Eisenhower Library, Dulles papers, “Bookburning”

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (McCardle) to the Acting Administrator of the United States International Information Administration (Johnson)

personal and private
  • Subject:
  • Directives to the IIA concerning use of material by Communist Authors

I have your memorandum of March 5.1 The Secretary’s decision is as follows:

Material produced by Communists or their agents or sympathizers should be used only with great care and when responsible persons judge them to be an effective way—and the uniquely effective way—to confound international Communism with its own words, to expose its fallacies and refute its doctrines.
It should be our policy not to identify by name any living international communist unless absolutely necessary. This must not be carried to the point of absurdity in treatment of straight news but even here a conscious effort not to build up our living opponents by naming them should be made. As often as possible, writings or statements of living persons can be ascribed to some such anonymity as “a leading international communist or Stalinist”. Skillful use of this treatment in commentary and in our anti-communist publications can be especially effective.
Our own press and radio have in the past built up Soviet personalities to such an extent that whatever they do or say commands widespread attention. I believe we should replace individual buildups with anonymity to those hostile to us.
Reputable, responsible U.S. periodicals of program value may be included in USIS overseas libraries. However, the Mission should withdraw any individual issues containing any material detrimental to U.S. objectives. Periodicals, which are receptive to international [Page 1686] communist propaganda, have no place in the program and cannot be used.
I do not think we should make the works of Communist authors a part of our public libraries.
If you find these ideas acceptable, I must rely on you to translate them into what is an appropriate and practicable “working-level” directive.

Carl W. McCardle
  1. Not found. Johnson had also written to Dulles about this matter; see Dulles’ memorandum for the President, June 27, p. 1715. Dulles’ own personal reply to Johnson, also dated Mar. 17, 1953, was subsequently released on June 25, in conjunction with responses to Congressional queries concerning book policies in overseas libraries (see footnote 3, p. 1716); for text, see Department of State Bulletin, July 13, 1953, p. 59.