“I cannot but wonder why are people pushing for Socialism and Communism?” an elderly friend wrote on Facebook. “Are they that misinformed and believing it?” If we concede the answer is “yes,” the next question is “Why?” The late Yuri Bezmenov, a former KGB operative with the Novosti press agency, has answers. One of those answers is that the western press has been targeted and seduced by Marxist media management–and has been for decades.
Bezmenov defected from the Soviet Union in 1970 and died in 1993. Some thought his observations were dated even while he lived, but he offered his wise response in his 1985 book, World Thought Police, penned in his western name, Tomas Schumann. “Nothing is outdated if we talk about the goals and methods of KGB-Novosti. Nothing has changed since the Chinese genius of subversion Sun-Tzu for the last 2,500 years of human history,” he wrote. Bezmenov claimed until the “World Communist Movement” vanished, his words “will remain an accurate, though impressionistic and highly opinionated, description of the largest subversion system in the history of mankind.”1
The ex-KGB “journalist” should know. Bezmenov was a disinformation agent who sowed false propaganda in India and welcomed western journalists to Russia as part of the operation. In a 1985 interview with G. Edward Griffin entitled, “Soviet Subversion of the Free World Press,” Bezmenov gives interesting anecdotes of his methods, one we can assume that media manipulators, especially Marxist ones, use to this day.2
PICK FRIENDLY MEDIA…OR MAKE THEM FRIENDLY
Novosti employed Bezmenov to “accompany groups of so-called ‘progressive intellectuals’: writers, journalists, publishers, teachers, [and] professors of colleges.”3 He said, “Most of them pretended they don’t understand that we are actually working on behalf of the Soviet government and the KGB. . . . For us they were just a bunch of political prostitutes to be taken advantage of for various propaganda operations. . . . another victim of ideological brainwashing.”4
Bezmenov was told to “aim higher” than mere leftists and find others to co-opt to the Marxist cause. “This was my instruction: try to get into large-circulation, established conservative media; reach filthy-rich movie makers; intellectuals, so-called ‘academic’ circles; cynical, egocentric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people: people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy or too [much] suffer from self-importance. They feel that they matter a lot. These are the people who[m] [the] KGB wanted very much to recruit.”5
Alcohol was Bezmenov’s ally. “One of my functions was to keep foreign guests permanently intoxicated,” he said. From the time guests landed in Moscow, it was a “glass of vodka, then a second glass of vodka, and in no time my guests would be feeling very happy, they would see everything in [a] kind of pink, nice colour, and that’s the way I had to keep them permanently for the next fifteen or twenty days.”6
Bezmenov stayed sober while he drank with them, either due to not drinking the alcohol they did or from pills to help metabolize the alcohol. “At [a] certain point in time, I had to withdraw alcohol from them, so that some of them who are the most recruitable would feel a little bit shaky, guilty, trying to remember what they were talking [about] last night… That’s the time to approach them with all kind[s] of nonsense such as ‘Joint Communiqué’ or [a] statement for Soviet propaganda. That’s the time they are the most flexible.”
It is reasonable to expect that alcohol and drugs are still used to compromise people–then co-opt them when they sober up.
Bezmenov also led American journalists on tours, making them a captive audience, so-to-speak. Novosti penned 20- to 25-page backgrounders on the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics for journalists who wanted to come. The reporters had to give a response to what they read. Based on that, a Soviet diplomat in Washington or a Novosti representative would assess whether they should get a visa to come to Russia. “They were pre-selected very carefully, and there is not much chance for honest journalists to arrive to USSR, to stay there for one year, and to bring this package of lies back home,” Bezmenov said.
Giving friendly media the best, or even exclusive, scoop, is a technique that remains to this day.
LIE TO THE MEDIA SO THEY CAN LIE FOR YOU
Look magazine sent reporters to Moscow at great expense on the 50th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution. Bezmenov accompanied the delegation to ensure a Soviet success. “From the first page to the last page, it was a package of lies: propaganda cliché[s] which were presented to American readers as opinions and deductions of American journalists.”7
Lying was part of the game. “For the stupid question, we’d give them a stupid answer. ‘No, there are no prisons in Siberia. No, most of the people who you see are free citizens of USSR; they are very happy to be here, and they are contributing to the glory of the socialist system.’ Some of them pretended that they believed what I was telling them.”8
A centrefold included an apparently-inspiring WWII monument in Stalingrad. Bezmenov said the article’s claim that Soviets were proud of their war history was the “greatest, greatest misconception and a very tragic misunderstanding.” The reality was closer to “disgust and sorrow, because every family lost [a] father, brother, sister, or child in the Second World War.” Bezmenov said readers received an “absolutely wrong idea about the sentiments of my nation, about what the Soviets are proud of, and what they hate.”9
Staged places and events were part of the propaganda. Bezmenov described to Griffin this picture of a Soviet kindergarten that appeared in a Canadian government publication.
The caption goes, ‘This is a typical kindergarten in Siberia.’ What these idiots didn’t understand [was] that it is not kindergarten at all. It is a prison for children of political prisoners. But there was not a single [mention] that what they were visiting actually was an area of concentration camps. And [it was] the job of people like myself, to help them not to notice that they are actually talking to prisoners.10
On tours to Siberia, Bezmenov took his guests to a kindergarten with apparently happy children eating a meal.
What they could not understand, or they pretended not to understand, [is] that this is an exemplary kindergarten; this is not the kindergarten for [an] average person, or the average family in USSR. And we maintain that illusion in their minds. . . .But deep inside, I still hoped that at least some of these useful idiots would understand that what they are looking at has nothing to do with the level of affluence in my nation.11
Such experiences left Bezmenov with questions of his own. “What are the motivations of these people? Why would they stubbornly bring lies to their own population through their own mass media?” he asked. “They know nothing, or next to nothing. Or they pretend that they know more than they actually do. I would say they are dishonest people who lack integrity and common sense and intellectual honesty.”12
Bezmenov concluded reporters wanted to be “conformist to their own editorial bosses” and had a more immediate concern abroad. “It’s fear: pure biological fear. They understand that they are on the territory of an enemy state, a police state, and just to save their rotten skins and their miserable jobs, their affluence back home, they would prefer to tell a lie than to ask truthful questions and report truthful information.”13
In World Thought Police, Bezmenov wrote, “You, the people, are being had by the Soviets, and seem to enjoy it. The sooner you will realize that, the better chances for your survival in the “Bright Future for All Mankind” (Soviet expression meaning– One World System controlled, naturally, by the “Big Brother.)”14 If Marxist forces are gaining ground today, it’s because they’re using similar tactics to similar ends. And if journalists echo Marxist propaganda, it may well be for the same reasons that Bezmenov describes: a lack of integrity, a willingness to be manipulated to “get the story” or, perhaps complicity in telling the story that their bosses want. The USSR may be gone, but the Marxist dream remains. Only a vigilant and discerning public, served by integrous journalists, educators, and politicians, can maintain western freedom from succumbing to subversion.
Lee Harding is a Research Associate for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash