The Club Of Rome

One of the groups that Alex Jones cites incredibly often when he starts rattling off "Globalist" enemies who are out to destroy humanity is The Club of Rome.

The name evokes mental images of an ancient order, or at very least something stuffy and aristocratic. Its almost perfectly designed to evoke distrust in an anti-elitist audience trained to distrust everything.

In my experience, Alex never really discusses who The Club of Rome is; the furthest he goes is to say that one of his assertions is backed up by "the Club of Rome documents." It's always implications, letting the listener's mind fill in the gaps and assume the worst.

As is so often the case, the reality of something is far less interesting than the fantasy. In the real world, The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 by Aurelio Peccei, an Italian businessman who was a member of the anti-fascist resistance in World War II. His activities fighting against the Mussolini government earned him time in prison, made him the subject of torture, and eventually led to his having to live in hiding until the end of the war.

After the war, he went to Argentina to restart the operations of Fiat there, as he had been involved with the car company previous to the outbreak of hostilities. While there, he became keenly aware that the efforts of modernizing and elevating third world and developing countries were not going well, a realization that would go on to inform the rest of his life's work.

Peccei began to draw the attention of many world leaders with a keynote speech he gave at a Latin American development conference in 1965. Due to interest in his speech, he would go on to meet then Director General for Scientific Affairs for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Alexander King, and the two set about putting their brains together (along with many international thinkers, businessmen, etc) to address the issues they saw as most pressing for humanity, and (cutting through a lot of the minutiae) The Club of Rome was conceived.

From the outset, The Club of Rome sought to look at problems and their potential solutions differently than most. For them, the issue boiled down to how humanity has been accustomed to looking at difficulties. Our brains like to look at a problem and view it as a singular problem with a clearly defined cause, but the real world does not necessarily work like that, at least not on a macro scale.

The Club believed that a great deal of the world's problems were in fact interconnected, and in order to deal with one, you would need to address many of the other related problems. For example, you cannot solve issues of poor health care in the third world without considering the effect that having more people alive in a particular region will affect overpopulation concerns, food supply, or civil unrest. This is not to say "don't work to improve the health of third world populations, it will just lead to people starving;" it is a plea for people to recognize how attempting to solve one problem independently does not work and that the only path forward is to look at the interconnected problems, and their intersections, as one whole.

They called this whole "the problematique," and you can read all about this in their founding document from 1970, The Predicament of Mankind.

The document lays out a plan, where the Club will set out to research and explore new ways of looking at the problems facing the world, and how they all more or less boil down to one central concept: systems of imbalance.

In The Predicament of Mankind, they lay out a list of 49 "critical continuing problems," which even they admit is a limited list. Each problem listed could have branching problems springing forth from them, they concede. That being said, it's a pretty good list of worldwide concerns, and it is interesting to view them from that primary viewpoint that each depicts an imbalance in one form or another, be it an economic imbalance, ecological imbalance, or societal imbalance.

The problems range from "hardening discrimination against minorities" to "widespread poverty around the world;" from "growing irrelevance of traditional values and continuing failure to evolve new value systems" to "widespread failure to stimulate man's creative capacity to confront the future." They touch on all sorts of problems.

Reading over the list, it struck me that there were a number of these problems that Alex Jones would absolutely be on board with solving. To wit:

7) Expanding mechanization and bureaucratization of almost all human activity.
25) Generally inadequate and obsolete institutional arrangements.
36) Irresponsible use of pesticides, chemical additives, insufficiently tested drugs, fertilizers, etc.
38) Fragmented international monetary system.
46) Ill-conceived use of international agencies for national or sectoral ends.

I could very easily imagine Alex complaining about any of those things, and in fact, I have heard him complaining about all of those things. In fact, that first one there, the "expanding mechanization and bureaucratization of almost all human activity" is pretty much what he explains is the "Globalists' end game." Strange to see it listed here, as a major problem, in a "Globalist" organization's founding document.

But that's not the only curious aspect here.

