The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America
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In 1967 the magazine Ramparts ran an exposé revealing that the Central Intelligence Agency had been secretly funding and managing a wide range of citizen front groups intended to counter communist influence around the world. In addition to embarrassing prominent individuals caught up, wittingly or unwittingly, in the secret superpower struggle for hearts and minds, the revelations of 1967 were one of the worst operational disasters in the history of American intelligence and presaged a series of public scandals from which the CIA's reputation has arguably never recovered.
CIA official Frank Wisner called the operation his "mighty Wurlitzer," on which he could play any propaganda tune. In this illuminating book, Hugh Wilford provides the first comprehensive account of the clandestine relationship between the CIA and its front organizations. Using an unprecedented wealth of sources, he traces the rise and fall of America's Cold War front network from its origins in the 1940s to its Third World expansion during the 1950s and ultimate collapse in the 1960s.
Covering the intelligence officers who masterminded the CIA's fronts as well as the involved citizen groups--émigrés, labor, intellectuals, artists, students, women, Catholics, African Americans, and journalists--Wilford provides a surprising analysis of Cold War society that contains valuable lessons for our own age of global conflict.
long way from his hometown of Columbia City (population 5,500), where his father worked as a carpenter and his mother presided over the local Cancer Society.1 It was just as he was preparing to launch his NSA presidential campaign that Groves learned a secret about the organization that would change his life forever. Despite its appearance as a free and voluntary center for American student groups, the association was, its current president, Philip Sherburne, informed him, secretly funded by the
crusade against communism. This was in part the legacy of World War II and the recent experience of total mobilization against a global threat to freedom. It also reflected the peculiarly intense anticommunism of the era, which served as an extremely strong cohesive force in postwar American society, binding together disparate groups in a powerful ideological consensus. To be sure, there always were those who felt uneasy about the secrecy involved in front operations (by aping the tactics of
William Phillips called,” reads an undated office memorandum to Grover. “On that letter to General Smith, he asks if he should say he was writing at your suggestion—or would you suggest your name not be mentioned, or what?”17 After the 1960s revelations, several New York intellectuals were surprised by the high-toned, moralistic stance Phillips took on the question of covert subsidies, particularly his condemnation of CCF magazines such as Encounter. “I can’t forget how ardently Phillips wooed
certain our films are doing a good job for our nation and our industry.”62 Not only did the CIA seek to influence the production of commercial 118 THE CULTURAL COLD WAR films—“to insert in their scripts and in their action the right ideas with the proper subtlety,” as C. D. Jackson put it;63 the Agency also occasionally initiated film projects. The best documented instance of the latter practice is the animated version of George Orwell’s celebrated 1945 novella Animal Farm, a satirical
Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri, St. Louis) [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] Quiet American and Office of Policy Coordination operative Edward Lansdale under cover as U.S. Air Force officer in Honolulu, late 1940s. (Edward Lansdale Papers, Hoover Institution, Stanford University) [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] Bing Crosby and rosary priest Patrick Peyton on a Hollywood TV set in 1956. (Corbis) [To view this