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During Cold War, CIA used ‘Doctor Zhivago’ as a tool to undermine Soviet Union (washingtonpost.com)
94 points by wglb 326 days ago | 30 comments



The CIA and the USA in general was involved in a lot of cultural material theorized to help undermine the USSR during the Cold War, _Doctor Zhivago_ is just the latest known example. See _The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters_ & _ Good and Plenty: the creative successes of American arts funding_ (excerpts from the latter: http://www.gwern.net/Culture%20is%20not%20about%20Esthetics#... ); other relevant links: http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20... / http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/What-was-the-Congre... / http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-w... / http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_t...

They bankrolled jazz, swing, orchestras, dozens of magazines (including some you may have heard of), translations such as of T.S. Eliot....

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In a sort of self-referential loop, a large part of the propaganda value to many of these, certainly D.Z. in particular, is the fact that it was banned/censored in the USSR in the first place. Obviously that wasn't the only factor that gave it value. It had to have other elements to it (such as being written by one of the greatest Russian authors, provoking unconventional thought, etc. -- obviously banned garbage would have remained garbage). But a large part of its hit on the credibility of the leadership of the USSR, which is what gave it propaganda value, was essentially self-inflicted.

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It's important to emphasize the CIA was funding publications targeting the American mind. National Review, Time, and US News and other publications were taking in tax payer dollars (through shell companies) with orders to promote a certain world view. The CIA was also funding art movements. Look into Jackson Pollock and the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

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>National Review, Time, and US News and other publications were taking in tax payer dollars (through shell companies) with orders to promote a certain world view.

Do you have a citation?

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Given that National Review was founded and run by William F. Buckley, Jr., I don't think that it took a lot of persuasion to get it to promote a certain world view. And Henry Luce had his world view pretty well set before Allen Dulles ever even dreamed of the CIA.

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It took money to keep National Review from bleeding red ink.

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This was likely part of Operation Mockingbird [1]: A large scale effort by the CIA to use media outlets and literature for propaganda purposes.

In a sick twist of irony Operation Mockingbird funded and arranged for the Hollywood production of the book "Animal Farm". It is believed they siphoned funds meant for the Marshall Plan.

Russians also struck back with propaganda efforts of their own. Operation INFEKTION [2] was a KGB operation to further the idea that AIDS was a man-made invention first produced in a U.S. laboratory.

Likely this hasn't ended. The U.S. military will provide access to their facilities and equipment, provided they get a cut on the movie script. Propaganda efforts to further the conspiracy that 9/11 was an inside job still prosper in Middle-eastern countries.

Current groups like "Anonymous" or the "Privacy-conscious" may very well be the target of propaganda attacks. Next time the media vilifies TOR as a network for criminals, it may pay to double-check the source.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_INFEKTION

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> In a sick twist of irony Operation Mockingbird funded and arranged for the Hollywood production of the book "Animal Farm".

How is this ironic? Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a critique of Stalinism.

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Maybe because Orwell was principally anti-authoritarian. His critique in Animal Farm was at Stalin (represented as the pig 'Napolean'), not Marx ('Old Major').

So it's ironic that his anti-authoritarian work was used as propaganda by a state. Propaganda tends to be the tool of Stalin-esque dictators.

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> Propaganda tends to be the tool of Stalin-esque dictators.

Not even close to true. Anti-authoritarian revolutionaries utilize propaganda to further their causes just as much as authoritarians do to solidify their positions. For example, Thomas Paine wrote propaganda for liberalism against British colonialism.

There's nothing remotely ironic about the CIA sponsoring an anti-Stalinist work.

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Fair enough, maybe the author can explain why it's ironic.

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>Not even close to true >There's nothing remotely ironic

You seem to have made up your mind on this, but just in case you want to understand my view better:

A book with heavy anti-propaganda themes is used for propaganda purposes. That's irony. It's sick if Orwell knew this and yet agreed to his anti-Communist political writings being disguised in a story and used to destabilize the farms on other states. Because that means that all propaganda is equal, but some propaganda is more equal than others. That's sheer egoism, hypocrisy and political pandering.

