligence entity created by Col. Edwin House, President Woodrow Wilson’s notorious aide.
The foundation’s grant portfolio was deceptive. Some grants were surely benign. However, certain sponsored studies in “cell biology” were actually analyzing techniques in eugenics, or “race science.” A large amount of grant money also went to what the foundation called “psychosomatic interrelations,” that is, how physiological change affects the mind, and vice versa. This was a cover for work on clinical techniques that would later be called “brainwashing.”
Since the end of the nineteenth century, researchers (including heavyweights such as William James at Harvard) had been seeking methods to rapidly transform the human personality. James studied drugs and “varieties of religious experience” as possible techniques. After World War|I, there was a substantial study of “shell shock” cases, because it had been noticed that, under certain circumstances, intense combat stress could completely and instantaneously change a soldier’s personality. Starting in the 1920s, the Tavistock Clinic of London was the premier location for shell shock research, and the attempt to re-create transformational “shock trauma” outside of the combat environment. Tavistock quickly became Britain’s most important covert psychological warfare think tank.
The Josiah Macy Foundation appears to have been a Tavistock research outpost in America since its inception. During World War II, this collaboration became extensive, and included studies on how one causes public panics, and on how to covertly disperse chemical and biological agents. The foundation’s wartime publications first popularized in America the work of William Sargant, a British specialist in “shock trauma” who would later be one of the world’s premier brainwashers. After the war, the Macy Foundation almost wholly funded the creation of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), an effort headed by Tavistock director John Rawlings Rees, to infiltrate what Rees called “psychiatric shock troops” into every culture in the world.
The WFMH itself became a huge clearing-house of psychological warfare profiles used by British and American intelligence services during the Cold War. A typical Macy-WFMH joint project was the “Conferences on Problems of Health and Human Relations in Germany,” a series of high-level, 1950-51 meetings designed to convince German social scientists and health care providers that the Frankfurt School’s bogus “authoritarian personality” profile should be relied upon in dealing with German patients.
– Cybernetics And `The Pill’ –
This intense Anglo-American interest in the brainwashing possibilities of shock trauma was the actual origin of the theory of the “Information Age.”
At the end of World War II, the Macy Foundation set up a project to create a theoretical model of extreme stress, especially taking into account the psychosomatic “feedback overload” which appeared to cause many shell shock cases. To that end, the foundation organized a conference group on “Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems,” putting clinicians together with mathematicians, sociologists, and economists. From the very first meeting in 1946, it was clear that the group was designed to accomplish great things: If one could create a model of a physiological system through which information is received from the environment, processed, and then fed back to change that environment, then, perhaps, it were possible to model the human mind itself–especially if one used the computational machines then being developed. The group became devoted to the premise, later stated by one of the founding members, John von Neumann, that the human nervous system is really just “an efficiently organized, large natural automaton,” which is therefore subject to deterministic, linear mathematical modeling.
Here Macy and Tavistock saw the possibility of social control on a gigantic scale! The ability to make machines act like humans, and the ability to treat humans as machines–the final accomplishment of H.G. Wells’s old Fabian goal of a “scientific world order” where everything is as neat as a differential equation, and unpredictable things such as human creativity never mess things up. With this new and much broader mission, the Macy group changed its name; founder Norbert Wiener coined a new word, “cybernetics,” from the Greek word for “helmsman,” and they became the Conference on Cybernetics.
Incidentally, today’s overused prefix “cyber-,” as in cyber-sex, cyber-banking, etc. all comes from this original Macy Foundation usage. Literally all of what we now know as “information theory” has its roots in these Macy researches.
It should be emphasized here, that the computer is not a bad thing in itself; indeed, it is a wonderful tool; that’s why America originally embraced the technology. The problem is that these Macy theories so decisively shaped the development of computers and computerization, that computerized automation has never come close to achieving its potential for assisting human progress. Rather, the opposite occurred. Today’s widespread addiction to the Internet and 64-bit games might help you understand what the Macy group meant by “Man-Machine interface” back in the 1950s.
And, if you couldn’t quite act like a machine, perhaps the process could be enhanced by drugs. Almost simultaneous with the cybernetics study, the Macy Foundation opened a parallel line of investigation into psychedelic drugs as a means of social manipulation. Working with a renegade faction of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and with the British MI6, the Macy Foundation became one of the primary covert funding conduits for a project code-named MK-Ultra. As many might remember, this was the project that secretly brought the hallucinogen LSD to America, supplying it to Dr. Timothy “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!” Leary, and many other pioneers of the “Psychedelic Revolution.”
A significant number of the people who conducted covert drug brainwashing experiments under the MK-Ultra contract had previously been grantees of Macy. Even more striking, is the fact that the majority of these grantees were not involved in Macy’s various medical projects, but rather was involved in the cybernetics project. Such joint Cybernetics Conference/MK-Ultra personnel included the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, his wife Margaret Mead, and [email protected] psychologist Kurt Lewin.
