View Full Version : Has There Ever Been a Better Patron of the Arts Than the CIA?

Magda Hassan
04-28-2014, 11:18 PM
Countering Thomas Piketty’s critique of inherited wealth, Tyler Cowen suggests (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141218/tyler-cowen/capital-punishment) that such dynastic accumulations of private wealth may be a precondition of great art:
Piketty fears the stasis and sluggishness of the rentier, but what might appear to be static blocks of wealth have done a great deal to boost dynamic productivity. Piketty’s own book was published by the Belknap Press imprint of Harvard University Press, which received its initial funding in the form of a 1949 bequest from Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., an architect and art historian who inherited a good deal of money from his father, a vice president of Bankers Trust. (The imprint’s funds were later supplemented by a grant from Belknap’s mother.) And consider Piketty’s native France, where the scores of artists who relied on bequests or family support to further their careers included painters such as Corot, Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Monet, and Toulouse-Lautrec and writers such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Verlaine, and Proust, among others.
Notice, too, how many of those names hail from the nineteenth century. Piketty is sympathetically attached to a relatively low capital-to-income ratio. But the nineteenth century, with its high capital-to-income ratios, was in fact one of the most dynamic periods of European history. Stocks of wealth stimulated invention by liberating creators from the immediate demands of the marketplace and allowing them to explore their fancies, enriching generations to come.
But the Belle Époque (and its predecessor) has got nothing on the CIA (https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/2014-press-releases-statements/cia-declassifies-agency-role-in-publishing-doctor-zhivago.html).
The Central Intelligence Agency on Friday, April 11th posted to its public website nearly 100 declassified documents that detail the CIA’s role in publishing the first Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago after the book had been banned in the Soviet Union. The 1958 publication of Boris Pasternak’s iconic novel in Russian gave people within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the opportunity to read the book for the first time.
The declassified memos, letters, and cables reveal the rationale behind the Zhivago project and the intricacies of the effort to get the book into the hands of those living behind the Iron Curtain.
In a memo dated April 24, 1958 a senior CIA officer wrote: “We have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country [and] in his own language for his people to read.”
After working secretly to publish the Russian-language edition in the Netherlands, the CIA moved quickly to ensure that copies of Doctor Zhivago were available for distribution to Soviet visitors at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. By the end of the Fair, 355 copies of Doctor Zhivago had been surreptitiously handed out, and eventually thousands more were distributed throughout the Communist bloc.
As it happened, Pasternak went on to win the 1958 Nobel Prize for literature, the popularity of his novel skyrocketed, and the plight of the great Russian author in the Soviet Union received global media attention.
Subsequently, the CIA funded the publication of a miniature, lightweight paperback edition (https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/cia-museum/experience-the-collection/index.html#%21/artifact/138) of Doctor Zhivago that could be easily mailed or concealed in a jacket pocket. Distribution of the miniature version began in April 1959.
These declassified documents about Doctor Zhivago are just the latest in a long line of revelations about how central the CIA was to the cultural and aesthetic life of the twentieth century (http://www.amazon.com/The-Cultural-Cold-War-Letters/dp/1565846648). Was there a better patron of abstract expressionism—of Pollock, Rothko, De Kooning, at least on the global scale—than the CIA? And while the Saunders thesis of the cultural Cold War (the thesis long predates her (http://www.amazon.com/agony-American-left-Christopher-Lasch/dp/B00005VBQB), of course, but she helped popularize it after the Cold War) has its problems and its critics, the CIA did fund literary magazines like Encounter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encounter_%28magazine%29#Founding_and_first_editor s), even Partisan Review (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/10/17/051017crat_atlarge?currentPage=all) when it seemed like it was going to go belly up, international tours of symphony orchestras and jazz ensembles, and art exhibits around the world.
And while we’re on the topic of government patronage of the arts, let’s not forget the Bolsheviks, who managed, before the full onset of Stalinism and Socialist Realism, to fund, support, and inspire some pretty damn good avant-garde art (http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Utopia-Avant-Garde-1915-1932/dp/0810968681). (And some not so good art: Ever since I learned that Ayn Rand developed some of her most enduring aesthetic tastes by attending, with the help of cheap tickets funded by the Bolsheviks, weekly performances of cheesy operettas at the Mikhailovsky state-run theater (http://books.google.com/books?id=FXj5A_htrQQC&pg=PA43&lpg=PA43&dq=anne+heller+ayn+rand+Mikhailovsky&source=bl&ots=rMa-0rcPb5&sig=fv2z3guR0PPsAGx8hOl0XmW61-c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6mNdU4uoEqLNsQTzvYDgDQ&ved=0CEgQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=anne%20heller%20ayn%20rand%20Mikhailovsky&f=false), I’ve held Lenin responsible for The Fountainhead.)
My most prized print is the poster of a 1971 exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of “Russian Art of the Revolution (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/939/Russian_Art_of_the_Revolution#).” It features El Lissitzky’s Sportsmen (http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=76247), which he did in 1923. (I managed to salvage it from the garbage after the office of a former colleague was cleaned out.) While eclipsed by the later exhibit at the Guggenheim (http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2010/02/bol1-f13.html), the Brooklyn Museum show was the first of its kind, I believe, in the States. In any event, it gives a good sense of what Soviet support for the arts achieved.


Cowen’s argument has a long history (https://coreyrobin.com/2014/04/22/tyler-cowen-is-one-of-nietzsches-marginal-children/), but it’s not clear to me why he believes it’s dispositive. When it comes to funding for the arts, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

CIA Declassifies Agency Role in Publishing Doctor Zhivago April 14, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Central Intelligence Agency on Friday, April 11th posted to its public website nearly 100 declassified documents that detail the CIA’s role in publishing the first Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago after the book had been banned in the Soviet Union. The 1958 publication of Boris Pasternak’s iconic novel in Russian gave people within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the opportunity to read the book for the first time.
The declassified memos, letters, and cables reveal the rationale behind the Zhivago project and the intricacies of the effort to get the book into the hands of those living behind the Iron Curtain.
In a memo dated April 24, 1958 a senior CIA officer wrote: “We have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country [and] in his own language for his people to read.”
After working secretly to publish the Russian-language edition in the Netherlands, the CIA moved quickly to ensure that copies of Doctor Zhivago were available for distribution to Soviet visitors at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. By the end of the Fair, 355 copies of Doctor Zhivago had been surreptitiously handed out, and eventually thousands more were distributed throughout the Communist bloc.
As it happened, Pasternak went on to win the 1958 Nobel Prize for literature, the popularity of his novel skyrocketed, and the plight of the great Russian author in the Soviet Union received global media attention.
Subsequently, the CIA funded the publication of a miniature, lightweight paperback edition (https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/cia-museum/experience-the-collection/index.html#%21/artifact/138) of Doctor Zhivago that could be easily mailed or concealed in a jacket pocket. Distribution of the miniature version began in April 1959.
Obtaining, publishing, and distributing banned books like Doctor Zhivago was an important Cold War-era success story for the CIA.

Drew Phipps
04-29-2014, 12:23 AM
I wonder what our cave-painting ancestors would have thought of his argument.

