FDL Book Salon Welcomes Hugh Wilford and “The Mighty Wurlitzer”


(Please welcome author Hugh Wilford in the comments — jh)

Someone once remarked that the third world war would be fought between the communists and the ex-communists. That was before Google, so my memory of the speaker and exact words is lacking. In any case, world war is exactly what goes on in Hugh Wilford’s The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. What we hear described as “civil society” was penetrated, manipulated, and organized by the Central Intelligence Agency for the purpose of waging political, psychological, and guerrilla war against world communism. This apparatus was dubbed “the mighty Wurlitzer” by Office of Strategic Services (OSS) honcho Frank Wisner, because he could use it to play a symphony of propaganda. Activities ranged from setting up literary magazines to training in sabotage and other mayhem. In this crusade, the OSS and its successor the Central Intelligence Agency recruited a pantheon of radical personalities.

History is not my regular job, but an invitation from the bewitching Jane to host a book salon here at Firedoglake is hard to refuse. For those steeped in the intellectual politics of that period, there is some old material, reinforced by the methods of historical scholarship, and for those not so familiar, there are plenty of surprises. I thought I was pretty well informed, but I learned some new things. Surprising or not, the author’s packaging of a lot of disparate material is useful.

Ramparts magazine, under the editorship of David Horowitz, exposes the manipulation of the U.S. National Student Association by the Central Intelligence Agency. The author regards it as a blow to U.S. national security and takes it to be the end of an era. (At the time I thought it was great. Now Horowitz has become a fervent, conservative Republican, and I work for the Federal government.)