02/04/2024 lewrockwell.com  10 min 🇬🇧 #245994

The Transformation of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs

By  Ron Unz

 The Unz Review

April 2, 2024

Two weeks ago  I published an article on Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, prompted by some of his recent public remarks.

During one of his regular weekly interviews on Andrew Napolitano's podcast, he had briefly stated that the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy had been the result of a conspiracy involving elements of the CIA. He went on to suggest that the killing might have been "the most decisive event in modern American history" and wondered whether any of our subsequent presidents had been anything more than mere "factotums of the system," completely subject to the powerful hidden groups that actually control our society.

Such sentiments would hardly be uncommon within fringe, conspiratorial circles, but in sixty years I do not think they have ever been publicly expressed by an individual of Prof. Sachs' elite establishment stature, and others shared my opinion.

A dozen years ago I had discovered that since the early 1990s a prominent progressive academic I know had been absolutely convinced that the JFK assassination had indeed been engineered by those sinister forces, but he had always carefully kept those views to himself. He now told me he was shocked by Sachs' public courage on the matter, although even a year before he had already been tremendously impressed by Sachs' remarkable candor: "no question he's the most important public intellectual we have."

That previous endorsement had been prompted by some of Sachs' earlier statements on other matters. As chairman of the Covid Commission, Sachs had declared that the virus responsible for killing more than a million Americans and perhaps another twenty million worldwide had almost certainly been produced in a biolab, while he denounced the U.S. government for desperately working to conceal those facts. After the 2022 outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, Sachs had explained that the underlying cause had been the 2014 American overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government and the years of NATO provocations against Russia that followed, with all of these dangerous policies being a result of the unbroken stranglehold that the Neocons had enjoyed over our country's foreign policy for more than thirty years. And on Bloomberg TV, he stated that America had obviously destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines, Europe's most important civilian energy infrastructure, thereby committing the greatest act of industrial terrorism in world history.

In late 2022 these developments had led me to publish  an article on the remarkably outspoken Columbia University scholar, and since that time all his activities have further strengthened my verdict. All of us can say whatever we like on a corner of the Internet, but I emphasized that when a figure of very high international standing takes that same position, the impact is considerably different:

Until just a few months ago, I doubt there were many American academics more solidly situated in the topmost ranks of our elite mainstream establishment than Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University.

In 1983 he gained Harvard University tenure at the remarkably young age of 28, then spent the next 19 years as a professor at that august academic institution; by the early 1990s the New York Times  was already hailing him as the world's most important figure in his field. Lured to Columbia University in 2002, he has spent the last couple of decades teaching there and also directing a couple of its research organizations, most recently the Center for Sustainable Development. TIME Magazine has twice ranked him among the world's 100 most influential individuals, and for nearly twenty years he served as Special Advisor to several Secretary-Generals of the United Nations, while publishing many hundreds of articles and op-eds on a wide variety of subjects in our most influential media outlets.

It would be difficult to construct a more illustrious and establishmentarian curriculum vitae for an international academic figure...

Although he has retained the subdued manner and careful phraseology of a mild academic, in recent months the incendiary content of his published articles and his public statements have exploded across the global landscape, reaching many millions who might otherwise never have questioned what they were so uniformly being told by all our mainstream media organs. His critics defending that orthodoxy must surely believe that he has gone dangerously rogue, and given the enormous weight of his past credibility, I suspect that the phrase "rogue elephant" has sometimes entered their thoughts.

Last month, Napolitano took a short break from his show to speak at a Vatican conference on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, and after his return he thanked Sachs for having arranged that invitation. Sachs himself had also attended as a speaker, and Napolitano expressed his amazement that the American economist had been greeted with such admiring recognition by the Roman Catholic cardinals who attended, almost suggesting that they had treated him as a conquering hero.

Sachs' influence is hardly confined to those Princes of the Church. A central element of the West's power is its overwhelming control over the global media infrastructure, whose continual stream of propaganda shapes the ideas and beliefs of most of the world's population, even including political leaders, multi-billionaires, and influential celebrities. A handful of publications sit at the apex of that media hierarchy, with the Economist certainly being one of these, and given the dramatic recent decline in quality of the New York Times, that former publication might now possibly even rank as first among equals. Since 2015, the top Economist editor has been Zanny Minton Beddoes, whose first job out of college was working as a young assistant to Sachs during his highly successful early 1990s restructuring of Poland's post-Communist economy. Although I know nothing of their relationship, I assume she spent most of the last three decades filled with admiration for her early former mentor, and if so, she must surely take his highly controversial remarks of the last couple of years quite seriously, even if she understands that they cannot possibly be mentioned in print.

