Conspiracy Corner – Abstract Expressions of the CIA

Every Thursday, about 8:15am, Matthew talks with Ethan and Zac on 95bFM’s “Breakfast Show” about conspiracy theories.

When we think of the CIA we tend to think of a big, bad organisation where people scheme and plot to make trouble for people who made the mistake of not being American. This isn’t necessarily too far from the truth, but sometimes it pays to remember that that CIA is not quite the homogenous beast that maybe we’d like to paint it as being. In the late forties, fifties and sixties CIA agents liked to drink hard, write novels and collect Art (yes, with a capital) and many of them looked down upon the weirdness of McCarthy and his purges.

Which explains, to a certain extent, why the CIA developed the “long leash” and funded things like Abstract Expressionism. Well, that and the role Art played in the development of a thesis of cultural supremacy over Russia in the Cold War… (of which you can read more about here)

Now, at one point in the segment I was asked whether the CIA funding of art (like Abstract Expressionism) had any real effect. I said a few things along the “Probably not” spectrum of response, but, really, I should have said “I’m no art historian or sociologist, so I couldn’t really say.” So, art historians and sociologists (and culture theorists and critical theorists, et cetera), sorry. I fumbled at answering that particular question and I bow to your expertise. Come, correct me. I welcome you with open arms.