A secret organization that uses propaganda and deception to destabilize other states, using black budgets siphoned off from "economic recovery plans" (which in reality was (motivated as) an anti-Communism plan), that's eerily close to a dangerous totalitarian state. Using popular news media and culture to further government propaganda is eerily close to the organized lying that Orwell so despised.

"If the director of CIA wanted to extend a present, say, to someone in Europe—a Labour leader—suppose he just thought, This man can use fifty thousand dollars, he's working well and doing a good job - he could hand it to him and never have to account to anybody... There was simply no limit to the money it could spend and no limit to the people it could hire and no limit to the activities it could decide were necessary to conduct the war—the secret war... It was a multinational. Maybe it was one of the first." --Thomas Braden

Orwell regarded propaganda as a feature of all modern governments but especially prominent in totalitarian regimes. His book may have become a Squealer the Pig. Accusing the other party of cheating, then both tabling an ace of spades.

You are free BTW to change the word "irony" to any word you like that makes that sentence more agreeable to you (fate/remarkable/without cause etc.).

In February 1976, George H. W. Bush, the recently appointed Director of the CIA, announced a new policy: "Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contract relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station." He added that the CIA would continue to "welcome" the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists.

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> It's sick if Orwell knew this and yet agreed to his anti-Communist political writings being disguised in a story and used to destabilize the farms on other states.

Orwell was not anti-communist, he was anti-Stalinist. Orwell himself was a democratic socialist.

Before he died in 1950, Orwell enjoyed a dramatization of Animal Farm broadcast on the BBC. I'm not sure he would have been upset, or found it hypocritical, to have a film version made in 1954.

> His book may have become a Squealer

Perhaps writing anti-Stalinist propaganda condemning Stalin's use of propaganda is hypocritical. But one would have to ignore the content of the message and focus only on the means of delivery to call Orwell a hypocrite. And why would he not want to see wider dissemination of his message?

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Did you know three skyscrapers collapsed on 9/11? In fact, prior to the downfall of the third tower, Larry Silverstein instructed the NY Fire Department to quote "pull it" [i]. Subsequently, Silverstein Properties issued a statement claiming that when Larry Silverstein advised the NY Fire Department commander that “the smartest thing to do is pull it,” what he meant was that it would be wise to pull a contingent of firefighters out of the building [ii].

In your opinion, what accounts for the unbelievable discrepancy between this account by Larry Silverstein, and the NIST's official conclusion that WT7 collapsed due to office fires?

What about the eye witness accounts by NY firefighters claiming to hear, feel and experience "explosions" in the lower lobby of the other towers? [iii]

Oddly, very few people who are for 9/11 truth are saying 9/11 was an inside job. In fact, most of the people who are saying 9/11 is an inside job are either undereducated or have an agenda to discredit the wider 9/11 truth movement.

Look, with all of these discrepancies, why is it that modern life as an American citizen demands a steadfast, unquestioning belief in the official story? Isn't it at least _conceivable_ that the official story isn't completely forthcoming with the facts? Isn't it important we get this one right seeing as the NSA's illegal suspicionless surveillance program is _predicated_ on the events of 9/11 being true?

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jPzAakHPpk

[ii] NIST NCSTAR 1-9, Structural Fire Response and Probable Collapse Sequence of World Trade Center Building 7, Draft for Public Comment, August 2008, pages 301-302. See http://wtc.nist.gov/media/nist_ncstar_1-9_vol1_for_public_co...

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2cViy34b1A

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I can't stand 9/11 conspiracy theories.

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It seems ridiculous to give credence that a US president would authorize a conspiracy that caused loss of Americans in a Fortune 500 filled Mecca in the center of an economic Mecca. Really doesn't make sense to self inflict that much pain even if for oil or excuses for war.

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Precisely.

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Ian McEwan's "Sweet Tooth" [0] was partly inspired by the CIA's secret funding of Encounter magazine [1].