Peter Lemkin
04-29-2014, 03:50 AM
It is now documented that the CIA was behind many of the abstract artists that rose to prominence in the 60's through 80s and 90s. Their 'logic' was that it would show the unbridled freedom of thought and action of the 'West' and capitalism and destabilize Soviet art. So, some of the painters and other artists that became rich and famous had a little help from a rich Uncle...Uncle Sam - and did NOT really become famous due to their art work, per se; but had it 'sold' [like soap powder] to the US and the World. The CIA has been messing around with just about everything to mold opinions to please their masters.

Marlene Zenker
04-29-2014, 04:55 AM
I wonder what our cave-painting ancestors would have thought of his argument.

They were CIA funded too.

Peter Lemkin
04-29-2014, 05:41 AM
I wonder what our cave-painting ancestors would have thought of his argument.

They were CIA funded too.

No doubt! Showed the superiority of corporate capitalism in its early stages.

When they funded American abstract painters, besides being stupid and creating fake 'successes' in the art world, they broke the rule of CIA - to not use propaganda nor do operations inside the USA - which they have always ignored. Why they even removed our President [and put up others in the job as puppets].....among a few [thousand] other things. if ever there was an Agency needing to be abolished it would the all of the three-letter agencies [and a few four letter ones]. Look where they have led us...... And most Americans sadly think they are 'Boy Scouts' protecting us - when they really are only protecting 'them' - the Oligarchy.

Peter Lemkin
04-29-2014, 07:29 AM
Meet the Patron of American Modern Art: The CIA

Jan 17, 2014 ·

http://s3.amazonaws.com/pix-media/blog/546/tournament.jpg (http://www.moma.org/collection////browse_results.php?object_id=79938)
Tournament. 1951 oil on canvas by Adolph Gottlieb.

The paintings shown in the 1958 exhibition “The New American Painting” are full of muddles of color and shapes ranging from representative to unrecognizable. The work of American Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, the paintings inspired mockery and confusion from the public matched in intensity only by the appreciation they elicited from admirers.
President Truman commented (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html), “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” Nevertheless, the Museum of Modern Art, which organized the exhibition and its tour through European capitals, noted (https://www.moma.org/pdfs/docs/press_archives/2342/releases/MOMA_1958_0025.pdf?2010) that the artists’ style “is now dominant throughout the United States.” The exhibition’s press release identified as a source of controversy the fact that the painters, “as a matter of principle, do nothing deliberately in their work to make ‘communication’ easy.”
But one patron of the exhibit -- the Central Intelligence Agency -- hoped that the exhibit would have a very clear message. As the covert provider of much of the funding necessary to send the paintings on their tour of European capitals, the Agency intended to impress European intellectuals and shake up the stereotype of America as a cultural backwater. The goal was to win European hearts and minds; the stakes were victory in the Cold War.
Modern art was merely one campaign in the cultural cold war. The CIA covertly subsidized aEuropean tour for the Boston Symphony (http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/04/23/reviews/000423.23joffet.html) that established it as world class, sent prominent American authors on book tours, and, most importantly, funded books, conferences, and magazines of arts and letters that took a critical stance on the Soviet Union. Many European intellectuals admired communism and looked to Moscow as an example. The CIA decided it needed to win over Europe’s “educated and cultured classes” to prevent communist revolutions from sweeping Western Europe.
The CIA’s two decade patronage of arts and letters represents a time when people saw culture as a powerful force in politics. It also speaks to an irony in America’s relationship with this type of “cultural diplomacy”: The only way to fund such inoffensive programs as cultural exchanges and intellectual conferences -- at least on a large scale and with serious intent -- was to fund it as covertly as the coups and assassinations for which the CIA became infamous.
The God That Failed
In 1949, the book The God That Failed brought together six prominent, former communist intellectuals from the United States and Europe. In six essays previously published in a U.S. government sponsored (http://www.amazon.com/The-Cultural-Cold-War-Letters/dp/1565846648) magazine, they described the actions of the Soviet Union -- the “necessary lies,” Stalin’s purges, the stifling of intellectual freedom -- that led them to turn against communism, the cause that they had believed in with religious fervor.
It was a disillusioning experience that the CIA hoped to see spread in Europe, where many intellectuals celebrated communism as a cause celebre. But the Agency faced an uphill battle, as the Soviet Union had an early lead in wooing Europe’s intelligentsia. The Communist Party had long sought influence abroad by supporting labor and student groups. In contrast, the United States, with its culture of isolationism and separation of art and state, had no Ministry of Culture or Ministry of Information dedicated to shaping its image abroad or promoting its arts.
World War II had hardly ended when American and European intellectuals began attending Soviet sponsored conferences that called for peace between the United States and the USSR and decried American warmongering. The United States had just announced the Truman Doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truman_Doctrine), intervening in Greece and Turkey against their communist parties, Winston Churchill had made his Iron Curtain speech (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Curtain#Iron_Curtain_speech), and a military alliance against the USSR had been formed in NATO. At such a peace conference in New York City’s Waldorf hotel in 1949, American, European, and Russian intellectuals and artists referred (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Warner.html) to Western forces as “new Fascists” and stated that “the present policies of the American Government will lead inevitably into a third world war."
Melvin Lasky, a literary-minded anti-Stalinist who served as an American combat historian during World War II, described (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/saunders-cold.html) the Soviet propaganda effort against the US:
… the alleged economic selfishness of the USA (Uncle Sam as Shylock); its alleged deep political reaction (a "mercenary capitalistic press," etc.); its alleged cultural waywardness (the "jazz and swing mania", radio advertisements, Hollywood "inanities", "cheese-cake and leg-art"); its alleged moral hypocrisy (the Negro question, sharecroppers, Okies); etc. etc ...

