This post is a reblog of post #89, originally published on September 29, 2013. It is the second most visited post since the blog began in 2012, topped only by post #136 on Cardinal Spellman, which was reblogged recently as post #241. Be sure to read the three comments at the end. A note on some recently published poems and two of my books conclude the post.
On WBAI recently (where else?) I heard nutritionist Gary Null, who also comments on current affairs, expound seriously on a vast conspiracy of corporate and military powers who constitute a shadowy permanent government of this country and really rule it, our elected officials being their pawns or dupes. Prominent among these sinister figures he named David Rockefeller, the aging patriarch of that clan, whom I and many know only as the banker brother of the late Nelson Rockefeller, the forty-ninth governor of New York State (1959-1973) and the forty-first vice president of the U.S. (1974-1977) under President Gerald Ford.
Having heard vaguely of such theories before, I decided to look into David Rockefeller and his possible implication in such a conspiracy. I am no friend of conspiracy theories but cannot deny that important things happen that we ordinary citizens only learn about later, if even then. So who is David Rockefeller and what has he been up to? I launch my little investigation with no expertise whatsoever and with access only to information available to the public.
He was of course a banker, and this makes him suspect at once. We Americans profess to dislike bankers, since we think of them as fat cats with too much money who are not inclined to share it with the rest of us who have too little. This prejudice – and it is a prejudice – has seeped deep into our popular entertainments. Long ago, when the soaps were making their last stand on radio, I recall how, when the writers of Ma Perkins needed a villain in the little town of Rushville Center, they trotted out the local banker, who was referred to not as Mr. So-and-So, but Banker So-and-So. And our recent financial convulsion and its ongoing aftermath, brought on in large part by misbehaving banks, haven’t exactly enhanced the profession’s reputation. Still, with noble intent I shall push this bias to one side and proceed as objectively as possible. So what kind of a guy is David Rockefeller, and what are his connections to this alleged conspiracy?
He is a son of John D., Jr., who, as I mentioned in a recent post, built Rockefeller Center at his own expense, and a grandson of old John D., the Standard Oil mogul and founder of the family fortune. David was born in New York City in 1915 in his father’s sumptuous residence at 10 West 54th Street, then the largest private residence in the city, and one full of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance art collected by his father, not to mention a whole floor devoted to his mother’s private modern art gallery. In his bedroom at one time were the famous Unicorn Tapestries now at the Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park, near the northern tip of Manhattan.
Much of David Rockefeller’s childhood was spent at Kykuit, a 40-room neoclassical mansion on a 250-acre family estate near Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County, N.Y., where he recalls visits by General George C. Marshall, Admiral Byrd, and Charles Lindbergh. And for summer vacations there was the family’s 100-room house on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Yes, a privileged childhood with wealth and connections right from the start, though he and his siblings were raised strictly, as his father had been before him.
|Kykuit, seen from the south.|
The Rockefellers and art: David Rockefeller’s father, John D., Jr., was a passionate collector of traditional art of the past, while his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (David’s mother), was just as passionate a collector of modern art, which her husband professed to despise. She was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1929, and persuaded her husband to donate land on 53rd and 54th Street for the present MOMA, which opened in 1939. To make room for the new museum, John D., Jr., demolished both his sumptuous residence at 10 West 54th Street, and his deceased father’s palatial mansion at 4 West 54thStreet; in their place today is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The Rockefellers have been affiliated with MOMA ever since. But if Abby’s modern art collection found a home at MOMA, her husband’s medieval collection went to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
His education: He graduated cum laude from Harvard, did postgraduate work in economics there and at the London School of Economics, and got a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, his dissertation entitled “Unused Resources and Economic Waste.” My take so far: this was no playboy, and no slouch either. He had a mind and put it to good use.
For eighteen months he served as secretary to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at a dollar a year, and then worked for the U.S. Office of Defense, Health, and Welfare Services. When we entered the war he attended Officer Candidate School and became an officer in the Army, working in North Africa and France (he spoke fluent French) for military intelligence. Serving as well for seven months as an assistant military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Paris, he made use of family and Standard Oil contacts and established contacts of his own that proved useful thereafter. Even so, an exemplary career and nothing that I find objectionable. In the military as in business, there’s nothing inherently wrong with developing a network of contacts.
