The CIA and the Cultural Cold War

Frances Stonor Saunders’s book The Cultural Cold War (2000) has just been released in Russian. This work is the only major expose of the CIA’s use of artists, writers and critics as tools in the cultural front of the Cold War. The dialogue about art in the Soviet Union is inseparable from discussions about propaganda, government censorship, government support and political content. The dialogue about art in the west during the 20th century often ignores these larger political issues, focusing on formal concerns and individual artists rather than larger cultural and political struggles. The dichotomy of Western artistic and intellectual freedom vs. Soviet artistic and intellectual repression, however, was at least partially constructed through the covert operations of the United States government. Many of the artists who are hailed as beacons of western artistic freedom were in fact plucked from total obscurity with CIA funding. Galleries and partons were instructed on which artists to buy and for how much, and so, under the guise of a free market process, the avant garde worked as a propaganda arm on the cultural front of the Cold War.

Here’s an excerpt from the Amazon description of the book that names names:

” This “impressively detailed” (Kirkus Reviews) book draws together newly declassified documents and exclusive interviews to expose the CIA’s astonishing campaign wherein some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom became instruments of the American government. Those involved included George Orwell, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Gloria Steinem. The result is “a tale of intrigue and betrayal, with scene after scene as thrilling as any in a John Le Carré novel” (The Chronicle of Higher Education).”

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Author: Barry O'Keefe

Artist/printmaker from Richmond, Va

1 thought on “The CIA and the Cultural Cold War”

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