The struggle to, in Lasky’s words (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/saunders-cold.html), “win the educated and cultured classes — which, in the long run, provide moral and political leadership in the community,” involved political debate over Marx’s theories and the question of whether the United States or the Soviet Union was the aggressor. But it also had a strong cultural component. Which side had the culture emblematic of a global model? Did America’s racial and economic inequalities mean that it did not practice the democratic model it preached? What about the Soviets’ purges?
In the perceptions battle with the Soviet Union, America suffered from an image problem as a materialistic, cultural wasteland. As the American Director of Education and Cultural Relations in postwar Berlin noted, “Our culture is regarded as materialistic and frequently one will hear the comment, ‘We have the skill, the brains, and you have the money."' To win over Europe’s educated class, the Soviets and Americans fought to exert cultural dominance. In the words of Frances Saunders (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/saunders-cold.html), author of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, “The cultural Cold War was on.”
From Berlin to the World
Beginning in broke, war torn Berlin, the Soviets and Americans battled to show the Germans their cultural prowess. In 1945, the Soviets’ State Opera began performing works with “anti-fascist” interpretations (a slight directed at the Americans). Several years later, the USSR opened a cultural institution that a British cultural affairs officer described (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/saunders-cold.html) as “most luxuriously appointed — good furniture, much of it antique, carpets in every room…” and able to “counteract the generally accepted idea here that the Russians are uncivilized.”
In response, the American occupying authorities renovated their own reading rooms and information centers, shipped in American performers for tours, and translated and distributed American novels and nonfiction. One satisfied administrator in postwar Berlin wrote that the cultural programs, “make a deep and profound impression upon those circles in Germany which for generations have thought of America as culturally backward and who have condemned the whole for the faults of a few parts.”
While the American occupying authorities in Berlin began the cultural Cold War in earnest, going so far as to expedite the clearing of German artists of all wartime wrongdoing so that they could contribute to the culture war, no one had the responsibility of fighting the culture war outside Germany.
Efforts by the State Department to play such a role backfired. In 1947, for example, it promoted an exhibition similar to “The New American Painting” called “Advancing American Art.” As The Independent reports (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html%20), the State Department cancelled the tour after President Truman disparaged the abstract paintings and a congressman stated publicly, "I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash."
Even more problematic, the exact type of European allies whose help the United States needed in the fight against communism were untouchable. Like the authors of The God That Failed, they were former communists or at least very left-wing. WIth Joseph McCarthy leading witch hunts to find communist sympathizers in the Federal government, no Congress would approve funding conferences of European lefties. And as the CIA archives (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Warner.html) note today, “Truman administration officials were not exactly looking for motley bands of former Communists to sponsor at a time when the White House was already taking flak at home for being soft on Communism.”
The Central Intelligence Agency, on the other hand, could act with limited Congressional oversight. At the time, the Central Intelligence Agency was being created out of the Office of Strategic Services, which had been created for World War II.
Intelligence officers noted the actions of an independent group called Americans for Intellectual Freedom that disrupted the Soviet peace conference in New York with sharp questions and counter demonstrations. They decided to fund a challenge to the next Soviet conference in Paris. Sixteen thousand dollars (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Warner.html) taken from Marshall Plan funds and funnelled through a French newspaper critical of the USSR paid the travel expenses of outspoken anti-Communists to compete with the Soviet peace conference with a “International Day of Resistance to Dictatorship and War.”
The idea inspired a number of anti-Communists, including several working as cultural officers in Berlin. A year later, in 1950, the CIA funded the “Congress for Cultural Freedom,” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_for_Cultural_Freedom)a conference in West Berlin which sought to counter the idea that “liberal democracy was less compatible with culture than communism.” Although not the agency’s creation, the CIApaid (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Warner.html) for travel arrangements and expenses through the State Department and private foundations and several leaders were part of the U.S. government. After the Congress ended, CIA largess enabled it to become a permanent cultural organization.
The CIA’s covert funding, limited oversight, and plausible deniability for politicians would soon be used to overthrow governments and fight proxy wars, but first it would be used to promote American culture and fund conferences of European intellectuals.
http://s3.amazonaws.com/pix-media/blog/546/openingCCF.jpg (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Warner.html)
The opening session of the Congress for Cultural Freedom

For the next two decades, in conferences and in its magazine of arts and letters, Encounter,the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) expounded on the views expressed in the “Freedom Manifesto” created during its first meeting. It also played a chief role in funding the anti-Communist message and exhibiting American culture. Covert CIA funding passed through the CCF subsidized publications similar to Encounter throughout Europe and the world; the translation, publication, and distribution of relevant novels and books; American art exhibitions and musical performances abroad; and much more.
At the time, CIA culture did not clash with modern art and literary magazines. As related by American journalist George Plimpton (http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/), who worked as an editor at The Paris Review when it received covert American money, the CIA’s reputation did not turn away artists and liberals:
“This was right after the war. It was when the CIA was starting up. It was not into assassinations and all the ugly stuff yet. There were so many guys signing up for the CIA. It was kind of the thing to do.”

CIA officers were not conservatives pinching their noses as they funded modern art and pinko European intellectuals. They were part-time writers and appreciators of culture, often equal participants in the art world and leftist debates about communism. As journalist Peter Coleman wrote (http://www.amazon.com/The-Liberal-Conspiracy-Peter-Coleman/dp/0029064813):
Now, at a unique historical moment, there developed a convergence, almost to a point of identity, between the assessments and agenda of the 'NCL' [Non-Communist Left] intellectuals and the combination of Ivy League, anglophile, liberal can-do gentlemen, academics and idealists who constituted the new CIA.

Today, writers and historians have fun with the idea of the CIA wielding Jackson Pollock paintings and Mark Twain novels as “Cold War weapons.” But in the 1950s and 1960s, “cultural cold war” combatants took seriously the idea that culture was the bedrock of a global struggle.
Writing on the subject, journalist Joel Whitney offers the following description (http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/) of the American Studies program at Yale, chaired by a professor involved with the CIA, by a dean to Yale’s president:
From such a study we will gain strength, both individually and as a nation … strength, which we need so badly in our time to face the changing, and in part, hostile world … This is an argument … for the establishment of a strong program of American Studies at Yale, which in many respects is our most native university … In the international scene it is clear that our government has not been too effective in blazoning to Europe and Asia, as a weapon in the “cold war” the merits of our way of thinking and living … Until we put more vigor and conviction into our own cause … it is not likely that we shall be able to convince the wavering peoples of the world that we have something infinitely better than Communism …

Playing the CIA’s Tune?
For over 15 years, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (http://www.amazon.com/The-Cultural-Cold-War-Letters/dp/1565846648) had a large staff, organized constant conferences and events, published or supported dozens of publications, and had offices in 35 countries -- all supported by covert CIA funding. (The New York Times exposed the CIA funding in 1966, at which point the CCF’s influence and the CIA’s cultural efforts subsequently declined.) The CIA’s larger propaganda efforts could plant or influence stories in over 800 global publications (http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F40E10F83F5E167493C4AB1789D95F43 8785F9). CIA agents joked that the culture and propaganda efforts were a jukebox: the CIA could make people around the world “play any tune” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html) it wanted to hear.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the figures involved with the CCF or one of its publications included nearly every famous, non-communist thinker or artist: existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, mathematician Bertrand Russell, playwright Tennessee Williams, “Godfather of neoconservatism” Irving Kristol... Did all these figures really publish magazines and speak at conferences while following the diktats of American intelligence officers?
While the CIA paid the bills, organizations like the CCF received American funds with as little knowledge as the taxpayers providing them.
The chief means through which the CIA covertly funded the arts was by laundering money through wealthy, Western philanthropists. The CIA enlisted sympathetic millionaires like Nelson Rockefeller, swore them to secrecy, and then had them donate to large foundations like the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations on the agency’s behalf.
The money then streamed from the foundations to CCF and America’s champions throughout Europe. Rumors of funding from the U.S. government swirled. After all, in broke, postwar Europe, solid funding for literary magazines and intellectual conferences at five star hotels appeared with all the subtlety of modern weapons in an Afghan proxy war. Yet the beneficiaries could remain ignorant of the CIA’s involvement.
Reviewing The Cultural Cold War by Frances Saunders, who is critical of promoting democratic values and the arts through covert means, one observer notes (http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/04/23/reviews/000423.23joffet.html) that during the 15 years that the CCF published the magazine Encounter with CIA funding, Saunders finds only one case of potential CIA censorship: “when an Encounter article by Macdonald was spiked in 1958 because of ‘its anti-Americanism.’’'
Instead of making demands, the CIA seemed content to amplify the voices supportive of the United States -- and accept some criticism as the cost of doing business. In the war of ideas, the flow of money supported opinions in line with American interests more than those who were critical. Magazines and journals, for example, found a profitable line of business (http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/)reselling interviews to the CCF from writers and thinkers critical of communism -- but not interviews critical of America’s treatment of African-Americans. Similarly, books critical of communism received mass orders. In addition, a number of CIA agents or friends worked at the Congress and its publications (http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/), meaning a slant towards its editorial stance. But the magazines still published criticisms of racism in America and performances by black musicians (funded with CIA money) still inspired discussion (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/saunders-cold.html) of injustices.
Whether it was promoting the work of an American artist, organizing an anti-communism conference, or the dirty business of smearing a poet with communists leanings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Neruda#Communism) nominated for the nobel prize, it seems the CIA primarily supported those already working in line with its aims.
After the Cultural Cold War
America’s cultural war waned after the revelations of the CIA’s role in the late sixties. Interest waxed once again after September 11, when diplomats and foreign affairs types began to speak earnestly of “public diplomacy” (http://www.giarts.org/article/international-cultural-relations) -- cultural/education programs and information policy. Or, as it’s sometimes catchphrased, “telling America’s story to the world.”
In the Middle East and North Africa, America once again saw a world view advocated that was incompatible with its existence and a rejection of democratic values at least partially linked to characterizations of the United States as materialistic, culturally shallow or depraved, and hypocritical. And once again, the U.S. seemed to be missing from the conversation. “There’s a worldwide debate about the relationship between Islam and the West,” one American official opined (http://publicandculturaldiplomacy3.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/cultural-diplomacy-the-linchpin-of-public-diplomacy-report-of-the-advisory-committee-on-cultural-diplomacy-us-department-of-state/%20). “And we don’t have a seat at that table.”
http://s3.amazonaws.com/pix-media/blog/546/condi.jpg (http://cobblearning.net/bsmith/page/73/)
Foreign policy experts talked up soft power (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2151022?uid=3739560&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103282920417)-- the ability to establish preferences and norms “associated with intangible power resources such as culture, ideology, and institutions” -- and advocated (http://publicandculturaldiplomacy3.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/cultural-diplomacy-the-linchpin-of-public-diplomacy-report-of-the-advisory-committee-on-cultural-diplomacy-us-department-of-state/%20) for more funds and attention to public diplomacy as a way to exert it. They were calling for the same belief in the power of culture and ideas that motivated the cultural Cold War.
Today American diplomats run exchange programs for promising foreign students and organize performances by American artists. The U.S. Government-run Voice of America broadcasts news around the world. Archeologists partner with foreign counterparts in sponsored cultural preservation projects.
But public diplomacy did not get the priority its advocates hoped. A 2005 report (http://publicandculturaldiplomacy3.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/cultural-diplomacy-the-linchpin-of-public-diplomacy-report-of-the-advisory-committee-on-cultural-diplomacy-us-department-of-state/%20) states:
After the Cold War, when cultural diplomacy ceased to be a priority, funding for its programs fell dramatically. Since 1993, budgets have fallen by nearly 30%, staff has been cut by about 30% overseas and 20% in the U.S., and dozens of cultural centers, libraries and branch posts have been closed.

