Friday, April 20, 2012

Intelligence- Preservation Complex: The CIA and Colonial Williamsburg

Few Americans-then or now- realized how much American culture was adapted, modified, hidden, destroyed, or created to serve as weapons against the Soviets during the Cold War. For example, if you've ever seen the cartoon version of Animal Farm, you'll notice significant differences from the book, including the eliminations of characters who served as critiques of capitalism and the creation of a new, positive ending. The reason for these alterations to the narrative is the CIA was funding the film. As documented in the book, Cultural Cold War, the CIA funded numerous festivals, fairs, and publications with the idea of battling Soviet influence.

A random search thrown at the CIA's CREST system uncovered CIA involvement with that historical site. In classified March 1951 memorandum from [redacted]Assistant to the Director to Chief, Foreign Division, the Director's Assistant asks Foreign to provide commentary on a report compiled by a gentleman named Kershaw Burbank who appears to been hired by a John D. Rockefeller III to adapt Colonial Williamsburg’s programming to the needs of the Cold War. Specifically Rockefeller thought "the institution might serve a more useful purpose if the stress were shifted toward portraying the democratic way of life which contributed to America's growth." We know that the Cold War and anti-Communism were driving forces behind these revisions to Colonial Williamsburg programming due to Burbank's desire to have feedback from CIA experts on Soviet Communism. Not to mention that his 26-page report is nothing but a harsh critique of communism and a promotion of capitalism.

In a May 1951 memorandum classified “Secret”, the Chief, International Communism Branch, Staff C writes to [redacted] Assistant to the Director and informed [redacted] that the requested review has been completed. The International Communism Branch, Staff C gave the report middling remarks. Part A of the report is described as having "useful restatement of some of the concepts underlying Soviet/Communist ideology," but then criticizes the analysis for lacking "progress in depth" except for quoting a few list authors and books. Part B is giving higher praise for being "well formulated". However, Burbank is again dinged for lack of depth in his analysis. They also recommend a "through study” of the “Communist/Soviet theory” of 'Democracy’.  Chief, International Communism Branch, Staff C expresses a willingness and desire to review additional reports created by Burbank.

Colonial Williamsburg- CIA                                                           

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Liar for God, a Stooge for the Soviets: A Billy Graham Tale

An undated CIA report "Dissent and Religion in the USSR" reveals that the Soviet regime used Billy Graham and other high-profile evangelists to further government goals. According to the CIA study, visits by Graham and others served Soviet propaganda goals and weakened religious organizations hostile to the government. When Graham and others preached in the USSR, the Soviets were empowered to claim that free of religion was present in the USSR.  Graham and others were allowed to “registered church” congregations which the CIA noted denied legitimacy to unofficial or illegal religious groupings which as documented by the CIA engaged in widespread, near- continual resistance to the regime. In contrast, clergy from registered churches were used by the Soviets for their own purposes. Some clerics served as "propagandists for regime policy," while the Russian Orthodox Church received additional support in the hopes it would poach adherents away from religions likely to pose a challenge to continue government domination. 

Undated CIA Report on Religion in the USSR                                                           

Monday, April 9, 2012

"One of the Absolute Best Writers on the Right"

Was how Slate columnist David Weigel described John Derbyshire less than a month ago. Now that John Derbyshire has exposed his full on racism, Weigel has fully joined in the stomping of  Derbyshire's reputation. However, Weigel's comments will live on forever here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Austerity Porn: National Archives Edition

Thanks to long-standing austerity measures, mindless government bashing and its attending budget cuts, and intrinsic American anti-intellectualism and allergies to history, the National Archives has been forced for a number of years now to panhandle for funding through a private charity, the Foundation for the National Archives. This is particularly appalling because by all sane measures, the National Archives is one of the most effective, useful, necessary, and efficient government agencies out there. I have and continue to do extensive research with NARA records and I have never encountered anything other than fast, polite, and otherwise stellar services from all elements of that agency.  Frankly, what little Americans know about history can, in my opinion, be almost entirely credited to the folks at the National Archives. 

This year’s pitch is particularly sad as the Foundation for the National Archives is seeking funds for the National Archives Genealogy Fair which will teach interested folks about, “records relating to the military, immigration, court, census, land, African Americans, Native Americans, and Canadian border crossings,” among other things.  In short, the Foundation for the National Archives is forced to supplicate for the funds necessary to accomplish its core mission and responsibilities: inform Americans about itself and its missions teach Americans how to use its records, and educate Americans about their history and heritage.

Don’t get me wrong. I support their work. Since the American right has decided to neglect this aspect of governance, the National Archives is forced to seek private sector support. However, government spending via fundraiser is going to lead us to a dark place because, after all, “The Friends of OSHA or “The Foundation for EPA” are not going to draw many donors.