He also makes reference to to Frances Stonor Saunders' [2] book "Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War" [3] which is about CIA funded cultural manipulation (on my bookshelf, but only dipped into it a bit).

Fascinating stuff.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Tooth_(novel)

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encounter_(magazine)

[2]: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1862073279

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

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I think this is a fascinating story. Doctor Zhivago is a hauntingly beautiful work --- one of my favorite books and films, certainly, and I am surprised by its importance as a political tool --- really, as a tool of propaganda! I found this story deeply interesting, and it notably answers questions and rumours that had been standing for fifty years. It's an important piece of journalism.

I now only wonder if the CIA had any similar involvement with the 1965 film...

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> Doctor Zhivago is a hauntingly beautiful work

Pasternak, of course, was above all a poet. If I recall correctly, his poet friends (especially Anna Akhmatova) reacted with dismay to his writing that novel at the end of his career—not for political reasons, but for artistic ones. That seems hard to fathom now.

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Inspired by other posts here, the interesting discovery for me was "Who Paid the Piper?"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1862073279/

From the comments:

"the financing by the US government of a secret cultural propaganda programme under the cover of `philantropic' foundations" (...) A major propaganda `instrument' was God. As the author states: `Political virtue was to be submitted to a long standing Christian tradition of obedience to the law of God. By invoking the ultimate moral authorities, the US acquired an unanswerable sanction for her manifest destiny.'

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Well... Why didn't KGB use {some book} as a tool to undermine USA? Didn't USA have any weak points to attack culturally?

I've heard similar stories and they don't sound good for USSR if you think of it. Your enemy deploys a new kind of weapon on your turf and you can't answer.

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Books were not interesting for them because US didn't censor books.

But they did other stuff. For example, read "Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer" that is written by one the senior counter-intel people from KGB (he handled Ames and Hansen).

He talks about some "projects" and "operations" KGB did in this regard.

Here is a few of them (some already mentioned):

* Planted rumors in newspapers (AIDS was created by US scientists to kill off the black people) [ I remember hearing this one as an urban legend ]

* US sometimes naturalized ex-German active Nazi supporters. Sometimes the Soviets had better archives and trails left than what Americans had. In one case they shamed and pointed at one of the Dept of State workers who was concentration camp guard (and lied about it).

These ones I heard from other places (usually growing up they pop-ed up as "urban legends").

* Planted rumors that US was importing Latin American children and extracting their organs.

* When US was dropping bombs in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam war, I remember hearing that US deliberately designed their cluster bomblets to look like toys, made them not explode on contact with the ground, with a hope that a child would find them, start playing with it and then it would explode. Message was "US deliberately targeted children with advanced weaponry"

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"* When US was dropping bombs in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam war, I remember hearing that US deliberately designed their cluster bomblets to look like toys, made them not explode on contact with the ground, with a hope that a child would find them, start playing with it and then it would explode."

You're thinking of the BLU-43; the Soviets used a similar design in Afghanistan.

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"Books were not interesting for them because US didn't censor books"

Did for a while: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Chatterley%27s_Lover#Unite...

Lady Chatterley's Lover was one of a trio of books (the others being Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill), the ban on which was fought and overturned in court with assistance by publisher Barney Rosset and lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959

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They did other stuff like helping the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.

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And the Civil Rights Movement, perhaps ironically.

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Wasn't Beavis and Butthead a KGB plot ?

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Kudos to the CIA

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I wanted to upvote this, but WaPo's mobile experience is terrible. There's a top bar that appears when scrolling up, but disappears when scrolling down (when did scrolling start to mean "do something completely unrelated to scrolling"?), and a position:fixed ad on the bottom of the screen that protrudes from the page like knives threatening to stab my eyes. When I reached another inline ad that clashed with the position:fixed ad, I gave up on reading the article.

I understand that ads are how many sites make money, and I've long resisted putting adblock on my phone. But too much is too much. I'm getting sick of full-page clickjacking interstitial laggy popups ("cloud" ads on Ars Technica mobile) and position:fixed eyesores that are too distracting to read the article.

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