Our Industrial-Complex Complex

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Fifty years ago today, outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower took to the airwaves to warn of the nation’s burgeoning military-industrial complex. With that, he not only introduced a powerful and still-relevant concept, but also a handy all-purpose suffix for describing ominous-sounding social forces.

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that in the years following Ike’s 1961 farewell address, usage of the phrase “industrial complex” took off, peaked during the Vietnam War, and has remained fairly constant since. That’s not a scientific measure, since it no doubt includes mentions of unrelated things like this. But it also reflects the spread of Ike-inspired phrases such as the now ubiquitous prison-industrial complex, Michael Pollan’s organic-industrial complex, the celebrity-industrial complex, the Christian-industrial complex, and the sports/athletic-industrial complex.

Not to mention the sex-industrial complex, the baby-industrial complex, the diaper-industrial complex, the birthday-industrial complex, the wedding/marriage-industrial complex, and the divorce-industrial complex.

Who’s behind the industrial-complex complex? Some of the blame must go to neologism-happy journalists like, well, us. Here are a few of Mother Jones‘ recent contributions to the list: medical-industrial complex, political-industrial complex, electoral-industrial complex, academic-industrial complex, housing-industrial complex, credit-industrial complex, tort reform-industrial complex, geoengineering-industrial complex, beauty-industrial complex, cancer-industrial complex, intelligence-industrial complex, security-industrial complex, mini-homeland-security-industrial complex, foreign aid-industrial complex, spelling-industrial complex. Phew. Did I miss any?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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