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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites




Coded punch-cards are numbered among the devices which the human mind has developed to carry out its logical processes with less fatigue and without interferences caused by memory and calculation that are part of its total complexity. The active storage of data is an increasing problem of human operations in an age of practical science. Practically every field of observation on which technical, scientific and administrative action relies for guidance has expanded beyond the easy recall of a simple or collective intelligence. In artillery firing, for example, more and more weapons are employing target finding systems that perform automatically - by mechanical or electrical means – the analysis of data that once was done in primitive form by the gunner. The intelligence function in actions involving human relations has similarly resorted to more automatic facilities for storing information and readying it for use. Hundreds of bibliographies, censuses and public opinion studies, for example, employ coded punch-cards to hold their data in a form that may be swiftly and routinely analyzed.

The use of punch-cards in propaganda-target analysis is new, but the pattern of needs, types of data used, and analytic procedures demanded are analogous to widely tested and quite practical operations, in other fields. As with other techniques and facets of elite target analysis, the use of punch cards is limited by personnel, considerations of time, the availability of comparative data, and the number of cases that are relevant to the operator’s interests. When the technique has been generally explained, its limitations may be better understood and the operator will be not only armed with its advantages but warned against its weaknesses.


The punched card is the central tool in a kit of techniques that improves greatly any day-to-day intelligence operation based on a fair-sized number of cases about which a number of comparable items of potentially useful information is known. The card itself is any size of cardboard suitable to hold the data estimated for its surfaces. It may hold prose material upon it, but its essential contribution is to hold punches to which standard meanings are assigned. Thus, an occupational status, "lawyer" is not usually written on the card but is recorded on it in the form of a punched hold that occupies a set position on the card. Only other cases who are "Lawyers" have the same punch in the same place, so that when, from a number of cases of different skills, lawyers are to be selected, the separation may be accomplished by a simple manual or machine operation that isolates all lawyers’ cards and only lawyers’ cards from the universe of cards. Subsequent breakdown of lawyers into communist or socialist, old or young, rural or urban, etc. may be accomplished by exactly analogous operations upon the isolated cards of the lawyers. In other words, the fundamental method of coded, punched card analysis (as against certain kinds of scoring or total computing systems) is analysis by successive subtraction of irrelevant cases from the original universe.

Both hand-and machine-sorted cards may be used in elite target analysis. The latter system, of course, requires more elaborate machinery for punching the cards and sorting them; it requires a greater capital investment and certain amenities such as electricity and servicing. But in operation it is little more expensive than the hand-sort process. The operations of punching, storing, sorting and counting hand or machine cards are semi-skilled. They should be distinguished from the acquiring of data, the intellectual development of the coding system (which is fundamentally a classification of data), the coding of the actual case, and the analysis of findings, which are challenges to professional skill. The basic punched card operations, whether by hand or machine, may be learned and a reasonable speed attained within a few days. One feature of both kinds of punched card operations is that they may be delegated to workers with scanty bi-linguistic knowledge or knowledge of the contents; the officer need only order the required punches, sorts and counts and accurate results can be obtained, provided the worker is reliable and can read, add, and copy arabic numerals. Wherever several hours a day must be devoted to manual card operation, converting to a machine operation becomes an economic possibility.

Hand-sorted cards have one or two rows of holes along one or more edges.

A meaning is given to single holes or combinations thereof. Whenever a case in hand has a given meaning, its card is clipped open at the hole assigned to that meaning. To isolate all cards of a given notch, corresponding to an identical meaning, a long pick or needle is used.

The needle is inserted into the hold and lifted; as the needle moves up it carries with it all the cards that have not been notched to that hold, and drops all notched cards.

The notched cards are the relevant cards – e.g. "lawyers" in the example cited above.

Machine-sorted cards can store much more data than the hand-sorted type because they may be punched throughout their surfaces. For example, the kind produced by International Business Machines Corporation contains eighty rows of twelve positions each.

Obviously a large number of relevant characteristics of a leader or an organization (newspaper, party, association, etc.) can be contained on a single card. If even more data is relevant, it can be punched onto a supplementary card which will then form part of a second deck containing supplementary cards on all the individuals or organizations in the universe being analyzed.

