Correspondence

Soviet Agitprop Implodes

Letter From California

Though it gets harder to remember with every passing day, one of the long-established premises of the recently ended Cold War was the notion that both the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. were engaged in an ideological battle for the minds and souls of the world's population. In line with this the West used powerful transmitters to beam Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty past the Iron Curtain while the Soviets spent millions trying to jam the broadcasts. For its part, the U.S.S.R. established numerous international front organizations and publications to parrot the Soviet line.

For decades this East-West psychological warfare was relatively upfront. Their side touted Marxism-Leninism, denounced American imperialism, and encouraged Third World "liberation struggles." Meanwhile, our side touted the free market and democracy, denounced Soviet imperialism, and encouraged Third World development. However, after five years of glasnost and perestroika and the much heralded end of the Cold War, we have come to a puzzling juncture where the psy-war hasn't exactly ended but seems to have imploded—at least at the Soviet end. Soviet propaganda is still being produced, but the logic behind it has gotten a little . . . twisted.

To see this more clearly, consider for a moment a typical pre-glasnost analysis of Soviet "active measures," i.e., propaganda and disinformation aimed at...

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