THE COURIER.JOURNAL, LOUISVILLE, KY., SATURDAY MORNING, JULY 22, 1961
Fakery Confuses Cold-War Issues
By C. L. Sulzberger
(© 1961 New York Times News Service)
ONE of the oddest Cold War battlefronts is that of the forgers who — sometimes for propaganda, sometimes for mischief, sometimes for personal profit — are unloading fake documents on a puzzled world.
Certain of these documents are obviously phony; others are so clever that not even experts can be sure if they are contrived; but all of them manage, sooner or later, to find their way into print.
Over four years, the C.I.A. has uncovered 32 such false papers in which Communist psychological warriors sought to embarrass the United States Ty disseminating lies. Early this year a purportedly "secret British Cabinet paper" on Africa was circulated to make trouble between African nationalists, Americans and British.
Toward the end of the Eisenhower Administration a similar creation had Assistant Defense Secretary Frank Berry admitting that most of our Strategic Air Command crews were dangerously neurotic.
Other forgeries have sought to convince our allies that the United States spies on them, that Bonn is preparing a law to muzzle the press, that Washington favors North African Arabs over France. Coupled with such t inventions have been reports larded with "circumstantial evidence" of such things as C.I.A. plotting with French generals to overthrow de Gaulle.
Hard To Tell
It is sometimes hard to be certain whether a document is genuine. When a French Trotskyite magazine published a paper allegedly drafted in Moscow on Khrushchev's quarrel with Mao Tse-Tung, experts doubted its validity. Certain distinguished journals bought it nevertheless as "news" although it had been on newsstand sale for weeks. The anti-Communist expert of Le Figaro, distinguished Paris morning journal, labeled it a Yugoslav fabrication and the British merely suspect it as a phony.
Forgery as a propaganda technique is far from novel. It has always appealed to naivete, prejudice and wishful thinking. But the art of forgery and the effectiveness of its dissemination have improved.
After 1945 a regular "factory" for producing phony documents was established in Paris by Russian refugees to embarrass the U.S.S.R. and enrich the authors. The most imaginative contributor was a former Moscow diplomat named Bessedovsky who showed considerable genius.
This group produced some gaudy "memoirs" by Litvinov, Stalin's erstwhile Foreign Minister; a concocted Stalin "will"; a marvelous memoir of "My Uncle Joe" by Stalin's nonexistent nephew, and an intimate revelation called "The Soviet Marshals Speak." Students have proved that these were phonies — but not until they had been widely circulated.
Forgers produced a fascinating autobiography of the late General Vlasov, the Soviet general who commanded an army of Russian war prisoners for Hitler and was later executed. France's most serious military review drew significant deductions from an alleged thesis by Marshal Bulganin which he never wrote.
Unfortunately, the competitive instincts and credulity of the Western free press help provide a ready market for Cold War forgers. It is always possible for an old document such as the Khrushchev view of Mao — which may or may not be counterfeit — to be warmed up and served as something new and exclusive despite the fact that, in the first place, it had been widely distributed for weeks and, in the second place, it is suspected as a fake.
One can understand why in the Middle East, where literacy standards are still low, where the radio plays a more influential role than the newspaper, and where a story is judged more by juiciness than by veracity, the value of the lie is great. It is less easy to comprehend why the more experienced and skeptical Western world so often lends credence to the fake.
Phonies By Mail
As Bertram D. Wolfe, a distinguished Kremlinologist, said some years ago of the delicious but spurious Litvinov "diaries": "These spicy, disjointed, bemusing, bed-time-story concoctions tend to drive out of circulation the more serious studies of the secretive and real nature of the Soviet systems."
And now that Russian propagandists have detected the hunger of capitalist newspapers for documents, real or unreal, they are making a business of feeding them phonies in the mails. It would be a wise precaution were all serious editors to analyze such “disclosures” with great care before they publish them.