In 1946 he went to work for the Chase National Bank, with which his family had long been associated. Beginning as a lowly assistant manager, he worked his way up through the ranks, developing relationships with correspondent banks throughout the world, and finally became president and CEO. In 1955 he persuaded the bank to erect its new headquarters in the Wall Street area, thus helping revitalize the downtown financial district, which other companies had deserted for locations farther uptown. In 1960 the new sixty-story building opened at One Chase Manhattan Plaza on Liberty Street, then the biggest bank building in the world.
Under David Rockefeller’s leadership Chase spread internationally and became a major force in the world’s financial system, with some fifty thousand correspondent banks, more than any other bank in the world. He even opened a branch at One Karl Marx Square near the Kremlin and established relations with the National Bank of China. Trouble came in 1979 when, along with his friend Henry Kissinger and others, he persuaded President Jimmy Carter to admit the deposed Shah of Iran for hospital treatment in the U.S., an action that precipitated the Iran hostage crisis and brought him under media scrutiny for the first time in his life.
Now a major political and financial figure and a moderate Republican, he had relations with every U.S. President from Eisenhower on, and at times served as an unofficial emissary on high-level diplomatic missions. In 1968, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, his brother Nelson, then Governor of New York, wanted to appoint David Rockefeller to the vacant senate seat, but he turned the offer down. Subsequently President Carter offered to make him Secretary of the Treasury and Federal Reserve Chairman, but he turned those offers down as well. Clearly, with all his worldwide contacts he preferred a private role, well removed from the publicity and brouhaha of politics. Which of course has made him a natural target for conspiracy theorists of every stripe and hue.
|A young David Rockefeller with Eleanor Roosevelt,|
Trygvie Lie, the first Secretary General of the U.N.,
and IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson, 1953.
His contacts over the years included Henry Kissinger, a personal friend; Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles; former CIA director Richard Helms; Archibald Roosevelt, Jr., and his cousin Kermit Roosevelt, both involved with the CIA; and countless others. Who, indeed, didn’t he know among the rich and powerful? All of which, again, has made him a natural and inevitable target for conspiracy theorists.
Throughout his life he was involved with numerous policy groups that were concerned with domestic and international problems: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; the International Executive Service Corps, promoting prosperity and stability through private enterprise in underdeveloped regions of the world; the Partnership for New York City, a group of CEOs seeking to promote the city as a global center of commerce, culture, and innovation; the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential foreign-policy think tank with some 4700 members; the Trilateral Commission, an organization of leaders in the private sector founded by him and committed to discussion of issues of global concern; and the Bilderberg Group, an annual conference of political leaders and experts from various fields to discuss major issues facing the world. All this, while becoming the family patriarch and looking after a fortune that came to him mostly through trusts set up by his father, and that is estimated at $2.8 billion, which makes him #193 in the current Forbes 400 List of the richest people in America.
|On a visit to Abu Dhabi in 1980, shaking hands with Jawad |
Hashim, President of the Arab Monetary Fund.
If one goes online, where conspiracy theories run wild, one can easily find websites warning that so-called Globalists are working secretly to establish a one-world government that will suppress national sovereignty and individual liberties and rule the world. Who are these nefarious individuals? International bankers, the super rich, the elite, members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and other mysterious, secretive, suspect organizations, including the Illuminati, an 18th-century secret society in Bavaria that opposed superstition, prejudice, and the influence of religion in public life, and that supposedly survives to this day. Among today’s suspect elite, obviously, David Rockefeller looms large, albeit at the age of 98. These power mongers, these “banksters” are everywhere, theorists assert; they manipulate everything, they will destroy the world as we know it.
And what does David Rockefeller say to these charges? In his autobiography Memoirs, published in 2002, he observes: “For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with [Fidel] Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing me and my family as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it” (Memoirs, p. 405).
“Aha!” cry many conspiracy theorists, seeing this statement as a brazen confirmation of their charges. But Rockefeller has in no way confessed to participation in a conspiracy, only to advocating a “more integrated global political and economic structure.” He then goes on to see his critics as influenced by Populism, and observes that Populists believe in conspiracies and consider him the “conspirator in chief.” He insists that the Rockefellers’ international role during the past half century has produced tangible benefits like the defeat of Soviet Communism, and improvements in societies around the world as a result of global trade, improved communications, and greater interaction of people from different countries.
