Matt Welch on the new propaganda

The Bush administration has returned to the covert propaganda tactics of the Cold War, says Matt Welch. And In the process they’ve “forgotten one of their most potent weapons: the truth.”

In a recent essay for Reason Welch writes:

…the CIA served as what the foreign policy eminence George Kennan …once called an unofficial “Ministry of Culture.” It sent Jackson Pollock to Berlin and Dizzy Gillespie to the Middle East, funded dozens of U.S. publications, and laundered money to writers and thinkers through Time Inc. and the Ford Foundation.

These “covert ties were exposed in 1967 by the muckraking lefty magazine Ramparts”, says Welch. And now similar propaganda efforts are being exposed by the American media. The big story last year was:

…the news, first broken by the Los Angeles Times, that the Defense Department covertly owned at least one Iraqi radio station and newspaper, and has been secretly handing bags of cash to Iraqi journalists in exchange for writing pro-American articles and for running military-generated puff pieces disguised as Iraqi reporting.

Will a return to cultural propaganda methods of the Cold War work? Did they work the first time round? In a review of seven of the most important books on culture and foreign policy during the Cold War, John Brown of the
USC Center on Public Diplomacy writes:

There are basically three schools of thought about the role of culture in international relations during the Cold War. The first is that the United States, in effective and justifiable ways, used cultural — and educational — programs that helped open up and eventually bring to an end a closed, repressive society, the Soviet Union…
The second school reflects a leftist suspicion of the U.S. and its power in the world. It depicts American cultural programs in the early Cold War as covert actions of dubious morality and effectiveness that were part of the effort to roll back the Soviet Union and convert Western European elites to pro-Americanism…
The third school on culture and foreign policy in the Cold War lies somewhere in between the first two. While it acknowledges the validity and success of some American cultural programs, it casts doubts on the motivations and organizational soundness of the governmental agencies supporting them.

According to Welch, the Bush administration has based its entire strategy on Interpretation No 1.

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Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

I wonder how much they’re paying Iraq the Model?

Evil Pundit
15 years ago

The cultural propaganda methods of the Cold War worked. That’s a good reason to use them again.

Ken, would you like it if I asked how much the Iranians are paying you?

It’s very offensive, and usually wrong, to accuse bloggers of being on someone’s payroll without any evidence, merely because you disagree with their opinions. It’s a cheap shot that says more about the accuser than the accused.

Of course, in cases like those of Oliver Willis, who openly and proudly acknowledges that he is an employee of a left-wing lobby group, such considerations are relevant.