In 1999, an official cultural diplomacy policy was the casualty of bureaucratic adjustments. That remains the case today.
Of course, despite the advocates’ belief in the value of public diplomacy, it’s not a silver bullet for America’s image problem. While the CIA touts (http://web.archive.org/web/20060616213245/http://cia.gov/csi/studies/95unclass/Warner.html) the Congress for Cultural Freedom as “widely considered one of the CIA's more daring and effective Cold War covert operations,” most observers note (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol46no1/article08.html) the difficulty in trying to draw any conclusions about its effectiveness. And actions speak louder than words, something comically shown when CIA funding (http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/) helped send an American poet on a tour in South America to improve the country’s image -- tarnished by the CIA backed coup of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. Therecent news (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/07/03/ig-report-state-department-spent-630000-to-increase-facebook-likes/) that the State Department spent over $600,000 buying Facebook Likes also provides reason to question how the department is spending the budget it currently has for public diplomacy.
But every day, the United States is the subject of vitriol (both deserved and undeserved) in foreign news reports, talk shows, and blog posts. It shapes perceptions of America around the world and is the first draft of history for those watching, reading, and listening. It’s rarely a welcoming scene. But what’s surprising is that the United States hasn’t prioritized being part of that debate since the CIA clandestinely took charge of the cultural Cold War.

R.K. Locke
04-29-2014, 06:37 PM
A couple more pieces on a related theme:

http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_ci a/

Exclusive: The Paris Review, the Cold War and the CIA

Letters discovered by Salon show even deeper Cold War ties between the Paris Review and a U.S. propaganda front
Joel Whitney

Topics: Books, CIA, Entertainment News

Exclusive: The Paris Review, the Cold War and the CIA
(Credit: Salon)

In 1958, the Paris Review’s George Plimpton wrote his Paris editor with a grand proposal. The Russian author Boris Pasternak had just been awarded the Nobel Prize. But under pressure from the Soviets — humiliated that “Dr. Zhivago” had to be smuggled out of the country — he refused it. “The Pasternak affair has caused such a stir here,” writes Plimpton from the journal’s New York office, “and is in itself an event of such importance in lit’r’y history that we feel the Review somehow should chronicle what has happened…” Writing to Nelson Aldrich, the Paris editor, Plimpton suggests short statements by a “variety of authors asked to comment. What does Sartre have to say on this matter … Aragon, Neruda, Waugh? Here [in New York] we have Niccolo Tucci … digging up statements, mostly from writers who (as he is himself) are refugees from tyranny…” Plimpton goes on to suggest that the Congress for Cultural Freedom, largely and covertly funded by the CIA, might fund brochures to help publicize the issue.

The Paris Review has been hailed by Time magazine as the “biggest ‘little magazine’ in history.” At the celebration of its 200th issue this spring, current editors and board members ran down the roster of literary heavyweights it helped launch since its first issue in 1953. Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, T.C. Boyle, Edward P. Jones and Rick Moody published their first stories in the Review; Jack Kerouac, Jim Carroll, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides all had important early stories in its pages. But as Peter Matthiessen, the magazine’s founder, has told interviewers — most recently at Penn State — the journal also began as part of his CIA cover.

Plimpton’s letter on Pasternak is essential, however, because for many years a small group of journalists has been trying to pry more information out of Matthiessen on the still-unknown extent of the CIA’s role with the Paris Review — and many in particular have wondered what the legendary Plimpton himself knew of the magazine’s CIA origins. Matthiessen’s story has not changed much since it was first revealed in a 1977 New York Times story. But the Review’s archive at the Morgan Library in Manhattan — until now left mostly out of the debate — shows a number of never-reported CIA ties that bypass Matthiessen or outlive his official tenure at the Agency. In fact, a number of editors, Plimpton included, repeatedly courted ties to the Congress for Cultural Freedom. These ties started modestly — ad exchanges, reprints of Paris Review interviews in the Congress’s official magazines — but grew much more robust, including what one editor described as a “joint emploi” where the Congress and the Review would team up to share an editor’s living expenses in Paris and also to share interviews and other editorial content. In its vast quest to beat the Soviets in cultural achievement and showcase American writing to influential European audiences and intellectuals, the Congress may have even suggested some of the famed Paris Review interviews. All of which means that at the dawn of the CIA’s era of coups and nefarious plots, America’s most celebrated apolitical literary magazine served, in part, as a covert international weapon of soft power.

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The weaponization of culture starts at Yale. Prof. Norman Holmes Pearson is cited on the Paris Review web site as the intelligence officer who recruited Matthiessen (Yale College, 1950) into the CIA. This fact may explain the subtle cultural politics of the supposedly apolitical Paris Review. Pearson’s career is a mashup of literature and spying. A friend of the modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (aka, “H.D.”), he hired H.D.’s daughter as his secretary. She then became that of his assistant, the CIA’s bogeyman, James Jesus Angleton. After an illustrious record during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services alongside CIA founding light William Donovan and CIA director Allen Dulles, Pearson returned to academe to take charge of Yale’s fledgling American Studies program.