Machine-sorted cards are mechanically punched

according to a code prepared in advance. When used, they are fed automatically through a sorting machine in which the punched holes of any single column are automatically sensed by electrical or mechanical contacts and fed into appropriate piles.

The piles may then be manually counted, unless, as is usually (and preferably) the case, an automatic counter is geared to the sorting to present complete sums for each pile at the end of a sort or a run.

These brief descriptions of punched card methods are not intended to launch the operator fully into punched card operations; many small details and instructions must be learned at the inception of such operations. However, it is fair to say the complications will not multiply, and that the use of punched cards is not a difficult or remote extension of the logical processes ordinarily engaged in when the operator records any information on the elite or wishes to use any such information to choose targets for his messages.


Considering the dozens of offices whose requirements are in mind here, it is impossible to state precisely the circumstances under which punched cards should be resorted to and the extent to which they ought to be used. No elite is so small as to preclude their use. A couple of hundred leaders of importance to the operator’s policies are found in every area, enough cases to employ at least a hand-sort in punched card system. It may be assumed that those 200 or more cases will each have twenty or more characteristics – such as occupation, religious habits, and past and present office-holding experience – that should be made readily accessible. The beginnings of a card system then are already suggested. Adoption and extension of the system will follow according to a number of criteria:

1) The more numerous the elite the more necessary a resort to punched card records.

2) The more complicated and divided the elite, the more useful will punched cards be. Memory and ordinary files succumb quickly under these circumstances. Also, the need for separatistic appeals is enlarged, requiring more systematic and careful attention to divisions.

3) The greater the number of special missions aimed at partial or limited targets the greater the need for punched cards. (Here there is a mutual effect and one will discover that the greater the use of punched cards, the more able the operator to undertake special missions aimed at partial or limited targets.)

4) The greater the number of individual or personal targets, the more useful is a card system. In deciding to whom personal attention should be given, a card system can be used to reduce a large elite to those particularly important. Then individual scrutiny of cases can be used to select single persons for contact.

5) The greater the turnover in operating personnel, the greater the value of a card system. Many operators will recognize the disillusioning experience of going through the intelligence files of a predecessor. Such files are often mere memory-jogging or miscellaneous collections peculiar to the previous operator. Frequently the files become quite dead upon a succession in office. A punched card file is as live to the newcomer as to the oldtimer, because the code index to the card is as much as anyone need know to use almost all of it.

6) The more complete the data and the more standardized the data on individual elite members, the more useful a card system. A card system requires having information on the same item (say, occupation or party affiliation) for all or most persons in a file to whom the item pertains. So far that matter does any useful record system, but there is no use engaging in a punched card operation when the records are quite inadequate. (Conversely, however, the attempt to convert records to punched cards will sometimes reveal the inadequacies of an informal system of records that had been highly trusted, and will reveal intelligence gaps that can be filled.)

7) Punched cards may facilitate content analysis. Suppose the operator wishes to discover the trend of opinion on the U.S.A.’s Point 4 program in Country X. He may accomplish this by instituting a deck of cards, each one of which represents a newspaper of specified characteristics (periodicity, size, circulation, partisanship, location, ownership, etc.) for each issue of the selected sample of issues over the time period in question, the ascertained sentiments (favorable – neutral – unfavorable – no mention, etc.) may be punched onto the cards so that both a continuing trend analysis on this issue and a conclusive trend analysis at the end of the period may be made.

8) Punched cards may facilitate the analysis of elite institutions. An initial deck of cards may be composed around the press of an area, for example. The important factors that determine the power of periodicals or newspapers can be initially punched onto cards, together with the results of an initial content analysis giving proportions of space devoted to domestic or foreign politics, editorial policies, political news, stance of relevant policies, etc. At any moment thereafter, a few minutes’ manipulation of the deck will provide a generalization about the press with respect to some question that arises in the operator’s mind.

The press is only one example of an elite institution whose analysis may be facilitated by punched cards. A deck of cards may be established with reference to voluntary associations in general (parties, factions, sects, employer’s organizations, labor unions, farm organizations, etc.). Into the cards may be punched the essential qualities of the association that relate to the operator’s policies, such as its size membership, political connections, prestige, publications, financing, and official and unofficial collective attitudes.

