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by history buff
Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 11:04 AM
The secret persuaders
It was 1940, the Nazis were in the ascendant, the Blitz at its deadliest, and Britain's last hope was to bring a reluctant United States into the war. So it was that the largest covert operation in UK history was launched. William Boyd sheds light on a forgotten spy ring
All the same, Churchill's task, as he himself saw it, was clear: somehow, in some way, the great mass of the population of the US had to be persuaded that it was in their interests to join the war in Europe, that to sit on the sidelines was in some way un-American. And so British Security Coordination came into being.
BSC was set up by a Canadian entrepreneur called William Stephenson, working on behalf of the British Secret Intelligence Services (SIS). An office was opened in the Rockefeller Centre in Manhattan with the discreet compliance of Roosevelt and J Edgar Hoover of the FBI. But nobody on the American side of the fence knew what BSC's full agenda was nor, indeed, what would be the massive scale of its operations. What eventually occurred as 1940 became 1941 was that BSC became a huge secret agency of nationwide news manipulation and black propaganda. Pro-British and anti-German stories were planted in American newspapers and broadcast on American radio stations, and simultaneously a campaign of harassment and denigration was set in motion against those organisations perceived to be pro-Nazi or virulently isolationist (such as the notoriously anti-British America First Committee - it had more than a million paid-up members).
Stephenson called his methods "political warfare", but the remarkable fact about BSC was that no one had ever tried to achieve such a level of "spin", as we would call it today, on such a vast and pervasive scale in another country. The aim was to change the minds of an entire population: to make the people of America think that joining the war in Europe was a "good thing" and thereby free Roosevelt to act without fear of censure from Congress or at the polls in an election.
BSC's media reach was extensive: it included such eminent American columnists as Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, and influenced coverage in newspapers such as the Herald Tribune, the New York Post and the Baltimore Sun. BSC effectively ran its own radio station, WRUL, and a press agency, the Overseas News Agency (ONA), feeding stories to the media as they required from foreign datelines to disguise their provenance. WRUL would broadcast a story from ONA and it thus became a US "source" suitable for further dissemination, even though it had arrived there via BSC agents. It would then be legitimately picked up by other radio stations and newspapers, and relayed to listeners and readers as fact. The story would spread exponentially and nobody suspected this was all emanating from three floors of the Rockefeller Centre. BSC took enormous pains to ensure its propaganda was circulated and consumed as bona fide news reporting. To this degree its operations were 100% successful: they were never rumbled.
Nobody really knows how many people ended up working for BSC - as agents or sub-agents or sub-sub-agents - although I have seen the figure mentioned of up to 3,000. Certainly at the height of its operations in late 1941 there were many hundreds of agents and many hundreds of fellow travellers (enough finally to stir the suspicions of Hoover, for one). Three thousand British agents spreading propaganda and mayhem in a staunchly anti-war America. It almost defies belief. Try to imagine a CIA office in Oxford Street with 3,000 US operatives working in a similar way. The idea would be incredible - but it was happening in America in 1940 and 1941, and the organisation grew and grew.
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|Some things change, some don't
||quote of the day
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 11:12 AM
||on both sides of the fence
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 12:43 PM
|On second reflection
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 12:51 PM
|Lets start with
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 12:53 PM
|Did you individuals teach the Nazis...
||Don't cha think?
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 3:37 PM
|Then why are you here?
||Then why are you here?
||Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 3:48 PM
|re: Shalhevet Pass
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 12:23 AM
|a telling list
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 4:51 AM
| soldiers are victims
||Don't cha think?
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 10:55 AM
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 11:21 AM
|WWII wasn't really between Germany and America.
||not valid analogy
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 11:33 AM
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 11:51 AM
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 12:00 PM
|Israel has guided missiles.
||Zionism *is* aggression
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 12:12 PM
|Zios: are they too dumb to figure things out, or do they just not want to (toughy, huh?)?
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 12:43 PM
|Okay, zio, tell you what
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 1:10 PM
|hahahaha!! Baby-stabber's circuits are frying! I love it!!
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 1:45 PM
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 4:22 PM
||Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006 at 6:05 PM
|where as BJ ( of Santa Cruz )
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 7:38 AM
||Gimme a break
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 8:11 AM
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 8:19 AM
|anti-Semitism/pro-Semitism: two sides of the same coin
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 8:29 AM
|re: Pilar Rahola
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 9:43 AM
|Speaking of flibbering idiots
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 9:49 AM
|Yid- no one is talking about Kaplan here
||try and keep up.
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 10:21 AM
||See you there!
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 11:07 AM
|Rahola v Finklestien
||he say, she say
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 11:46 AM
|so tell me...
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 2:24 PM
|"And most Zionists agree."
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 3:20 PM
|"all Jews , all Zionists"
||get your facts straight
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 3:23 PM
|MY DEFFINITION OF ZIONISM
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 3:37 PM
|Like I said, you just come and peck the ground.
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 4:35 PM
|My take on 'zionism'
||Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006 at 11:30 PM
|Zionism as fascism?
||i don't think so
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 2:36 AM
|Whether Zionism is fascism or not is open to interpetation.
||a racist is a racist is a racist
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 6:50 AM
|Zionism isn't fascism. Period.
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 6:55 AM
|"one ethnic group, the Palestinians"
||he's trying to confuse you
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 7:31 AM
||two year residency requirement
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 7:40 AM
|"Palestinians are not an ethnic group."
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 10:29 AM
|Oh Tia hun-neeeeeee....
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 10:44 AM
|G-d bless the Palestinians
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 10:47 AM
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 11:25 AM
|I smell a dead zionist wharf rat
||Friday, Aug. 25, 2006 at 10:31 PM
|I smell a bigoted skunk's whiff
||Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006 at 6:42 AM
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