Attorney and author Glenn Greenwald confessed Wednesday that he thinks America's oligarchs appear to be mostly focused right now on consolidating surveillance and military might without regard for discontent across society, risking major civil unrest.

Greenwald made the comments during a panel discussion on "The Young Turks," joined by journalists David Sirota and Michael Hastings. "I've not understood this for a long time," he said. "If you have serious social discontent, and you're a member of the elite and you perceive that discontent threatening the structure on which you position and privilege depend, which is what happens, people nearly always want the population pacified."

"You can do one of two things in response to that discontent: You can try to placate it, whether symbolically placate it or substantively placate it so you avoid that kind of extreme income disparity... [and] even things out a just little bit more, however much you need to calm people down; or you consolidate your own power so that even if people become discontent, there's nothing they can do to you because you've created this massive militarized state, this massive surveillance state. Our elite appears to be doing the later, and very little of the former, if any."

Cenk added that he believes billionaires on opposite sides of political issues still have many of the same intertwined interest, giving cause for someone like Warren Buffet to ask the Koch brothers, "What are you doing, you schmucks? We throw a fig leaf on it! What we do is say, 'historic financial reform' when it's a tiny bit of financial reform. We say 'historic health care reform.'"

Greenwald added at the end of the segment that John Rockefeller "used to drive down the street and throw coins to people, not because he cared about them but because he didn't want people hating oligarchs. He wanted to placate them and pacify them, and there's very little of that [today]. It's surprising to me, not because you expect them to be moral, but because you expect them to be smart."

This video is from "The Young Turks," aired Wednesday, May 8, 2013.