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?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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