May 26, 2019

Winnipeg
10° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Controlling the message

CIA infiltrated Cold War-era literary scene in America

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/2/2017 (827 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Central Intelligence Agency is part of America’s national security system, carrying an acronym linked to spies, dirty tricks, assassinations and violent regime changes throughout diverse regions such as Iran, Guatemala and Chile.

Joel Whitney, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics, constructs a compelling tapestry depicting members of America’s intellectual elite collaborating with this paranoid agency during the Cold War, confirming why novelists like John Le Carré were never short of grist for their spy mills.

He characterizes his book as being, “by necessity, a group biography, reconstructed from splintered histories of the time,” featuring literary figures colluding directly with the agency or with organizations funded by it and producing cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War era.

Readers will recognize the process as one where an illusory emphasis on freedom of the press in the U.S. engaged in a cultural war against an equally illusory promotion of a so-called worker’s paradise in the former U.S.S.R.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/2/2017 (827 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Central Intelligence Agency is part of America’s national security system, carrying an acronym linked to spies, dirty tricks, assassinations and violent regime changes throughout diverse regions such as Iran, Guatemala and Chile.

Joel Whitney, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics, constructs a compelling tapestry depicting members of America’s intellectual elite collaborating with this paranoid agency during the Cold War, confirming why novelists like John Le Carré were never short of grist for their spy mills.

Henry Allen / The Washington Post files</p><p>Author Joel Whitney singles out the Paris Review’s Peter Matthiessen as a literary figure with links to the CIA.</p>

Henry Allen / The Washington Post files

Author Joel Whitney singles out the Paris Review’s Peter Matthiessen as a literary figure with links to the CIA.

He characterizes his book as being, "by necessity, a group biography, reconstructed from splintered histories of the time," featuring literary figures colluding directly with the agency or with organizations funded by it and producing cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War era.

Readers will recognize the process as one where an illusory emphasis on freedom of the press in the U.S. engaged in a cultural war against an equally illusory promotion of a so-called worker’s paradise in the former U.S.S.R.

Shadowy relationships — some willing, some subtly coerced — are revealed as conspiracies whereby American foreign policy and American culture were portrayed in positive ways to counter the threat of leftist criticism. This was done by influencing reviews of books from authors worldwide, or by rewriting potentially damaging news for national newspapers.

Whitney has written for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and his book bristles with primary sources, interviews and copious notes, creating a scholarly window through which readers see an agency swaying a host of writers, editors and literary magazines, purposely blurring the lines between literature, news and cultural propaganda.

Although fraught with splintered chronologies, this exposé uncovers several agency-funded companies like the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which publicly promoted literary freedom but, according to Whitney, was designed to fund publications that would "promote an anti-communist ideology" while fudging news events of the day.

The book’s primary focus is on one magazine in particular, The Paris Review, launched with CIA support in 1953 when McCarthyism, the Korean War and a stare-down with a nuclear adversary created a Cold War that became the dominant news issue for several decades.

Influential literary figures such as George Plimpton and Peter Matthiessen, instrumental in the founding and subsequent success of the magazine, are singled out as long-rumoured yet consistent deniers of personal links to the CIA, and now are shown to have played the kind of roles which prompted the book’s title.

James Baldwin</p>

James Baldwin

Whitney tells readers his book is not meant to heap "moral condemnation" on the literary community, but rather to discover whether this former Cold War ideology, "favoring paranoid intervention into the media over adherence to democratic principles" still remains. He also references Carl Bernstein’s 1977 cover story in Rolling Stone that "exposed the depth of the domestic side of the undemocratic marriage of U.S. media and spying," during the U.S.S.R.’s occupation of Afghanistan.

Whitney explains how the cultural war was waged alongside the threat of nuclear annihilation, and identifies two approaches taken by the agency to counter any perceived Communist threat.

One approach featured the creation of literary magazines promoting American and European writers and cultural freedom — what Whitney calls a "push-back against anti-Americanism" — while the other one engaged in assassinations and blatant censorship that toppled left-leaning governments around the world.

Disclosing how these two approaches intermingled, Whitney takes readers across a false divide between the promotion of culture and anti-communism, which allowed unwarranted spying on leftist writers such as Ernest Hemingway, as well as James Baldwin, who became an ardent civil rights literary spokesman.

Whitney covers a long list of diverse, well-known CIA dirty tricks that were made palatable for America’s readership by linking them to the struggle against communism. These include deadly interventions on behalf of capitalist enterprises such as the United Fruit Growers’ banana plantations in Guatemala and a direct role in Che Guevara’s killing in Bolivia.

With its dark history of "undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism," Whitney reminds us that the CIA continues to pursue real and imagined enemies threatening the nation’s democratic ideals and vibrant capitalism.

Finks is a revelatory book, confirming that the most powerful nation in the world will use any means necessary to prevent what he describes as "robust criticism of the United States."

It may also prompt readers to draw their own conclusions about the CIA’s role in the recent U.S. presidential election.

Joseph Hnatiuk is a retired teacher whose distaste of propaganda struggles with a penchant for spy thrillers.

More Images

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us