How does covert propaganda or intelligence work link up with American Studies? Answer: Monomania and the Cold War. Consider a letter from Yale’s dean at this time to its president:

From such a study we will gain strength, both individually and as a nation … strength, which we need so badly in our time to face the changing, and in part, hostile world … This is an argument … for the establishment of a strong program of American Studies at Yale, which in many respects is our most native university … In the international scene it is clear that our government has not been too effective in blazoning to Europe and Asia, as a weapon in the “cold war” the merits of our way of thinking and living … Until we put more vigor and conviction into our own cause … it is not likely that we shall be able to convince the wavering peoples of the world that we have something infinitely better than Communism …

Yale’s American studies “would be ‘positive,’” as one academic has written, “not a matter of preaching against communism, but one of advocacy for the American alternative.” Where the CIA would get into the game — call it cultural propaganda or psychological warfare — it would avail itself of both “positive” and “negative” means, celebrating American cultural achievements on one hand while attacking Soviet ideas and policies on the other. So would the literary magazines created in this period, including the Paris Review.

The need for cultural propaganda — a sort of international American Studies — grew out of an American reaction to Soviet cultural programming in post-World War II Western Europe. It was articulated in an unsigned paper attributed to George F. Kennan, widely seen as the founding father of American “containment,” as well as the State Department’s policy planning staff and founders of the CIA. This thinking eventually spurred the creation, under the new CIA, of the Office of Policy Coordination, under which would emerge the Congress for Cultural Freedom. As Frances Stonor Saunders has written in her landmark “The Cultural Cold War”:

At its peak, the Congress for Cultural Freedom had offices in 35 countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over 20 prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and feature service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of Western Europe away from its lingering Marxism and communism towards a view more accommodating of the American way.

It later expanded to Asia, Africa and Latin America, and — according to one of its boosters — was “the only outfit … making an anti-Communist anti-neutralist dent with intellectuals in Europe and Asia.” The fact of its CIA origin was kept well hidden, but those working within its vast apparatus knew the rumors attached it to its origins, according to one former staffer.

Though these efforts started with conferences, they soon moved to publishing. In his “Proposal for the American Review,” Melvin Lasky argued for the creation of a magazine to “support the general objectives of U.S. policy in Germany and Europe by illustrating the background of ideas, spiritual activity, literary and intellectual achievement from which the American democracy takes its inspiration.” As Saunders wrote, The American Review was born instead as Germany’s Der Monat. Its equivalent in France was Preuves, edited by Francois Bondy. In the U.K., it would be called Encounter, edited by poet Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol (later replaced by Lasky). All, Saunders reported, would be secretly funded by the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Encounter was born in a planning meeting attended by Michael Josselson (who would covertly lead the Congress for Cultural Freedom for the CIA for most of its life), the composer Nicolas Nabokov (Vladimir’s first cousin), and, from the United Kingdom, by Christopher Montague Woodhouse, a British intelligence officer. Encounter finally launched with an initial grant of $40,000, which came via Julius Fleischman. The yeast and gin heir also served as the most important “quiet channel” for the Congress and was used to funnel CIA money to various organizations and assets. And the Paris Review sought out his patronage from inception.

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“Dear Mr. Fleischman,” writes Peter Matthiessen on Paris Review letterhead sometime before the first issue. “Here at last is a prospectus of the fine new literary review I mentioned to you in June. I sincerely believe … it will be the best literary quarterly since the TRANSITION of the Hemingway-Pound-Gertrude Stein era.” He goes on to request funding and, according to Scott Sherman, writing in The Nation, he got $1,000 from Fleischman. When confronted with this donation, Matthiessen told Sherman it indeed “muddies” the picture of the CIA ties being contained within his short service. The following proposal from Matthiessen to Plimpton, found by Salon in the Morgan Archive, may as well.

In the winter of 1953-54, Matthiessen writes to Plimpton — who had since become the magazine’s public face and, in Matthiessen’s words, its “nominal” head. He offers Plimpton funding largesse in the amount of $20,000 by unnamed backers who would need to be convinced the money could be used to put the Review, beset by funding and communication problems, on “an efficient working basis.” Alluding to its most recent issue (No. 4) having arrived late, annoying advertisers, he asks Plimpton to consider the offer carefully; it would probably require putting Matthiessen back in charge since he would be accountable for the money. The sum of $20,000 in 1953 is the equivalent of around $170,000 today.

In the documentary “Doc,” Plimpton admits that Matthiessen founded the Review as a CIA cover. But Plimpton says that none of the other editors knew this until the 1960s. Matthiessen confirmed that in his Penn State interview, and says it would have been illegal for him to tell them of the agency’s involvement.) “This was right after the war. It was when the CIA was starting up. It was not into assassinations and all the ugly stuff yet,” he adds in “Doc,” speaking to documentarian, Immy Humes. “There were so many guys signing up for the CIA. It was kind of the thing to do.” Matthiessen declined several requests to discuss the Paris Review and the CIA with Salon.

But whether or not Plimpton knew of his old friend’s work as a spy, the other editors’ ties to the CIA through the Congress for Cultural Freedom lasted beyond the John F. Kennedy assassination and the buildup to and U.S. entrance into the Vietnam War. Nelson Aldrich, who began as a Review editor in 1958, writes in his oral history of Plimpton, “George, Being George,” that he left the Review to join the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom. From the Morgan letters, it is clear his work for the two organizations brought them closer, and when he left the Review in 1961, he helped ensure it would be working in concert with the Congress.

Robert Silvers — later founder of the New York Review of Books — writes Plimpton in 1956 that he “greedily” sought out the Congress magazines to reprint the Paris Review’s interview with William Faulkner. Silvers points out, though, that he sought out the Congress this once for the widened readership and would have had no knowledge of whether the money the Review got would go to the interviewer, Jean Stein, or the Review. “I should also make it clear that during these Paris years, I had no idea of CIA or U.S. government funding of the Congress,” he added by email.

The Review had already mastered the highly profitable art of selling interviews for reprints in Congress-affiliated magazines by the time of Plimpton’s Ernest Hemingway interview, begun in 1954 but not published until 1958, in issue No. 18. In the years planning it, Plimpton even suggests a whole Hemingway issue, but Matthiessen pushes for their core mission of launching new writers. Nevertheless, before it was out, the Congress’ magazines already had designs on it. “Lasky is coming to Paris any day now,” writes Aldrich, “and I will give him the H. interview as per instructions. If that doesn’t work, I have already heard expressions of interest from magazines in the countries of our Axis allies … In short, I guess we shan’t have much trouble selling Papa.” Melvin Lasky, one of the brainchildren of the Congress’s magazines, would move that year from editing Der Monat to Encounter. These are the CIA’s magazines in Germany and Japan — Der Monat and Jiyu — and their interest in a long-worked interview with a major American author — a “most native” one at that — would have been, of course, for cultural propaganda (what Joseph Nye will later name “soft power”).

