Covertly-Sponsored Instruments of State Power, at Least in Part
August 25, 2015 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Literary Magazines for Socialists Funded by the CIA, Ranked [from The Awl]

During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument—including the magazines on this left—were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement.
posted by chavenet (13 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Notes on 'Kampf'
posted by thelonius at 1:42 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Given that cover of The Kenyon Review, this means that the CIA at least indirectly hired Edward Gorey. I can't help but think at least a little more highly of them now.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

related: how the CIA supported the Iowa Writers Workshop and shaped American Creative Writing via funding from the Fairfield Foundation, one of its front organizations.
posted by bl1nk at 1:55 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

That was fascinating. Thanks.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:06 PM on August 25, 2015

Given that cover of The Kenyon Review, this means that the CIA at least indirectly hired Edward Gorey.

It's interesting that the Awl listed several of the magazine's big name authors yet failed to mention that the cover illustration they chose to include was by Edward motherfucking Gorey.
posted by item at 2:12 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Previously, how the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:30 PM on August 25, 2015

So the US government was willing to support left-wing ideas and writers, but only if they could do it in the sneakiest way possible, via the CIA.

Was that:

...because the US government was afraid that the writers would lose credibility if people knew they were getting US government support, or

...because the US government was afraid it would be tainted by association with Socialism?
posted by clawsoon at 2:38 PM on August 25, 2015

It's common for MFAs to end up only being able to work at the CIA.
posted by glaucon at 3:02 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, this has lead me to wonder about which web sites are getting similar support right now. I wonder how one could find out.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:08 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Make a comment like that one, then use the FOIA see what lists you end up on.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:16 PM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

The centerpiece of the CIA’s effort to organize the efforts of anti-Communist artists and intellectuals was the Congress for Cultural Freedom. . . . The CCF’s flagship journal was the London-based Encounter. . . . Through the CCF . . . the CIA became a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War—the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture.
Meanwhile . . .

Sweet Tooth (2012), Ian McEwan:
[I]n early-1970s England . . . a period of the Cold War when Western governments were trying to win the war of ideas against a highly radicalised intelligentsia. . . . Serena Frome is offered a chance to take part in a new covert program codenamed "Sweet Tooth". To counter Communist propaganda during the Cold War, the [MI5] wants to offer financial assistance to young writers, academics and journalists with an anti-Communist bent. . . .

Operation Sweet Tooth is entirely fictional, but the story is inspired by the actual scandal affecting the conservative literary magazine Encounter, which in 1967 was revealed to have received covert funding from the CIA.
-- WP
posted by Herodios at 3:56 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

That duck on the cover of Der Monat, is that supposed to be Sartre or Camus? German cultural politics is so confusing!
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

In May of 1967, a former CIA officer named Tom Braden published a confession in the Saturday Evening Post under the headline, “I’m glad the CIA is ‘immoral.’”

Two interesting facts about Tom Braden: (1) He was the first to represent "the left" on the TV show Crossfire and (2) He was the inspiration for the "Tom Bradford" character on Eight Is Enough, played by Dick van Patten.
posted by jonp72 at 5:38 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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