Alex Jones refers to the "Globalists" as "technocrats," arguing that they see technology as a replacement for humanity and that technology is the answer to everything. Weird to see this listed as Problem #44 for the Club of Rome:

Growing tendency to be satisfied with technological solutions for every kind of problem.

They are explicitly saying, in their flagship report, that the notion that technology can solve everything is a major problem facing humanity. They are, in effect, making the opposite argument that Alex thinks they are.

It goes on. Alex believes that the "Globalists" wish to wrestle control away from the people, leaving mankind in bondage. They don't want you to have any say in what happens. This makes it strange that this is listed as Problem #41:

Inadequate participation of people at large in public decisions.

It is a Critical Continuing Problem, in the eyes of The Club of Rome, that individuals, citizens, normal humans do not participate more in public decisions. And they are correct.

But there's more. Alex also often argues that the "Globalists" are in the business of trying to start wars, and that they employ "strategic tension" to achieve their goals. What he essentially means is that, simply put, as long as North Korea has nukes, they will always be there to be used as a fear prop to distract the public while the "Globalists" push through a piece of their dehumanizing agenda. I wonder if one of The Club of Rome's problems relates to that:

Polarization of military power and psychological impacts of the policy of deterrence.

So weird. So damn weird.

Reading through The Predicament of Mankind, you see a snapshot from a group of thinkers in 1970, looking at the crises they see as most relevant for man to address. You see many problems that they nailed; they were issues 47 years ago, and are still issues today.

Mysteriously, you will also see many instances of them making arguments that are in direct contradiction to the positions that Alex Jones says they make, which only leaves me with two theories as to how that can be:

  1. Alex Jones is illiterate.
  2. He's just mad that they also mention pollution and "major disturbances of the world's physical ecology," which could be understood as climate change.

I was very confused as to why Alex Jones hated The Club of Rome after looking into their history, their founders, and reading some of their early documents. They are stridently non-political, their goal is legitimately to help all of mankind, and they aren't even in the business of making policy, just in studying these problems and offering possible solutions.

I needed to learn more, so I did some digging into their more recent publications. Thankfully, you can find most of them on their website.

There's one from 2005 called "The Limits of Privatization," which I could see scaring Alex, who probably feels that there is nothing that should not be privatized. What is interesting about this report is that the subheadline is "How To Avoid Too Much Of A Good Thing," which indicates that The Club of Rome also feels that privatization is a good thing, but that when private and public are in imbalance, problems arise. Maybe Alex just hates nuance?

In 1982, they put out a report called Microelectronics and Society, about the possible advantages and drawbacks of a potential future where most work is automated. The report looks at the trends in culture and adopts the position "if this automation is inevitable, what problems will arise and how can we address them?" It is really just classic "if this is true, what else follows" kind of analysis that you might engage in in a mid-level philosophy class.

What struck me about this report, though, was perhaps how much Alex Jones should like the conclusion they come to:

...there will be, on the global scale, millions of people for whom there will be little or no work in the traditional sense of the word...What is to be done with that part of the population, how can we find occupation for all? The simplest solution would consist in introducing continuous education in diversified forms...
All people would find a sensible field of activity and hence a new “sense of life,” and society at large would have an opportunity of putting into effect the old humanistic ideal of developing “a universal man,” i.e. one who has a many-sided education and is thus capable of changing his occupation as need be.

What you have there is a "Globalist" organization arguing that, should automation get rid of many of the unskilled sectors of work in the future, we should implement a system where people were free to become renaissance men or women. We could achieve an "old humanistic ideal!"

This breakdown is already too long, but I have one last thing to point out, in case you are not yet convinced that The Club of Rome is not a secretive, evil, anti-human organization.

In 1976, The Club of Rome released a very alarmingly named report: "Reshaping The International Order." That sounds like Alex's picture is starting to come into focus. This group wants to reshape the international order according to their own anti-human designs!

If you're getting worried, I would invite you to read the blurb on The Club of Rome's website about this report:

An uneven document, it can sometimes be quoted against itself; the tone is, in turn, hortatory, pragmatic, defiant and sweet.

