Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers
a book by Joel Whitney
(our site's book review)
When news broke that the CIA had colluded with literary magazines to produce cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War, a debate began that has never been resolved. The story continues to unfold, with the reputations of some of America’s best-loved literary figures—including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and Richard Wright—tarnished as their work for the intelligence agency has come to light.
Finks is a tale of two CIAs, and how they blurred the line between propaganda and literature. One CIA created literary magazines that promoted American and European writers and cultural freedom, while the other toppled governments, using assassination and censorship as political tools. Defenders of the “cultural” CIA argue that it should have been lauded for boosting interest in the arts and freedom of thought, but the two CIAs had the same undercover goals, and shared many of the same methods: deception, subterfuge and intimidation.
There are two CIAs—one pushes propaganda and the other topples governments—but they don't admit it
Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers demonstrates how the good-versus-bad CIA is a false divide, and that the cultural Cold Warriors again and again used anti-Communism as a lever to spy relentlessly on leftists, and indeed writers of all political inclinations, and thereby pushed U.S. democracy a little closer to the Soviet model of the surveillance state.
“A deep look at that scoundrel time when America's most sophisticated and enlightened literati eagerly collaborated with our growing national security state. Finks is a timely moral reckoning—one that compels all those who work in the academic, media and literary boiler rooms to ask some troubling questions of themselves—namely, what, if anything, have they done to resist the subversion of free thought?”—David Talbot, founder of Salon and author of The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America's Secret Government
The CIA was bent on turning the works of great writers into propaganda
Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers is a spellbinding cold war story about the exploitation of great writers (e.g., Ernest Hemingway) and it is a great book about a government agency bent on infiltrating everything they could infiltrate. Confirmation (by our leaders, our government, the director of the CIA, and by The Congressional Record) that the CIA really did this stuff is here: Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
In Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers, writer Joel Whitney debunks the myth of the CIA being a once-moral intelligence agency, revealing an extensive list of writers involved in transforming America's image in countries we destabilized with coups, assassinations, and other all-American interventions. The CIA developed several guises to throw money at young, burgeoning writers, creating a cultural propaganda strategy with literary outposts around the world, from Lebanon to Uganda, India to Latin America. The Agency would murder, spread lies, smear, corrupt, extort, blackmail, and blackball, while it also installed corporatocracy-friendly corrupt dictators. Then it used its army of journalists to create articles in magazines that cleaned up America's image, writing the prevarication-oozing cover stories to cover our U.S. ass. (Source: How the CIA Infiltrated the World's Literature, Mary von Aue, Vice)
The CIA Covered Its—and America's—Ass by Use of Naive Cultural Propaganda Writers
If the story of the CIA’s involvement in the publication of Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago is already well-known, many other incidents in Whitney’s narrative will come as surprises, few of them entirely agreeable. But in the end, the plan seems to have backfired inasmuch as many of the principals, Matthiessen included, drifted leftward and became fierce critics of their [CIA] sponsors and the [corrupt, empire-building, warmongering] government behind them. (Source: Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers by Joel Whitney, Kirkus Reviews)
Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers is a timely reminder of the distorting effect of power on artistic endeavours. As Whitney notes, this is particularly ironic when the values being promoted are freedom of expression and individual liberty. As the paradigm has shifted from the Cold War to the war on terror, with a greater emphasis on "information dominance", the need to remain on guard against new attempts at manipulation remains urgent. (Source: Book review: Joel Whitney’s Finks is a riveting account of the CIA’s plot to recruit literature to America’s cause, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad)
Zero Dark Thirty was about killing Osama bin Laden and it surely was NOT propaganda-free!
Recent controversies involving the Hollywood propaganda blockbusters such as Zero Dark Thirty and the Independence Day reboot, have shown US government agencies are not shy in leveraging culture to promote their strategic agenda. So it's not just books and articles that get targeted for said leveraging. It brings up the question of where you can go to get propaganda-free influences. The dark side of the moon springs immediately to mind. On Earth, you pays your money and you takes your chances.
Where you can go to get propaganda-free influences? The dark side of the moon!
The author discussed the notion that became chronic throughout the American media, which was that working journalists may justifiably do double duty as CIA assets, and that CIA assets may use the media in its many forms as cover, and as a soft power method of dampening blowback against its unpopular operations. John M. Crewdson in The New York Times outed scores of journalists who were CIA assets embedded across media as undercover agents. A former agent is quoted claiming, "We had at least one newspaper in every foreign capital," and those that the CIA did not own outright or subsidize heavily it infiltrated with paid agents or staff officers who could have stories printed that were useful to the agency and not print those it found detrimental.
CIA author-assets wrote U.S. propaganda for money which helped to reduce blowback from CIA crimes in Latin America and other places
Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers demonstrates that there was an eventual backlash in the literary community against these arrangements with the CIA as gatekeepers and censors. As the Agency’s image became tainted by covert operations around the globe, many left-leaning writers and editors began opting out of the propaganda machine they had once turned to for funding. But they didn't end up in mainstream media press (where truth was defined as whatever the CIA says it is).
The "intelligence" elites prevented the citizens from getting "fully informed" by their propaganda techniques which pushed people to support elite agendas that they would never have supported had they known the whole story and had they known the way elite misinformation was brainwashing them to act and think against their own interests. And authors who questioned the propaganda of the elite's bought-and-paid-for press were blacklisted, censored and smeared, thereby rendering them nonentities whose truths no longer were read. They put articles on alternative press sites like Alternet and published ebooks on Amazon, but their overall effect is small compared to the massive effect of the mainstream sell-outs.
