As seen in our extractor sector and investment sector samples, corporate elites are interconnected through direct board connections with some seventy major multinational corporations, policy groups, media organizations, and other academic or nonprofit institutions. The investment sector sample shows much more powerful financial links than the extractor sample; nonetheless, both represent vast networks of resources concentrated within each company's board of directors. The short sample of directors and resources from eight other of the superconnected companies replicates this pattern of multiple board corporate connections, policy groups, media and government, controlling vast global resources. These interlock relationships recur across the top interconnected companies among the transnational corporate class, resulting in a highly concentrated and powerful network of individuals who share a common interest in preserving their elite domination.
Sociological research shows that interlocking directorates have the potential to faciliate political cohesion. A sense of a collective "we" emerges within such power networks, whereby members think and act in unison, not just for themselves and their individual firms, but for a larger sense of purpose--the good of the order, so to speak. [xxviii]
Transnational corporate boards meet on a regular basis to encourage the maximunization of profit and the long-term viability of their firm's business plans. If they arrange for payments to government officials, conduct activities that undermine labor organizations, seek to manipulate the price of commodies (e.g. gold), or engage in insider trading in some capacity, they are in fact forming conspiratorial alliances inside those boards of directors. Our sample of thirty directors inside two connected companies have influence with some of the most powerful policy groups in the world, including British--American Business Council, US--Japan Business Council, Business Roundtable, Business Council, and the Kissinger Institute. They influence some ten trillion dollars in monetery resouces and control the working lives of many hundreds of thousands of people. All in all, they are a power elite unto themselves, operating in a world of power elite networks as the de facto ruling class of the capitalist world.
Moreover, this 1 percent global elite dominates and controls public relations firms and the corporate media. Global corporate media protect the interests of the 1 percent by serving as a propaganda machine for the superclass. The corporate media provide entertainment for the masses and distorts the realities of inequality. Corporate news is managed by the 1 percent to maintain illusions of hope and to divert blame from the powerful for hard times. [xxix]
Four of the thirty directors in our two-firm sample are directly connected with public relations and media. Thomas H. O'Brien and Ivan G. Seidenberg are both on the board of Verizon Communications, where Seidenberg serves as chairman. Verizon reported over $110 billion in operating revenues in 2011. [xxx] David H. Komansky and Linda Gosden Robinson are on the board of WPP Group, which describes itself as the world leader in marketing communications services, grossing over $65 billion in 2011. WPP is a conglomerate of many of the world's leading PR and marketing firms, in fields that include advertising, media investment management, consumer insight, branding and identity, health care communications, and direct digital promotion and relationship marketing. [xxxi]
Even deeper inside the 1 percent of wealthy elites is what David Rothkopf calls the superclass. David Rothkopf, former managing director of Kissinger Associates and deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policies, published his book Superclass: the Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, in 2008. [xxxii] According to Rothkopf, the superclass constitutes approximately 0.0001 percent of the world's population, comprised of 6,000 to 7,000 people--some say 6,660. They are the Davos-attending, Gulfstream/private jet--flying, money-incrusted, megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world, people at the absolute peak of the global power pyramid. They are 94 percent male, predominantly white, and mostly from North America and Europe. These are the people setting the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, G-8, G-20, NATO, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. They are from the highest levels of finance capital, transnational corporations, the government, the military, the academy, nongovernmental organizations, spiritual leaders, and other shadow elites. Shadow elites include, for instance, the deep politics of national security organizations in connection with international drug cartels, who extract 8,000 tons of opium from US war zones annually, then launder $500 billion through transnational banks, half of which are US-based. [xxxiii]
Rothkoft's understanding of the superclass is one based on influence and power. Although there are over 1,000 billionaires in the world, not all are necessarily part of the superclass in terms of influencing global policies. Yet these 1,000 billionaires have twice as much wealth as the 2.5 billion least wealthy people, and they are fully aware of the vast inequalities in the world. The billionaires and the global 1 percent are similar to colonial plantation owners. They know they are a small minority with vast resources and power, yet they must continually worry about the unruly exploited masses rising in rebellion. As a result of these class insecurities, the superclass works hard to protect this structure of concentrated wealth. Protection of capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world's defense spending, with the US spending more on military than the rest of the world combined. [xxxiv] Fears of inequality rebellions and other forms of unrest motivate NATO's global agenda in the war on terror. [xxxv] The Chicago 2012 NATO Summit Declaration reads:
As Alliance leaders, we are determined to ensure that NATO retains and develops the capabilities necessary to perform its essential core tasks collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security--and thereby to play an essential role promoting security in the world. We must meet this responsibility while dealing with an acute financial crisis and responding to evolving geo-strategic challenges. NATO allows us to achieve greater security than any one Ally could attain acting alone.