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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





Receptivity, as well as being affected by characteristics of individual members of the elite and of their groups, is sometimes related to overlapping groups or clusters of groups. The influentials of the target area, for example, may be divided into many groups, but many possess a common religion which will make them receptive to a message in terms which will evoke the cues of their religion. To give another example, if the influentials are especially concerned with a project, such as the development of a hydro-electric power plant, they may be drawn into clusters which will cut across normal groups and make them receptive to messages related to their interests in the project.

Analysis of the power structure of the target area will generally show a considerable amount of overlapping of the more permanent groups. Such target clusters are available to the operator over long periods of time, provided that he can locate them and use them effectively. Analysis also may reveal clusters which are less permanent, being related to projects or issues. These are perhaps less difficult to use since their relatively short life land their singleness of purpose make it difficult to relate the message and to deliver it in time to take advantage of them.


XXVIII-1. Type of permanent clusters of overlapping groups. Permanent target clusters can be of many types. They may relate to profession (as in some states which have a large number of lawyers or professors in the elite), they may relate to business activity (as export trade in a nation whose power structure is dominated by such a group), they may relate to a common educational experience (as for many British influentials), they may relate to a common important political experience (as the March on Rome for the Fascists elite of pre-war Italy, the beer-hall putsch of the Nazi elite of pre-war Germany, the long march of the communist elite of China). There may be a "clique" within the elite whose membership is a common informal group (which has no apparent power purpose) provides a bond.

Such ties may be very strong for the influentials related by them and may actually be more important than more obvious association such as membership in the same political party or participation in more "visible" organizations, such as parliaments or cabinets or councils. An American example of such cluster is the "farm bloc" in the U.S. Senate, which is very effective group despite varying geographic, political party, and socio-economic background of the members who constitute it. Actually, the farm block has survived many of its members, and, in fact, the operator should be alert for such long-term clusters which may represent interests almost independent of the persons who physically represent them at any given time.

The usefulness of the cluster of this type to the operator depends upon two factors: (1) the commonality of the tie which produces the cross-group cluster; (2) his ability to relate his message to cues which will evoke this commonality; (3) his ability to avoid antagonizing sub-cluster identifications, as for example, when a person addresses a group of Americans, mainly of Norwegian extraction, and says he likes Americans but dislikes Norwegian.

XXVIII-2. Complexity of clusters. Actually, the operator may sometimes find that a cluster does exist, but that the commonality factor is weak or is interfered with by the strength of more basic group associations. Thus, the possession of common religion may bind all Catholics in a given community very strongly, but the fact that they are divided into Catholics who are workers and Catholics who are employers may make the composition of a suitable message all but impossible. The presence of a number of lawyers may bespeak a cluster, but it may be, in fact, seriously split, because the lawyers are members of two violently contesting political parties.

The potential complexity of any such target cluster, therefore, should always be kept in mind. Even groupings based upon socio-economic characteristics may indicate a kind of spurious commonality. A study of Iranian extremists (potential elite or sub-elite) showed that they had striking similarities in residence, amount of income, in attitudinal areas such as lack of attachment to traditional values, and in behavior patters, such as amount of social activity. Yet this apparent "cluster," which one might consider as having a common receptivity, was actually made up of individuals from the extreme "left" and from the extreme "right". While it might be possible to construct a message which would utilize the similarities of this pseudo-group, it almost seems certain that the message would fail with one extreme or the other, and most likely, would fail with both.

The problem is essentially one of evaluating the strength of the "reference group" which creates the target cluster. If it is strong enough, and if the message can be constructed in terms which will evoke the wanted cues and not the unwanted ones, the operator may use it effectively. If these conditions cannot be met, he had best refrain from attempting to reach the cluster.

XXVIII-3. Temporary clusters. The less permanent groupings caused by projects or issues may be easier to perceive, although here also the operator must exercise care, particular in using the overlapping produced by an issue. In seeking to utilize the latter, he must not only analyze the cluster carefully, but must also examine the issue which created it. An "issue" immediately suggests division, the taking of sides, the splitting up of a total group rather than the uniting of it. The divisive effects of issues may often create grave dangers for the operator who uses them incautiously. Nevertheless, issues also have a coalescing effect, in that they bring together adherents  –  and opponents  –  from a variety of backgrounds and associations into new associations which may form a useful cluster.

It is important to analyze the issue in terms of its relationship to both short-range and long-range U.S. policy. Is there a side of the issue more favorable  –  directly or indirectly to U.S. Policy? Does the issue contain implications for the future which may prove difficult or embarrassing? Is there a danger of backing the wrong horse? Is the divisive effect of the issue likely to be so strong that any association with it will have a negative effect?