I don't know when the last time a secretive, evil, supervillian type organization put out a document laying out their grand plans then posted it, with the very public caveat that it is not very good and is in fact self-contradictory.

This boils down what The Club of Rome really is. It is a think tank, exploring how many of the world's problems are interconnected and related to systemic imbalances. They are wrong sometimes, and display candor and humility about that fact.

Many of their stated goals are completely in line with what Alex Jones purports to be about, but it appears that he cannot get around the idea that they care about the particular imbalances of pollution, resource management, and economic disparity. In his inability to understand where they're coming from, he's transformed the Club into a bogeyman which he uses to scare his audience.

Damnedest thing. That happens to be Problem #37:

Growing use of distorted information to influence and manipulate people.

Postscript: The First Global Revolution

After writing this essay, I was not satisfied. I just didn't get where the all hate was coming from, so I consulted some conspiracy websites to try to get a better sense of what makes the Club of Rome so evil.

A great deal of it boils down to a quote from the 1991 report, The First Global Revolution:

In searching for the new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which demands the solidarity of all peoples. But in designating them as the enemy, we fall into the trap about which we have already warned, namely mistaking symptoms for cause. All these dangers are caused by human intervention and it is only through changing attitudes and behaviors that they can be overcome.

The real enemy, then, is humanity itself.

That last line sounds so scary!

What conspiracy theorists are trying to do here is a classic case of taking things out of context. They pretend that the opening line of that quote is the authors of the report admitting that they had created global warming out of whole cloth, when what they are saying is abundantly clear if one actually reads the preceding paragraphs.

This is the final paragraph of Chapter 5, titled "The Vacuum," a reference to the expression "nature abhors a vacuum." The main point of the chapter is that there are a lot of forces at play that are hurting social cohesion, thus there is a vacuum there, and if we are not careful, something destructive, like extremism or a dictator, could end up filling that void.

Among the sources of this decline in cohesion, the public trust in government has been replaced by "indifference, if not hostility," largely borne out of a recognition that our government is not equipped to deal with modern problems. Elected leaders lack the understanding of complex issues the planet faces, political parties have become primarily concerned with winning elections and playing team sports, and democracy as a whole is just not designed to respond quickly to immediate concerns (for example, responding to a dictator invading their neighbor requires debate, or at least it did in 1991, and in the time we are debating, thousands of people may be killed).

The report is not advocating for abandoning democracy. In fact, they say very clearly, "the crisis in the contemporary democratic system must not be allowed to serve as an excuse for rejecting democracy."

What they do advocate is reforms to how we operate:

There is the need to bring many partners into the process- business and industrial organizations, research institutions, scientists, NGOs, and private organizations- so that the widest possible experience and skill is made available. And, of course, enlightened public support, where the public is aware of the new needs and the possible consequences of decisions, would be essential.

The argument is that we need experts to be intimately involved, as the problems we face become increasingly complex. And further, we need a citizenry that understands what the realities of the world are being involved in decision making.

What the authors are advocating for is a means by which we can reestablish public trust and rebuild social cohesion around involvement and association with one's country as it faces the difficult modern challenges ahead. It is more or less saying that we need to recreate patriotism by giving the people a country that they are invested in and proud of, which will create a sense of shared purpose and identity.

That, in turn, will fill the vacuum.

And that brings us back to the scary quote from the end of the chapter. When the authors refer to "searching for a new enemy," what they are talking about is the cheap way to fill the vacuum that we have used historically. In the 1930's, the world came together against the evils of the Axis Powers. A little later, the West had Communism to use as a vacuum-filling enemy for a few decades. As of 1991, there was no convenient global villain to rally everyone around.

The problems of the modern world are the things they list: pollution, climate change, famine, water shortages. They weren't "Globalist creations," these are the real problems we must face, but it was a mistake to cast them as "enemies." 

They are problems, and they are made worse by human misunderstanding of them, or by intentional propaganda. Humans being indifferent or ignorant, that is the enemy, and the authors of The First Global Revolution just decided to end their chapter with a little bit of dramatic flair.

If only they'd have known how much their coming critics would be triggered by dramatic flair.