November 19, 2019

The Power of Disinformation

For over sixty years, communists have poisoned world opinion about America so successfully that even many Americans, including elected officials, have embraced the lies. That is the claim made by Romania’s former intelligence director, Lieutenant General Ion Pacepa, in Disinformation.

Unlike “misinformation,” which is simply inaccurate, “disinformation” is deliberately created to deceive people. According to Pacepa, Soviet leader Stalin had the KGB (secret police) create lies and false narratives about their real or perceived enemies and then alter documents and records to support the stories. Other communist leaders followed his example. Disinformation note only creates the lies; it also involves blaming the people lied about. A notable example of this blaming: after inventing the practice of disinformation, Stalin claimed that western nations invented it.

The main targets of Soviet and other communist disinformation were institutions and views that opposed their Marxist ideology—in particular, Catholicism, Capitalism, the United States, and Israel.

Disinformation was disseminated by infiltrating existing media outlets and influential organizations, as well as by creating new ones. The organizations, Pacepa claims, include the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the World Peace Organization, the Center for Democratic Renewal, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the United Nations.

The most daring and largely successful examples of communist disinformation include the following:

Changing the image of Pope Pius XII. During and after WWII, knowledgeable people extolled him as a hero who saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hitler’s concentration camps. Among those who expressed this view were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and the Chief Rabbis of Romania, Palestine, Jerusalem, and Rome. In fact, the Chief Rabbi of Rome not only converted to Catholicism, but took Pius’ given name, Eugenio, as his baptismal name. And yet Soviet disinformation, repeated decade after decade, persuaded many people that Pius was an anti-Semitic supporter of Nazism.

Demonizing other Catholic leaders. A similar kind of disinformation was employed against a number of other Catholic leaders, notably Cardinals Stepinac, Mindszenty, and Wyszynski, and was attempted against Pope John Paul II. (Russian Orthodox clergy fared much worse. Hundreds of thousands of them were falsely accused of being Nazi sympathizers and sent to Siberia or executed.)

Portraying Capitalism as the enemy of the masses. The main way this was accomplished was to invent “Liberation Theology (LT)” and promote it as a way to lift the masses from poverty and oppression caused by capitalist countries, especially the United States. (Soviet and other forms of communism, of course, are responsible for killing between 85 and 100 million people and oppressing ten times that number.) Many Latin American bishops were duped into embracing LT, notwithstanding Pope Leo XIII’s warning in Rerum Novarum. Moreover, a version of LT has been embraced by radical black theologians. Pacepa quotes one of them, James Cone, as follows: “Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white . . . oppressors here and now by any means at [black people’s] disposal.” President Obama’s long-time pastor, Jeremiah Wright, famous for saying “God damn America,” is considered part of this movement.

Promoting the redistribution of wealth as a humanistic goal. This goal has been familiar to Americans since President Obama made it a focus of the 2008 and 2012 elections. But Pacepa documents that the idea is much older, having its roots in Marxism. He adds that long before Obama embraced it, it had become “the electoral slogan in all Soviet bloc countries.”

Portraying Israel as an evil nation that has persecuted the Palestinians. In addition to using every form of media to redefine Israel’s self-defense as aggression, and resurrecting the scurrilous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to defame Jews, the KGB created the PLO, selected a Marxist functionary to lead it, changed his name to Yasser Arafat and his birthplace from Egypt to Palestine, and invented a lofty organizational goal—liberating “his” Palestinian people from oppression perpetrated by Israel and supported by the U.S. Untold millions of people around the world accepted this package of lies as the truth. It has been remarkably effective in stoking Muslim hatred of Israel.

Blaming John Kennedy’s assassination on the U.S. government. Pacepa documents that the Soviets planned the assassination and recruited Lee Harvey Oswald to carry it out. They later tried to call it off, but Oswald acted anyway. To avoid being implicated, the KGB then began a disinformation strategy codenamed The Dragon Operation, with the goal of blaming the assassination on Lyndon Johnson and the CIA. Pacepa argues that this operation duped a number of American artists and journalists, including filmmaker Oliver Stone, into promoting the lie.

Manipulating public opinion in the U.S. to oppose the Vietnam War. Of the many Soviet achievements in this matter, the duping of John Kerry arguably had the greatest impact. In 1971 Kerry testified before the Senate that American soldiers had told him they had committed terrible atrocities “in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”

General Pacepa claims he was familiar at that very time with an almost identical story created by the KGB some years earlier and planted in American and European leftist movements. Pacepa goes on to say that the antiwar movement was not “homegrown,” as is commonly believed, but was the result of what Yuri Andropov named the Ares operation (after the Greek god of war). The effects of this operation, Pacepa notes, included the antiwar focus at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that later resurfaced in denunciations of the Iraq war by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in 2007.

Fostering the idea that America is a bully that exploits its power to take advantage of other countries. Pacepa writes: “By 1978, when I broke with communism, the Soviet bloc disinformation machinery had allegedly collected some 700 million signatures on various international appeals blaming America for all the evils of the world—even for the famine in Ethiopia.”

The fact that communist “disinformation” has affected world opinion for decades is disturbing. Even more disturbing, though, is the influence it continues to have in American culture and politics:

  • Disinformation demonizing Catholic (and other Christian) leaders has caused suspicion of religion and undermined religious faith.
  • Disinformation about Israel has weakened American support for that country and fostered a mistaken assessment of the danger of radical Islam. It has also, of course, intensified the determination of radical Islamists to destroy both Israel and the U.S.
  • Disinformation condemning Capitalism and extolling Marxist ideas such as Liberation Theology has led to an exaggerated view of rights and entitlements and caused suspicion and tension among races and social classes.
  • Disinformation claiming that an individual or a nation can achieve wealth only by exploiting others has led to larger government, higher taxes, and the redistribution of wealth.
  • Disinformation about John Kennedy’s assassination has encouraged a conspiracy mentality and increased suspicion about all government officials.
  • Disinformation about U.S. military behavior in Vietnam has led to disrespect toward the military and to reflexive opposition to all military engagements.
  • Disinformation claiming the U.S. bullies and exploits other nations and peoples has caused hatred of America and thus increased the danger of terrorism around the world. Even worse, it has caused Americans to hate their own country and to teach American children to do likewise.

What is disturbing about these influences of Soviet/Marxist disinformation is not only that they have impacted the thinking of many “progressives” in this country, but more importantly that they have shaped the perspective of the most powerful individual, Barack Obama, on major issues facing the country. Consider the President’s repeated apologies for America, his tendency to defend Muslims and criticize Christians and Jews, his reluctance to take meaningful action on the problems of illegal immigration and terrorism, and his efforts to “transform” America and “redistribute wealth.” All of these can be traced to one or more of the forms of disinformation explained above.

For a great nation to be destroyed by its failings and offenses is regrettable. But to be destroyed by falsehoods invented by its enemies is tragic.

Copyright © 2015 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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