Sales were evidently quite good for issue 18. Aldrich writes to Plimpton and Silvers: “What is the run to be on this issue? Here we can use perhaps a thousand, though that may be overly optimistic. The USIS may repeat their largesse and buy another few hundred copies, but I doubt it. (Did I tell you that they have now bought 460 copies of No. 18 and taken out 10 subscriptions?) As far as possible, this information should remain secret; I tremble to think of Congress discovering such a thing.” The U.S. Information Services is the overseas name for the U.S. Information Agency, founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 for propaganda purposes. This letter shows that entities like USIS were recognized by some at the Paris Review as government propaganda fronts. Congress would disapprove because, by funding a magazine with a New York office that was distributed in the U.S., it was engaged in propagandizing to the American public, which was illegal.

Along with his work selling reprint rights for the great Hemingway interview, Aldrich jumps at the grand Pasternak proposal. His enthusiasm matches Plimpton’s sense of the event as a major one in “lit’r’y history.” “[W]hat a marvelous coup that will be! I think of huge international mailing drives, droves of publicity.” In this period, anti-communist writers will increasingly find their way into the editorial letters, as well as into the Paris Review’s pages. And, as in issue 18, Hungarian author Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon,” a critique of Soviet policy and life, was also subsidized by officialdom; 50,000 copies were bought up by Britain’s Foreign Office. Touring with his book, Koestler traveled to the U.S., where he enjoined American radicals to “grow up,” and thus sparked an idea at the CIA that would define its propaganda funding: “Who better to fight communists than former communists?” In the Morgan letters, Aldrich proposes Koestler for an interview as well.

Rewards begin to multiply — direct financial rewards for disseminating American greats like Hemingway and persecuted communists like Pasternak — but also free publicity. Thanks “to the kindness of Francois Bondy of Preuves,” writes Aldrich, “the Review has been raved about at great length in Der Tagesspiegel and a Swiss newspaper … both … as widely read (almost) as the New York Times. Also we had a shorter but just as flattering notice in Preuves. Not surprising since Bondy wrote all three.” What to make of this? Bondy is being secretly paid by the CIA to run Preuves. On top of which he plants stories favoring a CIA-founded and -approved (but not officially funded) magazine. So far, it must be said, the dishonesty is all on the CIA side. The Paris Review is taking fair — and full — advantage.

But this would go further when Aldrich’s plans to return to the States are massaged into a Paris job. He had mentioned a return to his New York bosses, and now — in a letter in his Morgan Archive folder — he writes to Plimpton, “I recently got another job (in the press division) at the HQ of the intellectual Cold War, the Congress of Cultural Freedom. I am happy there, but I don’t know for how long.” He at first holds out hope that he can do both jobs. So does Plimpton. And does “happy there” suggest the jobs have already overlapped?

In July 1960, Plimpton — in another Morgan letter — writes,

I see no reason why it shouldn’t be as possible to collaborate with Blair [Fuller, the next Paris editor and stepson of Allen Dulles’ publisher] as it has been for as many as four or five of us to struggle to agreement here in New York … The financial consideration is trickier. Blair needs and will get that niggardly monthly sum. But if you’re staying on, and you let me know quickly, perhaps I can arrange an additional monthly payment. If you need it, or the remuneration from the Congress isn’t sufficient … then tell me frankly and I’ll see what can be done.

But the Congress apparently has plenty of work for Aldrich. In August he responds, in another Morgan letter, “it is true that I will be working … very busily at the Freedom Fighters Guild.” But whether he does both jobs or not, working for the Congress will be good “for the Review because there is no Congress sponsored magazine in the States, and since I am supposed to see that the various articles and stories published in Encounter, Preuves, Der Monat, etc to 16, there is no reason why any really exceptional fiction should not find its way to us.” With skepticism, he mentions the small salary Plimpton is offering to do double duty, testing the waters — it would seem — and alludes to the contract for the Paris Review’s interview anthology, “Writers at Work.” Plimpton’s early mentoring in monetizing will perhaps inform the Congress as it begins its second decade.

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By January 1961, the Pasternak interview is published with a sprawling introduction mirroring the breathless tone of Aldrich’s “coup,” and Plimpton’s grand proposal. Before it ran, Plimpton had asked Aldrich repeatedly about the “portfolio” to run with it. But lacking the writers’ reactions, a Robert Frost interview runs with the Pasternak instead. Looking closely at this letter, I see an asterisk scrawled on the word “variety” — where Plimpton has suggested a variety of writers’ reactions, including from Neruda and other socialists. And at the bottom, another asterisk, with the note, “Only possible variety would be communists + …” There the note is cut. It does not appear to be in Plimpton’s hand.

Notably, Sartre, a socialist, had been rejected for the interviews before. Though he is ever-present in the editorial letters after his condemnation of the Soviets around 1956, the editors had already held an interview with him in hand, which they apparently killed. Matthiessen and Tom Guinzburg, a New York editor and co-founder, voted to hold it until the “literary content” could balance the political.

By 1961, checks are coming in from the Congress on a regular basis. These are for Paris Review interviews reprinted in numerous official Congress publications, as well as subscriptions for the Congress’s Paris office and its offices around the world. Aldrich also tries to take advantage of Congress-sponsored conferences by leveraging them for interviews, and he hopes to reuse pieces rejected by the Paris Review — namely, Carlisle’s pieces — in the Congress magazines.

With Aldrich’s exit now nearing, a Paris editor was needed. This editor was being conscripted to do double-duty for the two organizations. As several of the Morgan letters, never reported on before, indicate, the CIA would augment the meager literary quarterly pay — and the ways to work together had already become multiply evident. The Review was to coordinate the hiring through “friends of the Congress.” The Paris Review’s candidates were Frederick Seidel, the New York poet, and Roger Klein.

In February, Plimpton writes to Fuller and Aldrich:

Fred Seidel has scribbled in a postcard to say that now he’s very interested in the Review job — a somewhat predictable turnabout I might say. The trouble is that while he sat in his tent another candidate has been suggested — one Roger Klein … a brilliant young editor at Harpers. He’s a linguist, would be an excellent choice … for the Congress job which he would need to supplement his PR salary. Very important, he seems genuinely anxious to do the job for both organizations.

Aldrich writes to the New York office in March:

If … you propose [Roger Klein] for the PR and the CCF, I must have a curriculum vitae to show the people here. The language abilities sound auspicious but we’ve got to have more dope on this fellow … After I have seen the curriculum vitae, the best policy would be for him to meet Dan Bell or some other “friend of the Congress” in New York. Having passed that test I don’t believe there will be any objection on this side either to hiring him or to sharing him with the PR.

Aldrich finally leaves, with the prospects for what he calls “joint emploi” up in the air and the Congress looking at other candidates. In late June, Fuller writes the Congress on behalf of the Paris Review: “Nelson Aldrich, having departed for America, we no longer have a direct link to the Congress.” The Congress replies a week later, “Before leaving, Nelson was trying to find out how many interviews have been reprinted in the Japanese magazine Jiyu.” The letter indicates nine: Faulkner, Sagan, Mauriac, Moravia, Hemingway, Eliot, Pasternak, Georges Simenon and Aldous Huxley. The Congress also stipulates that it will pay three times as much for the Pasternak — which is to say interviews with a higher element of the “negative” propaganda (to put it in Yale American Studies terms). The money has been sent, this staffer writes, adding: “Jiyu requests Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Kingsley Amis, Henry Green, and Arthur Miller.” But there was one small problem.

