26. Memorandum of Discussion1

Summary of Views Expressed by Area and Media Directors during “Theme” Session on Saturday, April 28, 1961

Mr. Phillips, IAE, apologizing if he should seem somewhat parochial, urged “West Berlin must be maintained as a free city” as a major theme for immediate action. Mr. Phillips said another Berlin crisis was expected between May and September. He recalled the very good media coordination during the 1958 crisis2 when journalists were flown into Berlin and IBS gave excellent coverage. Mr. Phillips recommended immediate gathering of usable material, including a documentary film suitable both for film programs and for TV use, to be forwarded to the posts and held by them for use when the crisis breaks.

He also offered as a major theme: “Responding to the revolution of rising expectations—economic, political, social.”

Mr. King, IAN, proposed as a major theme an excerpt from the Inaugural Address: “The United States will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friends, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”3

Mr. McKnight, IAL, questioned whether we weren’t putting the cart before the horse. He said that it appeared to him advisable, in order to arrive at the desired major themes, first to identify U.S. policy goals worldwide, define potential USIA contributions to their achievement—in light of problems USIA faces—, compare USIA assets with the enemy’s assets, and only then attempt to answer the question, “What themes?” Mr. Sorensen remarked that such was the procedure being followed.

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Mr. McKnight mentioned some of the problems which, in his view, confronted USIA:

1. “Wave of future” versus “paper tiger”.

2. Double standard of morality applied to U.S. and U.S.S.R.

3. “Knee-jerk” pro-Soviet reaction of “intellectual,” “liberals.” (What’s explanation of anomaly?)

4. Soviet orchestration of propaganda, diplomacy, military pressure (guerrilla), economic pressures, subversion.

5. Soviet “capture” of good words.

Mr. Nickel, IAF, suggested that the Agency might undertake the major job of mounting a mass education campaign on “What is economic development?” This might be stated thematically as “Development for Freedom”, or “Development for Progress.”4 Mr. Nickel suggested that some University might be chosen to do the basic research job and provide a body of doctrine and raw material which the Agency might draw on in the proposed campaign.

Mr. Hutchison, IPS, said that the themes he would propose were designed to awaken friends and neutrals to the danger to all and to win the confidence of these friends and neutrals for the United States.

His themes were: “Forward-changing America versus static communism;” “Collective security means collective freedom.

Mr. O’Brien, IBS, said that his theme was broad and blunt, namely: “The United States leads and supports social revolution around the world.

This might appear tricky and perhaps unpalatable at home and in Europe, but, Mr. O’Brien noted, a recent bold projection of American revolutionary ideals had been effective around the world.

Mr. Squires, IAA, asked whether the themes to be selected would be USIA themes or U.S. themes—that is, themes built on U.S. policies and actions. He was doubtful of the advisability of working with the former, and felt that U.S. themes should be employed. He foresaw difficulties. In Morocco, he recalled, when the Posts were asked to exploit the Hungarian revolution, the Moroccans were not interested in the plight of the Hungarian refugees and asked, “Why aren’t you doing something about the Algerian refugees?”5 He noted also (someone had mentioned “The Open Society” as a possible theme) that the Africans are not interested in an “open” society; they want a “closed” society. Mr. Squires said that he believed the best opportunities for [Page 87] coordinated media output to get results arise when major U.S. policies and actions come together, as in the Lebanese landings of 1958.6

(Mr. Squires submitted an IAA paper proposing the theme: “Improving the Image of International and Regional Organizations in the Context of the Indispensability of International Cooperation.” He suggested emphasis on the idea that “this will win.”)

Mr. Stephens, IRI, suggested two themes: “America’s is the true revolution; Russia’s is counter-revolution.” “A nation has the right to choose provided it respects the rights of others.” He indicated that he would give decided priority to the first of the two.

(“Mr. Stephens suggested consideration of naming a three-man task force to develop a priority list of themes. Mr. Murrow responded that the themes would be chosen by “a one-man task force.”)

Mr. Handley, ICS, proposed as a theme: “History is on the side of freedom.” He said that carrying this concept to all the world—a world weary and beset by doubts—could restore hope where there is none and spark courage to halt the advance of communism. It could serve, he said, as a kind of “non-military” penetration of wavering and doubtful countries. He noted that effective subsidiary themes would derive from the first: One showing the United States as “a cornucopia of devices and experience” of immense help to other nations; the other exposing Communism’s practice of wielding power “without a sense of responsibility to God or fellow men.”

Mr. Begg, IOC, said that a recent conference he had attended, concerned with such matters as “home rule” and “local autonomy of communities” lead him to believe that an effective theme could be based on those concepts. He proposed as his first theme: “American Respect for the Dignity of the Individual.”

