by William Skink
After WWII, bullets and bombs were replaced with words and songs. What I mean by that is the war transformed from a shooting war to a war of culture and ideas. The emerging Cold War had many fronts.
Even visual art was deployed as a cultural weapon by the CIA:
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
Scoff if you want, but this involvement in promoting modern art by the CIA is a fact. More from the link:
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and thecultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.
The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.
This is a critical part of understanding how we have gotten to such a sad place here in America, where Americans, when confronted with the horrors of the violence we inflict on innocents around the world, shrug their shoulders with defeatist sentiments, like this pathetic comment from my last post:
Livingston has bomb trains rolling through every day, wild bison are being managed as livestock and strip mining decimates Montana. Write about something you have actual control over, liz.
What writers write about, and how they write it, is the topic of a fascinating piece by Eric Bennett, titled How Iowa Flattened Literature. Though this piece came out in February of 2014, it’s timely for me as I consider what I’m going to do next after I leave the job I’m currently doing early next year. I had kicked around the idea of getting my MFA for creative writing. This article helped me realize I’m not going to waste my money. From the link:
Did the CIA fund creative writing in America? The idea seems like the invention of a creative writer. Yet once upon a time (1967, to be exact), Paul Engle received money from the Farfield Foundation to support international writing at the University of Iowa. The Farfield Foundation was not really a foundation; it was a CIA front that supported cultural operations, mostly in Europe, through an organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
Seven years earlier, Engle, then director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, had approached the Rockefeller Foundation with big fears and grand plans. “I trust you have seen the recent announcement that the Soviet Union is founding a University at Moscow for students coming from outside the country,” he wrote. This could mean only that “thousands of young people of intelligence, many of whom could never get University training in their own countries, will receive education … along with the expected ideological indoctrination.” Engle denounced rounding up students in “one easily supervised place” as a “typical Soviet tactic.” He believed that the United States must “compete with that, hard and by long time planning”—by, well, rounding up foreign students in an easily supervised place called Iowa City. Through the University of Iowa, Engle received $10,000 to travel in Asia and Europe to recruit young writers—left-leaning intellectuals—to send to the United States on fellowship.
Read the whole article, it’s fascinating.
I bristle when people tell me what to write about, or what NOT to write about. The backlash is quite interesting, and shows how pressure to conform works through impotent little proxies. When I write about foreign policy I’m told I hate America. When I write about conspiracy culture I’m ridiculed. When I write about another political scam absorbing the misplaced hope of easily manipulated Democrats, I’m booted from the blog space I kept relevant for years.
America doesn’t require the same degree of cultural repression that other regimes require to maintain power. That’s because American propaganda works so well, there are millions of unwitting foot soldiers ready to pounce on those who challenge long-accepted norms, like American exceptionalism.
I’m going to keep writing about what I want to write about, including putting more of my time in developing a story I’ve started that I’m really excited about. Stay tuned…