BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary
The history of the Voice of America has been written around the false myth that early VOA journalists always told the truth. In fact many of the early VOA officials and broadcasters who called themselves “journalists” were Soviet sympathizers and eager propagandists for the Soviet Union and Stalin. In collusion with the Soviet Embassy, they supported the imposition of communist regimes on Eastern Europe and covered up Stalin’s crimes. In their idealistic naïveté, they even at times went against the FDR White House which was already accommodating most of Stalin’s demands. The Soviet influence over VOA alarmed even some of the most liberal members of the Roosevelt administration, particularly some of the experienced diplomats in the State Department who were experts on Soviet Russia.
There were a few honest journalists working on VOA broadcasts in the Office of War Information, but they were pushed out or resigned in protest as did Jewish-Austrian journalist and writer Julius Epstein, who was pushed out, and Polish VOA broadcaster Konstanty Maria Broel Plater who reportedly walked out when his bosses demanded that he read Soviet propaganda including the Kremlin’s lies about the WWII Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish military officers by the Soviet NKVD secret police.
The collusion of most of the early VOA “journalists” with Soviet Russia and international Communists has been hidden for many years but deserves to be better known and studied as Americans ponder ways of how to protect themselves from Russian, Chinese and Iranian propaganda and disinformation.
As history shows, the Voice of America can be easily subverted by ideologues and foreign influence if it lacks effective management and oversight. Former Voice of America acting associate director Ted Lipien who was in charge of the VOA Polish Service during the Solidarity movement’s struggle for democracy in Poland focused in his op-ed in The Washington Examiner on the early history of VOA and the recent speech by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on press freedom. Despite being delivered at the invitation of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Senator Cruz’s speech, which included references to the Cold War and Ronald Reagan, was not reported on by the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
“The State Department does not have a monopoly on poor political judgment. When one looks at the history of U.S. international broadcasting, left-wing Voice of America journalists were more eager supporters of Stalin and state socialism than most U.S. diplomats. In April 1943, the State Department intervened twice to save VOA, then in the Office of War Information, from the influence of pro-Soviet officials and VOA broadcasters. This included VOA’s first director, John Houseman, and VOA’s first chief news writer and news director, Communist author Howard Fast. After Fast was forced to resign from VOA in 1944 due to pressure from the State Department and the FBI, he was honored in 1953 with the Stalin Peace Prize, worth about $235,000 in today’s dollars.”
Disclaimer: Ted Lipien who wrote this op-ed for The Washington Examiner is a co-founder and supporter of BBG – USAGM Watch.