So far, I think the defense of this “proud internationalist” sounds valid. David Rockefeller one of the Illuminati? Why not throw in the Hitlerjungen and the Ku Klux Klan as well? Except that, so far as I know, those groups lacked international connections and therefore might be allies of the conspiracy crowd. Rockefeller was certainly a lord of think tanks, but that doesn’t make him and them a clutch of conspirators. The conspiracy gang whom I have encountered online – and they are legion – strike me as paranoid; frankly, they are just plain nuts.
So let’s escape from cloud cuckoo land and enter the realm of possibility. Not all Rockefeller’s critics allege a worldwide conspiracy; rather, they see a shadowy permanent government that really runs this country, with whom our elected Presidents have to come to terms. Gary Null seems to be one of this tribe, though I’d need to know more about his views to be certain. But there are other voices of the Progressive Left whom I have to take seriously. Noam Chomsky has argued that the Trilateral Commission’s report The Crisis of Democracy, proposing solutions for the “excess of democracy” characteristic of the 1960s, embodies “the ideology of the liberal wing of the state capitalist ruling elite.” He sees the Commission as advocating “more moderation in democracy,” a more passive and obedient citizenry less inclined to put undue restraints on government. He also asserts that the Commission had an undue influence on the administration of President Jimmy Carter.
|President Carter hosting the Trilateral Commission, 1978.|
Rockefeller must have been there, probably in the first row.
Whether I fully agree with Chomsky I’m not sure, but I listen to him. The Trilateral Commission is a creation of David Rockefeller, so any criticism of it implies criticism of its founder. Chomsky’s assertions aren’t all over the place, sniffing out conspirators everywhere; he is focused in his attack and raises questions well worth pondering.
So where do I end up? David Rockefeller has had a vast network of connections and has no doubt wielded tons of influence, perhaps at times too much. He has shunned the public arena, prefers quiet private conferences, is never flamboyant, eschews attention-getting gestures, is really quite quiet, even colorless. (Eschew: I love this word, even if it sounds like a sneeze.) But that doesn’t make him a conspirator or a nefarious person. He’s only one of many of the elite exerting influence on our government and society. Confirming my impression of him as an individual are reminiscences of him by my partner Bob’s doctor, who long ago met Rockefeller and conversed with him on several occasions. He found him very knowledgeable, very personable, unassuming, and easy to relate to, which is remarkable, given his privileged childhood.
Yet if Rockefeller or his associates are promoting the free-trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being secretly negotiated now, then I have to agree that they are potentially eroding our national sovereignty. According to certain leaked documents, the TPP would exempt foreign corporations from our laws and regulations, and let them challenge those laws and regulations as being unfair practices in restraint of trade. Our hard-won regulations on clean air and clean water, for instance, could be imperiled, not to mention countless other measures, and this worries me a lot. And if Rockefeller isn’t personally involved in promotion of the TPP (he is, after all, 98), like-minded people of great influence certainly are. And the general public is barely aware, if at all, of what is going on. Whether it involves a conspiracy or not, the TPP merits scrutiny and should be fought tooth and nail, unless its proposed provisions are radically revised. So score one – and a big one – for David Rockefeller’s more responsible critics, among them Gary Null.
|Leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership member states, 2010. Guess who's beaming, right smack|
in the middle? No, it's not David Rockefeller.
Gobierno de Chile
Even so, my impression of the Rockefeller clan is favorable. They have long since risen above their robber baron origins, which were tainted with labor strife, to become philanthropists and patrons of the arts on a grand scale. John D., Sr., gave millions to worthy causes and created the Rockefeller and other foundations; John D., Jr., created Rockefeller Center at his own expense, and with his wife helped launch the Museum of Modern Art; and David’s brother Nelson, as Governor, built the magnificent Empire State Plaza in Albany, and in his will left his interest in Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, so that it is now open to the public. (For Rockefeller Center, see post #87, From Ghosts to Grandeur: Fifth Avenue; for the Empire State Plaza, see post #18, Upstate vs. Downstate: The Great Dichotomy.) All in all, this city, state, and nation owe them a lot.