811.42700 (R)/2–2747: Telegram
The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State
563. Following is expansion Embassy views on using unfavorable news items in Russian broadcasts (Deptels 294, February 21 and 316, February 251).
If used as brief factual items in same style as American news broadcasts such stories are definitely harmful because they will stick in listeners’ minds and only serve to document the generalized attacks constantly being made upon US in Soviet press.
For instance, Americans hearing that high school teachers in Centerville are threatening strike recognize a good story but have perspective enough to realize that people of Centerville will sooner or later solve this problem in fair and democratic way. But Russian listener judging such an item against background of his own experience and what he is told of USA sees whole foundation of American life giving away. So in an attempt to be objective, we have actually given false impression. But to be objective and at same time serve our own interests we should, whenever giving unfavorable news, place it in perspective for Russian listeners by explaining concisely background causes and corrective measures being taken.
To give second example, announcement of lynching is bad. If story is grisly enough Tass will cover in full detail. We must wait until we can carry more comprehensive story that American public opinion [Page 538] has been aroused, that newspapers throughout country are demanding action, and that federal officers have made arrests in accordance with President’s orders.
We should not try to hide our problems from Russians nor should we indulge guilt complex which so frequently seems to afflict American mind by making point of our faults. Russian press already does that. Our aim should be to emphasize what we as great democratic people are doing to solve these problems. Official Soviet propaganda line is that only Marxism can solve our problems. Our purpose must be to show that we have our own ways for arriving at the better life.
We should avoid headline and haphazard treatment of unfavorable news but show no hesitation in discussing our problems whenever we can do so in way to put them in proper perspective and show that American people are concerned and working for their solution. If we cannot present American news in such a way and still be honest, then we have no business broadcasting to Russians at all.
I do not think we will enhance our reputation for creditability to any great extent merely by confirming accounts of our weaknesses in the Soviet press, but we might destroy it if we fail to exercise great care to avoid statements which conflict with the only other western broadcast reaching Soviet Union. For instance, Soviet listeners were quick to pick up fact that BBC announced 10 percent price decrease in Paris while our broadcast said 5 percent. One comment was “We always believed BBC. Now we don’t know which to believe. Maybe both are untrue.”
- Neither printed.↩