The CIA's highbrow operation to dismantle France's intellectual Left

By Gabriel Rockhill

A 1985 Central Intelligence Agency research document now released under the US Freedom of Information Act, shows how agents of the American spy agency closely followed the complex and influential works of the high priests of post-war French intelligentsia such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes, while they placed Jean-Paul Sartre under especial surveillance. Their aim was to encourage the divisions among intellectuals of the French Left and to fuel a global cultural war. Political theorist Gabriel Rockhill details and analyses the highbrow operation led by an agency more usually associated with assassinations and the covert manipulation of governments.

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It is often presumed that intellectuals have little or no political power. Perched in a privileged ivory tower, disconnected from the real world, embroiled in meaningless academic debates over specialized minutia, or floating in the abstruse clouds of high-minded theory, intellectuals are frequently portrayed as not only cut off from political reality but as incapable of having any meaningful impact on it. The Central Intelligence Agency thinks otherwise.