(He submitted a paper proposing these additional themes: “Americans Govern Themselves;” “The Strengths of the American Democratic System,” “The U.S. Stands for Rule of Law;” and, “American Application Abroad of the Free Enterprise System.”)

Mr. Shelton, IMS, said that, in his view, one of the major problems facing the Agency is that communism is simple and easy to sell, whereas democracy is complicated and pretty hard to sell. He noted that few people seem to realize that the Soviet Union is a fascist state and gets away with passing off its “fascist” achievements as proofs of the effectiveness of communism. The object of the theme he would propose, Mr. Shelton said, was to break down the appeal of communism and [Page 88] induce people to reject communism’s “easy road to breakdown and degradation.” The theme: “Expanding and Perfecting Man’s Freedom.”

(Mr. Shelton submitted a paper giving the rationale of this and additional themes. The others: “Progress and Social Justice through Peaceful Change;” “Strength for Freedom;” “Reject the Easy and Deceptively Attractive Road to Tyranny and Self-Degradation;” and, “Progress and Social Justice Begins with YouStart Building Today the World You Want Tomorrow.”)

Mr. Butler, ITV, remarked that the theme he was proposing was perhaps “more doctrine than theme,” but that he felt it offered a worthy suggestion for coordinated Media effort. The theme: “Humanism.” This theme held “the essence of our evolution as a nation.”

Mr. Murrow remarked that he had long felt that there was “a goldmine in HEW.”

Mr. King, IAN, questioned whether the humanism theme might not contain a possible booby-trap—that of reviving charges of “U.S. materialism.”

Mr. McKnight, IAL, asked, “After the loss of Laos and Cuba, would emphasis on Humanism make us seem weak? And would a campaign on humanism perhaps be betrayed by a tough military act?”

In a general discussion at this point, it was agreed that the Peace Corps was a self-evident theme, but that no coordinated output should be attempted on it until there were enough Peace Corps projects in actual operation abroad to assure continuing material for the Media to work with—that it would be premature to publicize the Peace Corps very much in the immediate future.

Mr. Brooke, IOP, noted that considerable work had been done in IOP in developing possible themes and in preparing very comprehensive guidances for media utilization. Two of a number of examples which were available for examination were: “The Scientific Revolution,” designed to show the depth and breadth of U.S. scientific achievement, and the extent to which this achievement is benefiting the entire world; and, “The Open Society,” designed to appeal to man’s inherent desire for freedom and to stress communist determination to deny that desire and thereby put the communist powers on the defensive. Noting the able job which enemy propagandists have done in branding America as “imperialist” and in attaching to the U.S. such labels as “Uncle Shylock,” “Wolves of Wall Street,” the “Yankee Dollar,” and “Dollar Diplomacy,” he suggested consideration of a long-term campaign to make the dollar respected again—as a symbol of the hard work of the American people helping to do the important work of the world.

(Mr. Phillips, IAE, remarked in connection with the “Science” theme that in Western Germany, despite USIS efforts, most Germans [Page 89] believed that the Russians were ahead of the U.S. in scientific accomplishments. He felt this might be explained by the somewhat “scattered” attention which USIA has so far given to science.)

Mr. Murrow said that he hoped all present would not be forgetful of the value of repetition in getting across whatever messages or points the Agency was aiming at its audiences.

Mr. Murrow then made an appeal “for small things,” for colorful, revealing items on “what this Agency is and what it does.” Such items could be very useful in speeches and for other purposes. They could be sent to him, via Mr. Payne, on 3 x 5 cards. He said not to make it a chore, not to submit “long reports.” (These should be items such as a letter from Africa on the long waiting list for “The Federalist Papers,” the hunger for education in the Sudan where schools are on three shifts, and the fact that over 200 million people saw USIS films last week.)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Acc. #67A222, Entry UD WW 379, Themes—General 1963 & Prior. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Brooke on May 4. Under a May 9 covering memorandum to Halsema and Sirkin, Sorensen sent a copy of the memorandum of discussion and a copy of a May 8 memorandum from Pauker to Moceri, Halsema, and Brooke. (Ibid.) In the May 8 memorandum, Pauker stated: “In our consideration of Themes, I hope we do not lose sight of the extent to which a Theme is effective only insofar as it engages a real need and a real will to work; otherwise it is likely to be (and to be readily identifiable as) mere window-dressing behind which lurk the realities of the diverse and often conflicting interests which nations and peoples hold dear.”
  2. Reference to the Western response to Khrushchev’s November 10, 1958, address in Moscow, during which he asserted that the parties to the Potsdam Agreement give up the occupation regime in Berlin.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 7.
  4. An unknown hand placed two parallel vertical lines in the right-hand margin next to this sentence.
  5. Squires had served as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Morocco during the 1950s.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 3.