9) The deck can then be broken down under conditions set by any one of a number of missions. Suppose, for example, that a difficult U.S.A. policy is pronounced – difficult in the sense that it is indirect, devious, or tough – and the operator’s main immediate task is to muster all faithful local support of it. He can isolate from his association deck those groups most highly favorable to the U.S.A. and strive to activate them to its support. In a contrary case, where an American policy is ideally suited to impress and subdue the consistently opposed groups (e.g. the Supreme Court decision on race segregation in public schools), the operator can quickly isolate the associations consistently opposed to U.S. policies and communicate to them the meaning of the event, foreseeing that it is exactly the type of message to which they are likely to be most vulnerable.

10) The more answers that are sought by the home officer, the more useful a card system. For prompt, systematic answers to questions of concern to the central office’s policy and message-drafting agencies, punched card systems are superior to the ordinary record systems. A valid, generalized reply is always superior to and more impressive than a guess. The home office with its changing personnel and partial isolation from the field cannot laboriously weight every response or statement from the field by a thorough appraisal of each respondent operator. The more the reports stand on their own method and content, the more they may be accepted and used at a distance. Furthermore, the operator will find that orderly card files will save him trouble, time, the torment of writing lengthy narratives, and creative energy that may be more effectively directed at local targets.

11) When the central office needs full intelligence of certain types from the field but the field lacks analytic personnel, whole decks of punch cards may be duplicated at negligible expense and forwarded to the central files for preservation and analysis there.


Coding is the procedure by which information is put into categories. In the punched card process, coding is the process of organizing information into categories to which places are assigned on cards preliminary to punching the cards. Thus, if it is desirable to indicate the education of a politician on a punched card devoted to his personal characteristics, the coding process requires that his education (e.g. 7th grade) be fitted to a code category (e.g. "grade school or less") in a categorical series regarding education ("grade school or less," "high school," "college," etc.) In order that in a given position on his card, a punch may later be made to indicate the precise category he occupies. Later, the sorting process, if it is aimed at isolating all politicians of a grade school education or less as targets for a cartoon pamphlet, will surely select him along with all others of the same category. Thus, punched card coding transforms raw data into categories that in turn become symbols corresponding to positions on cards to be punched.

How does one establish the categories to be used in coding. To a small extent, one works backwards from the type of card to be used. If the card provides for only a few items, obviously the categories must be few and/or simple. More importantly, for the tail should not wag the dog, the categories should be as many and as refined as the future operation will demand, and the card (including supplementary ones) should be adequate to contain all the necessary punches. Referring to the text of the manual (paragraphs IV-6 to IV-9) for examples on categorizing of occupations, it will be noted that there are several ways of classifying the occupations of elite members. The operator may choose one of them as most useful for his area and problems, or most suited to the kind of punched card he is using. It should be noted that all the types mentioned group originally more particular categories into broader categories. Thus a man who is a lawyer (itself already a category) is placed in the category of professional according to one coding system. Then the professional category would acquire a distinctive punch-position on the card.

Some information is readily categorized and coded for card use. Other information is not. Biographical and organizational material is sometimes sharp and unambiguous, as information of place of birth or age. At other times and on very important points, data may be correctly categorized or coded only by the exercise of skilled judgment. For instance, a list of criteria for categorizing groups as communist-affiliated may be theoretically complete, but the question of assigning group X to that particular code category may be quite difficult if the evidence is incomplete, or ambiguous, or in any event, if the qualities of X do not correspond neatly to the criteria. Of course, a special code category to note the fact of ambiguous placement is always possible, but the more complete the categorizing of the item on all cases, the more easily and surely the punched cards may be used.

What are some code-categories that might be used in punched card form in the analysis of elite targets? The extent of one’s data, differences in purpose from area to area, or economic limitations will vary the number, length (or abbreviation), or formulation of the punched data. However, some typical useful codings can be presented here for personal, institutional and symbolic intelligence.

Personal Items that might be coded in various ways:

Age :

Birthplace : Rural or urban region

Place of upbringing : Rural or urban region

Residence at present : Rural or urban region or district
(actual residence can be carried on face of card).