The elites prevented the citizens from getting fully informed by their misinformation which pushed people to support elite agendas that they would never have supported had they known the real story. Citizens were choking on misinformation but most didn't realize it.
A half dozen media conglomerates owned and controlled all major TV and radio station syndicates; the print media, including newspapers, the educational books used in our schools and universities, and book and magazine publishers; the major internet service providers; music, video, and recording companies; and the Hollywood film industry. They had final editorial and censorship control of content—with CIA help.
Do we have freedom of the press? In your dreams!
In the year 1917, Congressman Oscar Callaway revealed the global elitists' plans to acquire control of the media, inserting the following statement in the Congressional Record:
"In March, 1915, the J.P. Morgan interests, the steel, shipbuilding, and powder interest, and their subsidiary organizations, got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. An agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information regarding the questions of preparedness, militarism, financial policies, and other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers." See Oscar Callaway Quote.
Harold “Doc” Humes, one of the founders of The Paris Review, cited an opinion that grew increasingly common as revelations of the C.I.A.’s vast propaganda apparatus were published in Ramparts magazine and The New York Times in 1964, 1966, and 1967. Namely, that any association with the super-secret spy agency—notorious for coups, assassinations, and undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism—tainted the reputations of those involved. See The Shadow Government: CIA involvement in the Kennedy Assassination, Vietnam, Iran Contra, Afghanistan, and Beyond, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan, and Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World.
"You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month."—CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor of the Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories to the mainstream media. (Source: Katherine The Great, by Deborah Davis, New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)
You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media."—William Colby, former CIA Director, cited by Dave Mcgowan, in the book Derailing Democracy.
"There is quite an incredible spread of relationships. You don't need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are Central Intelligence Agency people at the management level."—William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, briefing members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is from Carl Bernstein's Rolling Stone article published on October 20, 1977: The CIA and the Media.
Noam Chomsky outlines how propaganda works in the USA to make the dumb American sheep believe whatever the elites want them to believe, using the bought-and-paid-for mainstream media as tools.
All of the above CIA control of the messages inherent in literature, as well as mainstream media output, are enough to give one pause when contemplating the phrase "the free world." It turns out that unless one is willing to collaborate with CIA propaganda efforts, one gets blackballed, extorted, blackmailed, threatened, or fired. Sometimes "starving artists" were looking at choosing between starving or towing the party line, or losing ones job or towing the party line. These are the gentler motivating dilemmas—there were less kind ones as well.
And our rights have been diminishing alarmingly at the same time we've all become objects of surveillance by the national security state. We're "free" to throw away our computers so our emails and searches and viewing habits are no longer the NSA's playthings, and we're free NOT to protest or demonstrate so we don't end up on watch lists and even on no-fly lists. We're free NOT to drive around or walk around the streets where Big Brother's cameras watch our every move. So with all these "freedoms," why do we not FEEL more free?
Security cameras watch you everywhere—apparently not only Santa is checking whether you're naughty or nice
Security cameras, surveillance of your financial transactions, radio frequency spy chips hidden in consumer products, tracking of your Internet searches, and eavesdropping on your e-mail and phone calls. Without your knowledge or consent, every aspect of your life is observed and recorded. But who is watching the watchers?
By 2008, the idea of communications privacy in the United States had literally become a joke—our government watches your every move
Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!
It has been determined elsewhere (Democracy—an American Delusion) that the U.S. is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy where actions are of, by, and for the corporatocracy, not of, by, and for the people. Freedom of the press has been a delusion since 1917. Actions are taken for the good of the very rich oligarchs, not for the people. And yet the CIA works tirelessly to ensure the mainstream media spins the truth so it looks like the U.S. is the same wonderful democracy created by the Founders.
Churchill's Iron Curtain speech of 1946 solidified the reality of the free US and the unfree THEM: we have freedom, they have totalitarianism. This was the official start of the Cold War. Reagan later, in 1983, redubbed the commies as The Evil Empire. Later still, in 1991, the USSR broke up. Later still, in 2002, Dubya called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the Axis of Evil, probably jealous that Reagan had snapped up The Evil Empire before he could appropriate it. And yet, currently, in 2017, the U.S. is a corrupt oligarchy where elections are bought and all politicians lie most of the time, pretending to be for the people when they are really for themselves and the corporatocracy. Russia is also a corrupt oligarchy. The difference between the two is that even though both lie through their teeth and claim to be democracies, the Russians are worse fakers that violently oppress the press and indulge in kleptocracy.
The U.S. shadow government is warmongering and creating a neocon-led American Empire at the expense of the rest of the world
But is this worse than the U.S. and its campaign of terror against whomever they want (under the guise of a War on Terror—a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black), warmongering and creating an American Empire at the expense of the rest of the world? The Russians are not doing this empire building, but there are rumblings there that some of the oligarchs there would like to restart the Soviet Empire to fight against all the unprovoked U.S. aggression, and would do so except it's too damnably expensive—which is why the British ceased empire building in 1956, and in 1997 it lost Hong Kong so it can no longer be considered an empire even though it still has a few territories, as does the U.S.