Seidel’s tenure — insofar as the Morgan letters show — begins with his articulating this problem in the summer of 1961. He writes Jiyu’s editor, Hoki Ishihara: “Mr. Ivan Kats of the Congress for Cultural Freedom here in Paris has listed for us a number of interviews that you would be interested in publishing. The list mentions several writers we have not yet interviewed…” Arthur Miller, for instance, did not appear in the Paris Review’s interviews until 1966. Maugham, another spy writer like Matthiessen, would never appear in the Paris Review interviews at all. Kingsley Amis would not appear for more than a decade. Aside from Maugham, there is nary a mention of Miller or Amis in the editorial correspondence for this period. What to make of this?

It may of course be the case that, through Aldrich, the two organizations were so close they shared editorial calendars and plans. But again, with Miller and Amis not yet nominated for interview, this would not explain this exchange. Perhaps the Congress was guessing which sorts of interviews might come. Or, perhaps, the Congress on occasion exerted some subtle influence over some of the writers the Review chose to interview. It would seem to complicate, too, the very notion of the Paris Review as apolitical. Here are some of the West’s “most native” writers — to use Yale’s term — sought after as soft-power diplomats for the Congress’s magazines.

By 1962, the question of direct links and joint employment was apparently back on the table. The Congress’s Irving Jaffe invites Seidel to talk about an editorial assistantship with him and John Hunt. By 1964 the same sorts of requests come for interviews to be translated into Hiwar, the Congress’s “Arab Review,” Jiyu in Japan, and reprints for Sameekha in Madras, and on and on. When Seidel leaves abruptly, requests go back and forth between the Congress’s Anne Schlumberger, Irving Jaffe and Ivan Kats, and the Paris Review’s Patrick Bowles, who takes over for Seidel, or Joan Moseley. The Morgan’s Paris Review/Congress for Cultural Freedom archives show that editorial ties continued at least through 1966, probably until the 1967 revelations of CIA covert influence. That year Neil Sheehan, writing in the New York Times, tied CIA funding to student groups in a front-page story followed by a series tying the Agency covertly to various cultural institutions. The series led to the resignation of editors like Stephen Spender, who claimed that although he had heard rumors, he had never been able to confirm that Encounter was indeed funded by the CIA.

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So who were Plimpton and the Paris Review editors aligning themselves with in this attempt at joint emploi?

John Hunt, Seidel’s would-be job interviewer and employer at the Congress, worked on a campaign to send Robert Lowell into Latin America as a CIA-embedded poet. In this disastrously farcical incident, recounted by Saunders in “The Cultural Cold War,” Lowell was sent on a 1962 tour of South America to improve the United States’ cultural image (damaged after the CIA overthrew Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and invaded Cuba — disastrously — in 1961). Problems came when Lowell’s family made their New England return and he threw away his pills for manic depression. After a battery of martinis, he declared himself “the Caesar of Argentina.” Lowell’s CIA “leash,” Keith Botsford, Lowell declared as his “lieutenant.” “After giving his Hitler speech, in which he extolled the Fuhrer and the superman ideology, Lowell stripped naked and mounted an equestrian statue.” This extended outburst ended with “Lowell … eventually overpowered … wrestled into a straitjacket, and taken to the Clinica Bethlehem, where his legs and arms were bound with leather straps while he was injected with vast doses of thorazine.” (Incidentally, Seidel interviewed Lowell for the Review’s Art of Poetry interviews.) The year after Seidel was invited to meet him in Paris, Hunt would also lead the campaign to deny Pablo Neruda the Nobel Prize.

Daniel Bell was the “friend of the Congress” Aldrich suggested Klein or Seidel meet in New York. He was also a former Fortune editor who used his ties to Henry Luce to ensure friendly media coverage of the Congress, its writers and its arguments. When another unofficial but approved Congress magazine, Partisan Review, was threatened with the removal of its tax-exempt status, Saunders reports that Bell helped secure $10,000 from Luce. Luce thought highly of Partisan Review. “Jason Epstein [of the New York Review of Books] later claimed that ‘what was printed in Partisan Review soon became amplified in Time and Life.’” But Bell also sat on the Congress’s American Committee and voted that the Committee not censure or condemn Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts or his blacklisting of leftists.

Along with Irving Kristol, Bell essentially invented the neoconservative political movement that would inspire George W. Bush in his disastrous invasion of Iraq. In 1965 — with no gap between their stints in the Congress — their new magazine, the Public Interest, began what would amount to its unrelenting assault on affirmative action and multiculturalism and started propagating its structural contradictions about what government power could or could not achieve. “For the next 30 years, they wrote about … the fact that it was fruitless to think that you’re going to deal with crime [here at home] by attacking the deep social roots of crime [that is, poverty and racism],” Francis Fukuyama told me about the neocons in 2006. “But it could have been applied to foreign policy where something like re-engineering the Middle East in order to democratize it and make it safe from terrorism was a task that by that earlier framework should have been judged as quite unrealistic.” Bell left the magazine, to be sure, when Kristol veered too far to the right.

Josselson would have been the shared candidate’s boss on the CIA side. Aldrich describes the effect of Josselson’s visits to the Paris office of the Congress as a little “flutter” that would come over the place. Along with Spender, Nabokov, and Bondy, Josselson set up Encounter in the U.K., it bears repeating, with Christopher Montague Woodhouse, the British intelligence officer. After Encounter was up and running by June 1953, Woodhouse would have then turned his attention to his other project that year, the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected President Mohammed Mossadegh. In August, this coup d’etat — conceived by the British over the ouster of British Petroleum, suggested to the Americans and overseen on the British side by Woodhouse — had been the CIA’s first successful overthrow of a foreign government. Spearheaded on the American side by the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt, it also involved intensive propaganda mixed with the buying off of the Iranian military.

Of course, you could be unknowingly linked to the Congress, or linked, without quite understanding the scale and scope of projects some of the vast secret hierarchy was spearheading. Many writers in this time undoubtedly were linked to this vast apparatus, and some clearly did not know the Congress was the child of the CIA. By taking money for interviews and sharing staff with the CIA’s cultural propaganda wing, it is not as if Plimpton and Aldrich were knowingly toppling governments in Iran or Guatemala, or — this must be said — responsible for those things the people who paid them money would later say or do. The total 1950 budget for psychological warfare — $320 million or so in today’s dollars—would quadruple over the next two years, writes Saunders. The Paris Review’s share of that — the bits I found recorded in the Morgan letters — were crumbs.

But Matthiessen’s claim that he got out of the CIA before the “ugly stuff” is false, if you consider the CIA’s messy exploits in the late 1940s and early 1950s as ugly. Either way, a secret patronage system, paid for by the taxpayer with no public debate, appears to have existed.

And though the Congress magazines were fairly robust in the diversity of work they contained, in some cases you might not get paid if you went structurally beyond the government’s official view. If you sought to serve as a gadfly, as per the role of the Fourth Estate — and emphasized the transgressions of your own side — you were clearly less likely to tap into the patronage. Aldrich describes the thinking then: “The CIA in those years was in very good odor amongst — everybody. It hadn’t disgraced itself in the Bay of Pigs and all the rest. It was an outgrowth, we all knew, of OSS, and it was now arrayed against the Communist menace and it was palpably real in Paris at that time. There was all this talk of tanks on the Vistula ready to conquer Europe, which turned out to be a bunch of bullshit. [But] the powers that be believed it.”

