511.00/6–1752: Circular airgram

The Secretary of State to All Diplomatic Offices1


Exposing of Communist Propaganda Techniques

The purpose of this communication is to obtain the Missions’ consideration and recommendations for further use among intellectuals of certain materials exposing Communist propaganda techniques.

A number of recent books and other publications deal with Communist techniques for warping mental attitudes. Two outstanding treatments of the subject are “Brain Washing in Red China” by Edward Hunter and “The Reds Take A City” by John W. Riley and Wilber Schramm. Distribution copies of the former book were shipped to Missions on October 30, 1951, and of the latter on December 19, 1951. Every Mission received at least one copy.

The Department believes that those portions of these books which reveal the purposeful and brutally efficient manner in which Communist officialdom sets out to change the basic mental attitudes and thought patterns of people living in areas under Communist control should be brought to the attention of intellectuals. It is felt that those portions of the books emphasizing disruption of family loyalties, betrayal of traditional social and economic patterns, abnegation to Communist ideology and the stifling of initiative, can be effectively used to wean intellectuals of Asia and the Middle East away from Communism. To a more limited, but nonetheless important extent, they may be useful in other areas of the world as well. It is recognized that in many countries the impact of this material might be more effective without passages emphasizing “the hate America” campaign.

A report is requested on the use of the two titles and of other similar materials.

A current IBS series entitled “Forbidden Literature” reports one facet of “operation brain washing.” Reprints of articles entitled [Page 1627] “What You Can Read in Russia” and “The Great Liquidation: Satellite Culture” are in process for field use.

The Department will from time to time transmit further materials on this subject and summaries or popularized adaptations of such materials suitable for newspaper, magazine, or indigenous pamphlet use.

The use of such materials should be planned in terms of a long term program directed at intellectuals. This program should not be blatant. It should be adapted to the psychological situation and conditions in each country. One phase of it should consist of a steady and consistent reiteration of methods used by Communists to attain control of thought processes.

Would the Missions be interested in cartoon or other pictorial treatment of the subject?

The Missions are requested to evaluate with particular care and to report to the Department on the extent to which this effort should and can be successfully conducted by indigenous sources, with the open activities of USIS or any other U.S. source held either to a minimum or kept entirely in the background.

The Administrator of the International Information Administration of the Department has recommended that every key officer in the International Information Administration read “Brain Washing in Red China.” It is hoped that the Public Affairs Officers, if they are not already familiar with the book, will give it their careful attention at the earliest opportunity. Other appropriate officers of the USIS should also do so.2

  1. Drafted by G. Huntington Damon of IIA on May 29. Cleared by IFI, IPS, and ICS.
  2. The only reply to this airgram found in Department of State files is despatch 33 from Prague, July 28. It stressed the difficulties of carrying out Acheson’s requests from a post in Eastern Europe. (511.00/7–2852)