Definitely the latter.
While Marx himself and subsequent Marxists often flamboyantly revile the "bourgeois class" in what seem to be attributions of conscious intent, this absolutely must be taken as figurative or, at the very least, inconsequential. While Marx's writing style was at times wonderful, invigorating, and wholly Dickensian, my own feeling is that this polemical excess has had an unfortunate afterlife. Symbols must motivate mass historical change, but the political hyperbole of the era clung to Marxism in often debilitating ways.
Marxism is structural, as Althusser asserts...but also a 19th-century "humanism." The bourgeois may or may not have some inkling of what they are doing. It doesn't matter. They too are "victims" of Capital or History and forced to compete in ruinous ways by the communications structures of which they are participants or "particles," if we may say so. This structuralist view of Marxism is essential to its continued relevance, and is, I believe, completely warranted by Marx's writings.
Having said that, Marx was also cognizant of the political dimension, as were Adorno, Horkheimer, et alia. On the smaller scale of the 19th century Germany, England, America, indeed there were smoked-filled rooms. Politicians, financiers, industrialists, landlords competed viciously with one another, but reverted to default class interests whenever faced with "crisis." Sometimes with vulgar transparency, as in the Polk or McKinley administrations.
Similarly, it would be absurd to suppose that Hollywood directors, bankers, rentiers, or even "news" moguls like Murdoch have any class omniscience...or even well-reasoned class initiatives. They may think they do...or not. It doesn't matter. They will "in the last instance," as the phrase goes, revert consciously or unconsciously to class imperatives. But Marx definitely preserves, in material translation, the Hegelian "cunning of history." To the extent that anyone is a Marxist, as the Frankfurt Schoolers ostensibly were (I have my doubts), this is fundamental.
One word of caution. Because intent and agency are are not easily defined, my own feeling is that "conspiracy thinking" is not thereby ruled out of court. The very concept of "para-noia" is to hold "para-llel" interpretations of events. Behavior must be the empirical basis of interpretation, but hypothesis about intent must also be continually applied.