The Macy Foundation was also instrumental in launching the “Sexual Revolution.” The work of Harvard’s Dr. Gregory Pincus was heavily underwritten by Macy, starting in 1935. Pincus was studying reproduction, and the eugenicists at Macy were studying how certain types of people should not be allowed to engage in reproduction. In 1954, Macy awarded Pincus a large special grant. In 1955, Pincus patented “the Pill.’
Looking Back in History: The Macy Conferences
(emcsr.net) It is said that the Macy Conferences were the most important meetings of minds for the purpose of understanding control of human behavior. They are also considered as the breeding ground for Cybernetics and breakthroughs in Systems Theory. In essence, they brought “systems thinking” to the awareness of a cross-disciplinary group of intellectuals.
The Macy Conferences were ten meetings of scholars from different academic disciplines held in New York between 1946 and 1953. They were initiated and organized by Warren McCulloch and the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. The main purpose of these meetings was to set the foundations for a general science of the workings of the human mind.
The first conference, which was entitled “Feedback Mechanisms and Circular Causal Systems in Biological and Social Systems” was attended by an unprecedented network of great minds at the time:
- William Ross Ashby; psychiatrist and a pioneer in cybernetics
- Gregory Bateson; anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist
- Julian Bigelow; pioneering computer engineer
- Heinz von Foerster; biophysicist, scientist combining physics and philosophy and architect of cybernetics
- Lawrence K. Frank; social scientist
- Ralph W. Gerard; neurophysiologist and behavioral scientist known for his work on the nervous system, nerve metabolism, psychopharmacology, and biological basis of schizophrenia
- Molly Harrower; pioneering clinical psychologist
- Lawrence Kubie; psychatrist
- Paul Lazarsfeld; sociologist and founder of Columbia University’s Bureau for Applied Social Research
- Kurt Lewin; psychologist, often regarded as the founder of social psychology
- Warren McCulloch (chair); psychatrist, neurophysiologist and cybernetician
- Margaret Mead; cultural anthropologist
- John von Neumann; one of the foremost mathematicians of the 20th century
- Walter Pitts; logician and co-author of the paper that founded neural networks
- Arturo Rosenblueth; researcher, physician, physiologist and a pioneer of cybernetics
- Leonard J. Savage; mathematician and statistician
- Norbert Wiener; mathematician and founder of cybernetics
An incredible collection of guests attended the Cybernetics Group sessions during their seven years of existence. Among them were Max Horkheimer, the head of the Frankfurt School, and Claude Shannon, “the father of information theory”.
The foundation for the conferences was laid in May 1942, when the key participants met to exchange ideas, which created the enthusiasm and motivation to hold the Macy Conferences a few years later after the war. Attendance for the initial small meeting was by invitation only, and the two topics on the agenda were hypnotism and conditioned reflex. As soon as the war ended, Bateson contacted Fremont-Smith, pushing for some sort of conference to follow up on the concepts from the 1942 meeting.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of comprehensive documentation on the Macy Conferences. Part of this derives from the fact that the first five conferences were never formally documented with published proceedings.
Follow the links below to find out more in-depth information about the Macy Conferences (which also served as sources for this blog post):
Macy Konferenzen (in German)
(CyborgAnthropology.com) In the early 1990’s Donna Haraway proposed an anthropology of cyborgs to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by “provocatively” reconceiving “the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines. But Haraway wasn’t the first to discuss Cyborg Anthropology. In fact, concepts of human and technological interaction have been seriously examined by anthropologists since 1942, with the initial focus being the use and effects of feedback. These discussions led to the Macy Conferences in the 1940’s and 50’s. These were no ordinary conferences. They were attended by academic and technological luminaries such as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner, inventor of the field of Cybernetics.
Anthropologists and scientists paved the way for serious discussion on humans and technology in 1941. Early attendees were interested in the Macy Meetings because they felt that technology would increasingly become intertwined with humanity. The effects of technology on humanity would be important and widespread, and anything that signaled such a massive change in how people lived was important to discuss. The Macy Meetings lasted for a decade, recurring yearly.
There is a lack of comprehensive documentation on the Macy Conferences. Part of this derives from the fact that the first five conferences, by all accounts the most lively and energizing, were never formally documented with published proceedings. N. Katherine Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman is one source that provides a meaningful overview.
- Inaugural Macy Conference: “Feedback Mechanisms and Circular Causal Systems in Biological and Social Systems. 1st Conference 8-9 March 1946. New York City. http://fido.rockymedia.net/anthro/arturo.pdf
- Macy Summary. ASC Cybernetics – Foundations. Accessed Oct 2011. http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/history/MacySummary.htm
- Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999.