I came across an interesting review of a book ‘The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters’ which was written by an ex-CIA employee, and is hosted by the CIA library. The tone is one of almost impatient puzzlement over the revelations that the CIA (and foundations) funded intellectuals and culture. For example, the reviewer writes:

The Cultural Cold War has some major shortcomings. First and foremost, despite Saunders’s assertions that the CIA undermined intellectual freedom, she does not present any examples of people whose intellectual growth was stunted or impaired because of the Agency’s programs. Nor does she provide any examples of people switching ideological sides after the revelations about the Agency’s role in the Congress and Encounter . She mentions that Jean Paul Sartre switched sides—or just “dropped out” of the Cold War; however, Sartre denounced the Soviet Union and repudiated communism after the USSR invaded Hungary.”

This is interesting, because what is actually being said here? These people that the CIA funded would have been massively less successful without the funding. In fact, given the fact that most of them were given all of their funding by the CIA and the foundations, they would have had zero footprint on culture had these funds not been provided. The reviewer takes it for granted that this is an almost neutral act. It is as if the reviewer has an internalised assumption that the selection effect for culture is some form of accuracy, which he then assumes has been unaffected by this funding. The book’s author at least understands that this funding has warped things beyond belief, but has done this from an angle of decrying that intellectual freedom has been impaired. But exactly how much intellectual freedom can there be if money (as the author notes) has been decisive?  As the reviewer notes:

According to Saunders, the list of CIA covert activities during the 1950s and 1960s is long. The Agency subsidized European tours of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and paid for the filming of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. It clandestinely subsidized the publishing of thousands of books, including an entire line of books by Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., and the renowned work by Milovan Djilas, The New Class . It bailed out, and then subsidized, the financially faltering Partisan Review and Kenyon Review .”

Was there any demand for any of this crap?  Like the “financially faltering Partisan Review and Kenyon Review”? I think the answer is obvious.

Also, the CIA and the foundations did not fund anything majorly different from communism except in the realm of economics, so we get Cultural Marxism, feminism and all the other “real” freedoms, as opposed to the false “freedoms” of the communists. Just how much difference is there really here? It would be nice to have a response from anyone who doesn’t quote an intellectual funded by the CIA (so no Hannah Arendt, no George Orwell etc.)