XXVIII-4. Dangers of persistent ‘in-group’ feeling. Even though issues may divide the influentials of the target into hostile groups, there remains the possibility that a strong "in-group" feeling will persist despite the division. This may make the entry of the operator into the arena downright disastrous; his message aimed at an apparently favorable cluster may be interpreted by both sides as an "intervention into our local affairs." Factors which seem to be important in determining whether the utilization of the issue-cluster will be regarded as a friendly gesture of "intervention" usually relate to whether the message was phrased, timed, or delivered in a manner likely to evoke reactions related to local pride. Sometimes the message has been stated too bluntly; sometimes it has been delivered at a time which makes its pressure just too obvious to be accepted. In the terms of this discussion, if the message uses cues which evoke local or nationalistic feelings, it has, in fact, reached a larger "cluster" than was intended. The response is then in terms of associations broader (and possibly stronger) than those related to the issue. The message will have boomeranged.

XXVIII-5. Clusters formed by projects. A much more felicitous grouping, as far as the operator is concerned, is that which remains after an issue has been resolved and influentials are brought together in a resulting project. The very constructivity of such activity provides a strong common bond that will often obscure group differences and make the influentials receptive to a message which relates to the project. Of course, there will be projects possessing this constructive aspect  –  as far as the influentials are concerned  –  which will represent very hostile activity in relation to the operator’s mission. But if the activity is friendly or neutral towards U.S. policy, there exists a cluster of influentials which is identifiable and which makes a receptive target.

If the project has come out of the resolution of an issue, the identification of the cluster will be relatively easy and there will be little problem in timing the message. However, if the project has developed, or is developing, without public controversy, identification of the target may be quite difficult. And it is at this point, when the first decisions to go ahead with a project are being made, that the top power wielders will be most concerned and most receptive. Later, when such a project becomes more public, it will be easier to identify, but the receptivity cluster may be considerably enlarged and the message actually may go primarily to second level influentials. Thus the early identification of a project cluster is imperative, if the operator hopes to reach the top power wielders and to utilize their concentration upon it as a means of finding a receptive cluster.

XXVIII-6. Operator-created cluster. The opportunity for the operator to create a receptivity cluster for his messages by initiating a project himself, should not be overlooked. Choice of a project will depend upon his own resources and upon the local situation, but if they are favorable, he may generate a cluster where none previously existed. His previous analysis of the power structure will be most useful here. His project should be presented initially to the top power wielders in an informal and non-public fashion. Having gained their assent, or assurance of co-operation, or indication at least of non-opposition, he can move by successive steps through the power structure and eventually into the execution of the project.

An effective next step after approval of the project by the top influentials is the creation of a community committee, drawing upon influential groups to name members to study and perfect the project. At this level there may still be direct participation by top power people, but the bulk of the persons involved actually will be second level influentials, chosen with the approval of or as the representatives of the prime influentials. The selection of committeemen from a variety of groups will also assure that the various power groups of the community are represented and have a chance to participate in and to shape the project in accordance with their own desires.

At this level, publicity for the projects may be initiated, although it may be possible to wait a later stage when the cross-group cluster has been more firmly welded together. A device to assure that timing of general publicity for a project is controlled is to get early participation of top influentials in the communication field. Newspaper publishers or editors-in-chief, radio station owners or managers, and others in similar positions, can and will prevent premature publicity, especially of the type which might evoke the charge of "intervention in local affairs."

If the project is such that the services of technicians or experts are required, they also may be brought in on a collateral basis. But the project should never be turned over exclusively to experts; the danger of this is that it may become completely formed, even inflexible, before it has been made acceptable to either top or second level persons who are important not as experts but as general influentials. A useful manoeuvre is to have the committee of influentials control the reference of technical matters to the experts and to concentrate their own attention upon policy matters. This is usually easier to accomplish at the top power level than at the secondary level.

Even though there may be no mass media publicity at the earlier stages of committee discussion, members of the committee should be encouraged to report to their groups frequently, to seek suggestions and improvements to the project plan, and to pass along information. Eventually, the relatively small committee may be enlarged by the addition of delegates down the line of the power structure. These individuals can function, in turn, by carrying information about the project out into the total community and by winning support for it and active participation in it by members of the population at all levels.

When the project reaches this stage, the full use of the mass media should be made. The advance work done in the power structure of the community will usually assure that the possibility of effective opposition arising has been minimized.

All of this discussion has presupposed that the project will relate as specifically as possible to the operator’s mission. Again, local conditions and his own resources will dictate whether he can choose a project that is directly relevant or whether he must work indirectly. The project is important, not so much in itself, but as a vehicle for messages and as a means of creating a favorable target cluster. A cultural affairs officer in Passau, Germany, accomplished his purposes quite directly by interesting the people in that community in a cultural festival, built around the idea of Western European and American unity. On the other hand, projects involving Point 4 specialists have often carried a minimum of direct, U.S.-favorable messages, though many indirect messages. The libraries of the U.S. Information Centers are often appropriate vehicles for the operation of the described project. In the creation of a receptivity cluster by this method, the operator might best remain behind the scenes. If he endeavors to "run the show" publicly and openly, he may offend local pride and may well wreck the project as well as ending up with less receptive targets.

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