Sachs' personal background includes some memorable events. In a couple of his discussions on the roots of the Ukraine conflict, he recalled that in 1991 he was seated in a room discussing economic policy with Russia's top leadership when all of them were suddenly informed that the Soviet Union had officially been dissolved, allowing him to experience a historical moment shared by few if any other Americans.

Over the last few months, he has been extremely outspoken in his denunciation of Israel's ongoing slaughter of tens of thousands of helpless civilians in Gaza, even declaring that Israel was controlled by "a criminal government," and he had regularly emphasized the need for international organizations to take public action on the matter. Soon afterward, South Africa successfully charged Israel with genocide before the International Court of Justice, whose distinguished jurists affirmed those accusations in a series of near-unanimous rulings. Although I have no evidence, I suspected at the time that Sachs may have used his extensive network of influential global connections to help set that legal project into motion.

I've also noticed that despite Sachs' extremely outspoken public statements, none of those groups and organizations that so fiercely monitor political speech in America have dared to publicly attack him. I think they realize that his international stature is simply too great and any such failed attacks would merely make them look weak and ineffective.

After publishing that recent article, I assumed that many months would pass before I would directly focus again on Sachs and his work, but I was quickly proven wrong.

No sooner had my piece appeared than I discovered that Sachs had been interviewed by Piers Morgan, a British former cable TV host of decidedly mainstream sentiments, with such an appearance representing a significant media breakthrough. In their exchange, Morgan demonstrated that he had been living entirely within the cocoon of our official narrative regarding Russia, Ukraine, and Gaza, and was deeply ignorant of the important facts that Sachs brought to his attention. But much more importantly, those facts were also probably surprising to many of the half-million viewers who watched that discussion on Youtube, thereby perhaps helping to shift some of them in a different direction.

Two weeks earlier, Morgan had similarly interviewed Prof. John Mearsheimer, an eminent political scientist and close Sachs ally on those same issues, with similar results. Indeed, an overwhelming majority of the Youtube comments were critical of Morgan's strictly establishmentarian position.

But even more importantly, I discovered that Sachs had also just published a new article surely as controversial as anything he had previously written.

In that piece, he outlined the overwhelming accumulated evidence that the Covid virus had been the product of American bioengineering technology and was developed by American government funding. Although he certainly recognized that China's Wuhan lab might have been the immediate source, he emphasized that several American biolabs had also been undertaking very similar viral research at that time, and argued that a full investigation of all those possible sources of the virus was warranted. His provocative title- "What Might the US Owe the World for Covid-19?"-summarized his controversial conclusion that America would probably need to compensate the rest of the world for having unleashed such a devastating global plague that killed tens of millions and disrupted the lives of many billions more.

Considering both his international stature and the very broad range of his courageous public positions, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs may easily rank as the most consequential American ideological defector of the last one hundred years, with no comparable name coming to my mind.

I suspect that a sociological factor may have contributed to Sachs' easy willingness to violate so many powerful ideological taboos. Most Americans, even including most American academics and intellectuals, exist in a world completely dominated by our own mainstream media, knowing that much of their social circle and peer-group would be horrified or outraged at any sentiments too far outside those acceptable boundaries. If most of your friends and associates are "normies," you may be very reluctant to take positions that would alienate them.

Sachs, however, has been an influential academic on the world stage for more than three decades, and he seems to spend much of his time traveling to international conferences at which he is often a prominent speaker. So unlike so many of his American colleagues, he is a global figure and his peer group and social circle is an international one, with many of their views likely shaped by entirely different media environments.

Even the early votes in the UN General Assembly on the Israel-Gaza conflict found America and Israel standing almost alone, with more than 150 countries ranged on the other side, including many of our strongest allies. The U.S. has regularly cast the sole dissenting vote in the 15-member UN Security Council and Sachs has often mentioned that many of his top-ranking international friends have expressed their horror at our government's current policies. So while his controversial views might be very disconcerting to some of the assistant professors and office interns at Columbia University, they are probably much more in line with those of the senior world figures whom he has known and considered his friends for the last twenty or thirty years, a situation that surely fortifies his personal confidence in taking those positions.

Over the last decade or two, I've noticed the increasing signs that our own country seems to be following the unfortunate trajectory of the late and unlamented USSR, its longtime Cold War rival, and perhaps may similarly be heading towards the dustbin of history. President Joseph Biden certainly recalls memories of decrepit figurehead leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev or Konstantin Chernenko, while Sachs may represent our own Andrei Sakharov, a figure at the very top of the Soviet academic hierarchy who publicly broke with the corrupt, despotic, and decaying regime that had once so greatly honored him.

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