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Digital Tonto: The truth about subversive organizations

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July 24, 2012, 12:49 p.m. | Op-ed — by Greg Satell

Portrait of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, celebrating his 75th birthay at Princeton University, march 15, 1954.
© AFP

Greg Satell

This past June, US Congressman Allen West declared that approximately 80 Democratic members of Congress are Communists. More recently, another House member, Michele Bachmann and five of her colleagues accused others in the government of being Islamic radicals.

Very few people seemed to take them or their allegations seriously. Some called it a return to McCarthyism, others used the term “witch hunt.” John McCain called the charges “unwarranted and unfounded.”

As for me, the real issue isn’t subversives in the government, but the ones that are underground, quietly meeting and plotting to overthrow the order of things.  History has shown that these types of groups have enormous power to disrupt and can alter the status quo beyond recognition. Present society doesn’t really have a chance.

The Buttonwood Collective

In May 1792, a revolutionary group met under a buttonwood tree and signed a pact that would create a socialist collective.  Rather than trust the market to decide prices, they would set rates among themselves.  It read:

"We the Subscribers, Brokers for the Purchase and Sale of the Public Stock, do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day for any person whatsoever, any kind of Public Stock, at a less rate than one quarter percent Commission on the Specie value and that we will give preference to each other in our Negotiations. In Testimony whereof we have set our hands this 17th day of May at New York, 1792."

They soon recruited likeminded people to their cause and their grew into the New York Stock Exchange.  The influence of this organization cannot be overstated.  Many of the world’s largest corporations belong to it and over $50 billion dollars trades through it every day.

All from a seemingly innocent meeting under a tree…

The Olympia Academy

in 1901, a group of young intellectuals started meeting to discuss the ideas of philosophers like Ernst Mach and David Hume.  They called their group the Olympia Academy and they met regularly over the next few years.  Not long after, one of the leaders of the group, Albert Einstein, credited those meetings with helping him plot his revolution in physics.

Much like Allen West and Michele Bachmann, many conservative members of the German government were appalled by this new breed of “Jewish physics” and were certain that it would ruin the country.  They made it clear that Einstein and people like him were not welcome.  Consequently, many fled to America and the United Kingdom.

The German officials’ worst fears would be realized.  After emigrating, many of those scientists would end up working on Allied military programs like the Manhattan Project and made significant contributions to the war effort. Germany’s loss of that war led to its break-up as a nation as well as its relative decline in the scientific world.

The Bloomsbury Group

Even more notorious than the Olympia Academy was the Bloomsbury Group, which met near Cambridge in the early 20th century.  Its members included Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes.

The group was known for its epicurean outlook and liberal view towards Victorian morality.  They would end up having enormous influence in literature, philosophy and economics, which continues to this day.

Just to show you how far it goes, Larry Summers, one of Barack Obama’s principal economic advisors is a declared follower of Keynes as was his uncle, Paul Samuelson. Samuelson openly associated with Milton Friedman, who is known for, among other things, saying that “We’re all Keynesian’s now.”

The Bloomsbury group proved to be far more than a idle collective of fuzzyheaded intellectuals.

The Homebrew Computer Club

In the 1970’s Fred Moore, along with others in the counterculture movement started the Homebrew Computer Club.  The stated aim was to disrupt the hi-tech industry by taking computers out of government and large institutions and put them in the hands of normal people.

The club quickly attracted a hacker crowd, most prominently John Draper (aka Captain Crunch), who specialized in finding vulnerabilities in AT&T’s phone system.  Reportedly, he once obtained a secret code word and made a prank call to Richard Nixon, warning the President of a dire toilet paper shortage in Los Angeles.

Many of the members of the club went on to start their own organizations, using the financial methods pioneered by the Buttonwood collective’s stock exchange (the conspiracy is not only transnational, but multigenerational).

The most prominent of these is Apple Computer, whose leader, Steve Jobs talked openly and often about “revolution” and had access to the highest levels of government.  Even after his death, he continues to inspire his followers to continually disrupt the established order.

Be Very, Very Afraid

As I noted at the start, West and Bachmann have far understated the problem.  It doesn’t really matter how many communists are in the Democratic party or Islamists in the executive or fascists in the Republican party, what matters is the vast dimensions of the conspiracy.  Once you start tracing the connections, it seems that everybody is involved.

And that’s because they are.  In the modern world, the Internet, air travel, Fox News and other electronic media connect everybody to everybody else.  That means that the little groups forming now are many times more potent than they were decades ago.  These days, anyone thinking anything can get their ideas out the rest of the planet.

What’s more, the number of potential revolutionaries has expanded exponentially.  In the 20th century, most of the world lived in rural poverty.  Today, over half of the world’s population lives in cities and even more are connected through mobile devices.  All of them have the power to subvert the status quo.

Make no mistake. Somewhere there’s an 8 year-old Chinese kid with a mobile phone and he has the power to disrupt our quiet little civilization.

- Greg

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