Neil deGrasse Tyson: A celebrity salesman for the military-industrial-complex


Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (left in dark glasses) PHOTO/Tricia McKinney/CC BY 2.0

The idea for this article came from one of those annoying “Recommended for you” thumbnails on YouTube. The title was: “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Trump’s Space Force Is Not a Crazy Idea.” Having written about and researched space weapons for over a decade, I was intrigued as to why a seemingly intelligent man (Tyson) would want to help promote an agenda that will literally imperil us all, namely the weaponization of space: the end-game of which is global domination in the interests of economic neoliberalism. So I clicked. Tyson was talking to host Stephen Colbert about the wonders of space militarization (by the US, of course, not its enemies).

It turns out that Tyson is promoting a new, co-authored book, Accessory to War: the Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (W.W. Norton, released, tastelessly, on 11 September), which is all about the history of science militarization. The book is a disgraceful attempt to use history as an excuse to justify the continuation and expansion of taxpayer-funded R&D into hi-technology via military budgets. By now, the hi-tech sector dominates the top US corporations: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Much of the innovations used by these companies were initiated in the military.

Tyson is doing the rounds on national media, including Colbert and CBS This Morning, to promote the book and more broadly continued public expenditure on the Pentagon. After a little digging, I found that America’s favourite astrophysicist is a glorified salesman for the military-industrial-complex.

Tyson’s military-science background

Having graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Tyson went on to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Columbia University in 1991. From 1996, Tyson has been Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Pretty soon, the George W. Bush administration was calling on Tyson’s talents for all things space-related. Under President Bill Clinton, the Space Command (later Air Force Space Command) announced plans to dominate the entire world by force, “Full Spectrum Dominance” as the successors continue to call it. In 2001, under Bush, the Rumsfeld Space Commission, sought ways to expand the weaponization of space to reinforce US-led corporate globalization and the architecture — satellites, GPS, the internet, etc. — that supports it. In the same year, Tyson became a formal employee of the Bush administration. One of his biographical webpages states:

“In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.”

The Final Report of the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, on which Tyson worked, makes for an interesting read. It starts from an elite-nationalistic viewpoint, namely that of maintaining US supremacy in innovation before, discussing in Appendix G: “Astronautical research and development, including resources, personnel, equipment, and facilities; Outer space exploration and control.” “Control,” no less. Controlling space is a core part of “Full Spectrum Dominance.”

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