Paul Berman, for one, would see nothing to be ashamed of in the Congress’s role during these times. “I think the CCF did a great thing,” he wrote in an email. “The CIA was stupid to offer secret subsidies — everything should have been funded openly. Private money could have done it. I don’t think the magazines did anything sinister — on the contrary. They played a noble role in Europe.” In another email he adds, “I find it surprising that anyone still objects to the CCF. Isn’t it obvious that the cause of anti-communism, in its liberal and social-democratic versions, was a very good cause?”

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Nevertheless, while the Paris Review was planning a joint emploi with the Congress, other little magazines operating in the 1960s, such as Ramparts and Evergreen Review, alongside their high-caliber literary publishing, were also courageous in their criticism of the surveillance bureaucracy and its ties to the American proposition and the Cold War. Both were surveilled as a result. Evergreen, published out of Grove Press’s offices, was even bombed. Barney Rosset, its editor, suspected the CIA (or Cuban exiles working with the CIA) of the bombing. In the documentary “Obscene,” he said he thought they detested the magazine’s publication of the diaries of Che Guevara, who was caught and murdered by the Agency in 1967.

Did Plimpton know? That question has always been asked with regard to Matthiessen’s CIA service. Immy Humes’s “Doc” makes clear he knew from at least 1966, when Matthiessen told Harold “Doc” Humes, another Paris Review co-founder. But did he know before 1966? Aldrich, for one, thinks he did. “I think he must have known,” he told me. “He and Matthiessen were very tight friends.” To read Matthiessen’s early letter to Plimpton, floating the possibility of unnamed backers, is to ascribe either naïvete or secrecy onto Plimpton.

Yet given the Morgan letters from the early 1960s, the question takes another form: Did Plimpton know the CIA funded the Congress and its magazines, with which he sought ties? Again, he probably did. When Aldrich indicated to Plimpton that he would “tremble” to think what U.S. Congress would do if they found out the U.S.I.S., another foreign propaganda agency, was buying copies of the Paris Review, he demonstrated that he knew the rules of propaganda. Later, in another letter, he calls the Congress for Cultural Freedom the HQ for the intellectual Cold War. From this, he seems to have known, and both letters were written to Plimpton. When I called him, Aldrich said “of course” he [Aldrich] knew the Congress was the CIA. “Everybody knew the rumors.” Then he qualified; he knew “effectively, if not literally.” Why wouldn’t Plimpton?

So by the early 1960s the Paris Review was collaborating with an organization whose covert activities — alongside the overthrow of Mossadegh, which led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini, the hostage crisis and the Rushdie fatwa — had additionally included the fixing of the 1948 Italian elections, propping up the right in Greece the same year (which both might be called soft coups); the ouster of Guatemala’s President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 (which radicalized Ernesto Che Guevara, who watched the coup); and the events that would lead up to the Vietnam War. None of which is fair to attach to the Paris Review, if not for Matthiessen’s claims that the Review’s ties ended before the ugly stuff, or for Plimpton’s failure to disclose the ties that remained.

A co-founder of Guernica, Joel Whitney is a Brooklyn writer whose work appears in The New York Times, The New Republic, World Policy Journal and The Paris Review


US jazz musicians were drafted into the CIA’s MKULTRA

by Jon Rappoport

March 24, 2014


Here is a bit of US history that shows the reach of the CIA’s infamous mind-control program, MKULTRA.

During the 1940s and 50s, it was common knowledge that musicians who were busted for drug use were shipped, or volunteered to go, to Lexington, Kentucky. Lex was the first Narcotics Farm and US Health Dept. drug treatment hospital in the US.

According to diverse sources, here’s a partial list of the reported “hundreds” of jazz musicians who went to Lex: Red Rodney, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee, Elvin Jones, Zoot Sims, Lee Morgan, Tadd Dameron, Stan Levey, Jackie McLean.

It’s also reported that Ray Charles was there, and William Burroughs, Peter Lorre, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

It was supposed to be a rehab center. A place for drying out.

But it was something else too. Lex was used by the CIA as one of its MKULTRA centers for experimentation on inmates.

The doctor in charge of this mind control program was Harris Isbell. Ironically, Isbell was, at the same time, a member of the FDA’s Advisory Committee on the Abuse of Depressant and Stimulant Drugs.

Isbell gave LSD and other psychedelics to inmates at Lex.

At Sandoz labs in Switzerland, Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, also synthesized psilocybin from magic mushrooms. The CIA got some of this new synthetic from Hofmann and gave it to Isbell so he could try it out on inmates at Lex.

MKULTRA was a CIA program whose goal was to control minds…in part through the use of drugs.

Isbell worked at Lex from the 1940s through 1963. It is reported that in one experiment, Isbell gave LSD to 7 inmates for 77 consecutive days. At 4 times the normal dosage. That is a chemical hammer of incredible proportions.

To induce inmates to join this drug experiment, they were offered the drug of their choice, which in many cases was heroin. So at a facility dedicated to drying out and rehabbing addicts, addicts were subjected to MKULTRA experiments and THEN a re-establishment of their former habit.

Apparently as many as 800 different drugs were sent to Isbell by the CIA or CIA fronts to use on patients at Lex. Two of the fronts? The US Navy and the US National Institute of Mental Health.

In another MKULTRA experiment at Lex, nine men were strapped down on tables. They were injected with psilocybin. Lights were beamed at their eyes–a typical mind control component.

During Isbell’s tenure, no one knows how many separate experiments he ran on the inmates. No one knows what other mind-control programming he attempted to insert along with the drugs.

As I say, Lex was the main stop for drying out for NY jazz musicians. How many of them were taken into these MKULTRA programs?

As Martin Lee explains in his book, Acid Dreams, “It became an open secret…that if the [heroin] supply got tight [on the street], you could always commit yourself to Lexington, where heroin and morphine were doled out as payment if you volunteered for Isbell’s whacky drug experiments. (Small wonder Lexington had a return rate of 90%.)”

A June 15, 1999, Counterpunch article by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, “CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb: Pusher, Assassin & Pimp— US Official Poisoner Dies,” contains these quotes on Dr. Isbell:

“Gottlieb also funded the experiments of Dr. Harris Isbell. Isbell ran the Center for Addiction Research in Lexington, Kentucky. Passing through Isbell’s center was a captive group of human guinea pigs in the form of a steady stream of black heroin addicts. More than 800 different chemical compounds were shipped from Gottlieb to Lexington for testing on Isbell’s patients.

“Perhaps the most infamous experiment came when Isbell gave LSD to seven black men for seventy-seven straight days. Isbell’s research notes indicates that he gave the men ‘quadruple’ the ‘normal’ dosages. The doctor marveled at the men’s apparent tolerance to these remarkable amounts of LSD. Isbell wrote in his notes that ‘this type of behavior is to be expected in patients of this type.’

“In other Gottlieb-funded experiment at the Center, Isbell had nine black males strapped to tables, injected them with psylocybin, inserted rectal thermometers, had lights shown in their eyes to measure pupil dilation and had their joints whacked to test neural reactions.”

Jon Rappoport

Peter Lemkin
04-29-2014, 07:48 PM
The weaponization of culture starts at Yale.....

Love it!....::laugh::The 'weaponization' of many things/persons started at Yale and other 'elite' schools.

David Guyatt
04-30-2014, 07:28 AM
I wonder what our cave-painting ancestors would have thought of his argument.

They were CIA funded too.


R.K. Locke
01-22-2015, 08:55 PM
How “America’s First Drug Czar” Waged War Against Billie Holiday and Other Jazz Legends