“Ideological Subversion” Can Destroy America from Within
Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov (1939–1993) was a loyal Communist Party member and worked for the KGB in propaganda and espionage during the Cold War. After being assigned to a job in India where he helped organize pro-Soviet spy networks, he grew to love the Indian people and culture. Gradually he became disaffected with Soviet ideology and, in 1970, he engineered a daring escape to the West. Bezmenov settled in Canada where he assumed a false identity.
In 1984, Bezmenov shocked the world by giving a televised interview to G. Edward Griffin. Their interview, titled “Soviet Subversion of the Free World Press,” exposed detailed plans of the Soviet strategy to subvert America. (A full recording of this interview is given below at the end of this post.)
At first glance, Bezmenov’s iconic interview with Griffin may seem like a relic of the twentieth century. After all, the Soviet Union no longer exists, many of Bezmenov’s specific predictions never came to pass, and the world has become engulfed with new sets of concerns. Yet I want to argue that Bezmenov’s remarks on Soviet subversion are even more relevant than in 1984. There are two reasons for this.
First, Bezmenov identified a number of processes the Soviets put in place that were designed to corrupt America from within. Many of these processes have continued with a life of their own long after the fall of the Soviet Union. By becoming aware of these processes, we are more empowered to fight against the new normal and resist the forces at work to destroy our nation.
Secondly, many of the strategies the Soviets used to subvert American culture are now being employed by other actors on the national and international scale. Bezmenov’s insider knowledge of KGB tactics sheds fresh light on the strategies of these new bad actors.
If we fail to learn from history then history is doomed to repeat itself. Here are some high points of the Bezmenov’s interview with observations on the parallels with our own time. At the end of this post, I’ve included a link to the full interview.
Replace Intellectuals with Bureaucrats
Bezmenov disclosed that the KGB looked upon idealistic leftists and Marxist philosophers as potential enemies. Even when they supported Communism, it was expected that these intellectuals would become disillusioned once they realized the true nature of Communism. The non-threatening people from the Communist point of view were the bureaucrats, the functionaries, and the ignorant masses. Whether people in these groups were cynically believing useful lies for personal advancement, or simply consenting to the hive mind without thinking for themselves, the result was the same: a large mass of recruitable people who posed no threat to the status quo.
Aren’t we seeing a similar dynamic today? Those who are doing the most damage to Marxism 2.0 (what many analysts call “social Marxism”) are those who truly believe in the principles of classic liberalism—people like Barry Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Joe Rogan, etc. These intellectuals are finding themselves strange bedfellows with conservatives in standing against the bureaucrats and functionaries who control the institutions of power.
The parallel with the Soviet situation is not exact. However, it is instructive that those who are making the greatest strides in advancing the new leftism are the bureaucrats, the functionaries (both corporate and political), and the ignorant masses: people who are willing to use mechanisms like shame and “cancel culture” to promote the hive mind instead of encouraging honest intellectual inquiry.
Demoralize Through Psychological Warfare
“The main emphasis of the KGB,” Bezmenov told Griffin, “is not in the area of intelligence at all. Only about 15% of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage and such. The other 85% is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or active measures ... or psychological warfare.”
Bezmenov’s entire interview is about the tactics used to bring about ideological subversion, but one thing that stood out was the KGB’s interest in cultivating in Americans a sense of disinterestedness and passivity about the problems in the world.
This interest in passivity was behind the KGB’s fascination with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian yoga who helped popularize Transcendental Meditation for the West. While working as a KGB agent in India, Bezmenov had been given the job of collecting information on the guru. Why? Because the KGB believed that the more Americans pursued TM, the less active they would be in real world problems.
The Soviets were interested in encouraging anything that furthered “the fashion not to be involved,” and anything that could function as an alternative to being “alert to the reality” happening around them.
We are experiencing something similar today, with an increasing fatigue about politics, indifference towards civic institutions, retreat from community activities, and more concern over self-oriented activities (dieting, exercise, self-help practices, gaming, etc.) than the health of public life.
Help People Internalize Lies
Before being assigned to India, one of Bezmenov’s jobs was to be the contact person for journalists traveling to the USSR from the United States. When working with such journalists, the KGB’s goal was not merely to convince the journalists to believe lies, but to help them internalize the lies and accept them as their own.
But how were the KGB able to get Western journalists to internalize lies? One method was fear. The Soviets had enormous reach and were able to ensure that honest journalists lost their jobs. Through what amounted to an early version of “cancel culture,” the Soviets came to have many of the major mainstream publications as their lackeys, including New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Bezmenov’s claims that Soviets could ensure that journalists who printed the truth would be defamed or lose their jobs. To avoid character assassination and to keep their high-paying positions, journalists would keep reporting lies about the USSR until they believed them. (Here is a direct link to where Bezmenov explains how this early form of cancel culture worked.)
The most obvious parallel in the present is the way American media, corporation, and academia have become puppets of the Chinese Communist Party. China’s tentacles—which reach far deeper into the United States than the tentacles of the Soviets ever did—ensure that Americans either propagate downright lies or else self-censor to save their skin. We saw self-censorship on full display last year when the “Fast & Furious” actor John Cena made an abject public apology for referring to Taiwan as a country.
But it is not just through foreign influence that Americans are internalizing lies. As new orthodoxies develop around emerging theories of gender, sexuality, and race, the bureaucrats and functionaries who control our institutions of power (both government and corporate) routinely use fear and intimidation to ensure rigid uniformity. As a consequence, lies that at one time would have seemed laughable (i.e., sexual preferences are fixed but gender is fluid, the way to achieve justice is to practice racial discrimination, etc.) are becoming internalized on a massive scale.
Use Demoralization to Render Facts Meaningless
The psychological warfare against America was designed to demoralize the public until they reached a state of befuddlement. In such a state of confusion, a person would be unable to objectively evaluate facts, even when the facts are staring the person in the face.
“Exposure to true information does not matter anymore. A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures...he will refuse to believe it, until he is going to receive a kick in his fat bottom. When the military boot crashes his balls, then he will understand, but not before that. That is the tragedy of the situation of demoralization.”
Again, this reads less like a description and more like a prediction. In field work, interviews, and research I conducted in graduate school throughout 2020 and 2021, I found that “information fatigue” had produced indifference to facts even among fellow conservatives. This was often coupled with apathy and even antagonism towards the very idea of performing due diligence about information sources. (See my article, “After Research: The Challenge of Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Culture.”) Again, Bezmenov warned of this, especially when he observed that true information can be rendered useless once a person is so demoralized he cannot assess true information.
Watch the entire Bezmenov interview below.
- Civilization & Its Malcontents: How Soviet Disinformation Infected the West & What the West Can Do About It
- Mr. Jones: Movie Depicts When The New York Times Helped Stalin Cancel 10 Million
has a Master’s in Historical Theology from King’s College London and a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is the blog and media managing editor for the Fellowship of St. James and a regular contributor to Touchstone and Salvo. In addition to working as a ghost-writer for celebrities, his work has featured in a variety of publications, including the Colson Center, World Magazine, Sky News, and the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Phillips is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches: How to Experience the Good Life Even When Everything Is Going Wrong (Ancient Faith, 2020), and Rediscovering the Goodness of Creation: A Manuel for Recovering Gnostics (Ancient Faith, forthcoming 2023). He is a contributor to Pain, Suffering and Resilience: Orthodox Christian Perspectives (Sebastian Press, 2018), and Finding the Golden Key: Essays Towards a Recovery of the Sacramental Imagination (Eighth Day Press, forthcoming 2023). He operates a blog at www.robinmarkphillips.com.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/kgb-defector-gives-warning-to-america