Parental Status : Birthplace of parents

Education of parents

Occupation of father

Ancestral status

Parental religion

Excellence in skills : Substantive
(knowledge of Occupation: superior, excellent, good, fair, poor)

(bargaining, organizational, violence, oratory, other propaganda:

rank in order: superior, excellent, good, fair, poor.)

Education : Highest level attained

type of sponsorship of schools
(private, public, etc.)

skill specialization

Career : Primary occupation

secondary occupation

military experience

Elite posts held : (Allow coding of several in chronological order)

Present post (if any).

Membership in voluntary associations : Occupational, Political

Avocational, "Social" (clubs, etc.)

(record on face of card)

Wealth : Upper tenth, well-to-do, modest, poor

Marital record : Status of wife (if any) same, higher, lower. (Remarks in detail can be carried on face of card)

Favorableness to U.S.A. : Present attitude (rank 1,2,3,4,5) by degrees of favorableness)

in early career (if applicable)

Attention to general domestic issues : High, medium, low

Attention to general international issues : High, medium, low

Social network : Diffuse and general, "normal," tight and special

Political posture : Conservative, "Middle-of-road," radical

Temperament : Optimistic, normal, pessimistic

Drive : High energy, normal energy, low energy

Items on Institutions that might be carried on punched cards in various ways:

(name and address on face of card)

Social Location : Physical scope (area spread )

Number of members

Number of non-member followers
(usually an estimate or ration with membership)

Social scope (homogeneity of membership)

Function : Goals:
(production, propaganda, administration, social intercourse, power)

Functional Specialization:
(economic categories; religious categories; occupational categories; etc.)

Instrumental Specialization:
(bargaining, organizing, violence, propaganda)

Targets: (public, functional groups, the state, etc.)

Internal Organization : Centralization: (federal, informal, decentralized, unitary)

Formal system of leadership: constitutional or not; elective, co-optative, or hereditary

Social status differences between leadership and rank and file: (degree)

Informal system of leadership.

elective, co-optative or hereditary

Professionalism of leadership: wholly, partly, none.

Cohesion : (4 or 5 degrees)

Activity pattern:
extreme J-curve, moderate J-curve, moderate J-curve with significant minimum.

External Relationships : Contacts : (restricted, some, many)

Channel of contacts with elite: overlapping, direct, via other institutions, via public

Publicity : esoteric and clandestine; secret; secretive; public to membership, general publicity

: social (high, middle, low, heterogeneous)
: power (high, middle,low)
: efficiency (high, middle, low)

: legal (official, encouraged, accepted, illegal but tolerated, illegal)

Political Posture : Official attitudes towards U.S.A.(if any)

Unofficial attitudes towards U.S.A. (if any)

Position (if any) on domestic issues
(by type and degree of conservativeness)

Mode of Access : General press; special press; leader conferences; public meetings; special meetings; individuals; correspondence; direct mail

Resources : Propaganda apparatus (degrees of (besides membership) affluency); financial status (degrees of affluency); mode of financing (dues, contributions; assistance by government (types).

Items Usable in Punched Card Form for Institutional and Content Analysis of Press

(name and address of publication on face of card)

Periodicity : Daily, weekly, monthly, etc; irregular

Physical size : Number of pages on average Column

Inches to page

Format : Proportion photographic

Advertising : Yes or no

(if yes) proportion to other copy

Factual Tone : Scholarly, popular, breezy

Emotional Tone : Strident, moderate subdued

Proportion factual to opinion : (1-1,2-1,1-2, etc.)

Audience : Consumer vs. trade, business, and professional

If consumer, whether general or specialized

If consumer whether juvenile, mixed

If specialized, whether political form, religious, sports, adventure, confessional, movie, fraternal, photography, ethnic, etc., depending on country.

If trade, business, or professional, whether basic industry, manufacturing, distributive, retail, service, academic, etc. depending on country.

Proportions of material : Using above classes, note rank order of average news content to fifth degree

Attitudes to U.S.A.: Highly favorable; generally favorable; spotty; usually negative; hostile

Domestic policies : Conservative, middle-of-road, radical, inconsistent

Capital wealth : High, medium, low

Income : Well in black, in balance, in red

Reception of overtly processed release : Hostile, moderate, cordial

Average proportion of international news : If applicable

Control : Note principal owners and editors on face of card; personal; media entrepreneurs; industrial; foreign; party; association

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