Dictators and Their Useful Idiots

Communist Infiltration of Western Media from Hitler to Xi

Dictators from Hitler to Stalin to Mao to Xi have all understood the importance of propaganda. To maintain their power, they had to fool their own people and people on the outside. Because America has become very powerful since World War I, they were willing to pay a high premium to deceive the American people. They found that the most effective way is to have American journalists and intellectuals propagate their lies.

Netflix’s recent TV series “How to Become a Tyrant” documented in Episode 4 how Stalin used Walter Duranty, then the New York Times’s Moscow bureau chief, to hide the truth about Ukraine's Great Famine that eventually led to the death of millions of Ukrainians.

Duranty was escorted by Soviet minders on a train tour of Ukraine. Everywhere he was allowed to visit, he saw staged, happy, well-nourished “Ukrainians” who were dancing and singing after a day’s work. Even though he noticed hungry Ukrainians while traveling through the countryside, he buried his suspicion, wrote glowing reports on how Ukrainians were happy under Stalin’s dictatorship, and claimed the rumors of the famine were overblown. During his fourteen-year stay in Moscow, he filed many reports praising Stalin and the Soviet Union. His fake news reports even earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

During China’s Cultural Revolution, Mao loved to show American journalists on Tiananmen Square. It served dual purposes. The first was to show Chinese people that Americans love Mao; the second was to use those journalists to hide the truth from the American people. It was no wonder that during the early Sixties, many Mao study groups popped up on American campuses.

The most famous among American journalists is Edgar Snow. His book, Red Star Over China, portrayed Communist leaders like Mao as agrarian democrats. Mao successfully convinced him that the CCP, unlike the Soviets, wants to build a country like the US, and his articles and books influenced American public opinion.

Nazi Germany did similar things during the Thirties. The exiled Chinese author, Jie Yu, who was tortured by the Chinese secret police before he escaped to the US, told how Jame B. Conant, then Harvard’s president, whitewashed Nazi brutality. With Conant’s support, Harvard University expanded the exchange program with German universities and allowed Hitler youth to speak on American campuses.

Terrell Clemmons told the story of a Romanian intelligence general who defected to the USA in 1978. His mother was a Christian, so he vowed that he would never participate in a political killing. When his boss, Nicolae Ceaușescu, ordered him to kill Noel Bernard, director of Radio Free Europe’s Romanian Program, he decided to flee his country.

After coming to America, he explained how Soviet-bloc countries had used the Russian “science” of dezinformatsiya, or disinformation, to fool well-meaning, free-world Westerners. Disinformation is not the same as misinformation. Misinformation is any information fabricated by a government and published by its media outlets. Disinformation is the same information published in Western media and attributed to Western sources. Disinformation by journalists like Duranty and Snow was way more effective in fooling the American people.

Romanian dictator Ceausescu wanted Bernard dead because he was telling the truth to the Romanian people through radio waves. Programs like Radio Free Europe were part of the Cold War counteroffensive launched by President Truman with the help of Pope Pius XII to counter the lies of Communism.

One of the programs was Voice of America (VOA). I grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution. For millions of my contemporaries, VOA was our window to the outside world and the light to find the truth from within China. We got to know what America is really like and what lies the Chinese government had told us. To us, VOA was a reliable news source.

Perhaps that is why the Chinese government under Xi has infiltrated VOA. The CCP’s infiltration is not limited to VOA. It has infiltrated influential newspapers like the New York Times and top universities. Yu also detailed how Harvard became a school for children of the CCP elites.

  The term “useful idiots” is used to show how dictators like Stalin and Mao viewed the Western intellectuals they used to spread lies to the West. Most of them were socialists or communists who naively believed the lies and helped the dictators to remain in power.   Both Mao and Stalin killed way more people than Hitler, yet they aren’t seen as evil people to many Americans. To this day, some American intellectuals still revere Mao. This shows the effect of disinformation. It hasn’t gone away, and dictators will continue to use it to stay in power as long as we let them.

grew up during China's Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the US in 1995. He became a high school math teacher after having worked as an engineer for 20 years. Disillusioned with the current schooling model, he became an independent math teacher/tutor in 2018. He writes mainly on education and culture.

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