Friday, March 20, 2015

This Secret CIA Video Showed Ronald Reagan How the Soviets Viewed America

When President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he became the first president to receive Central Intelligence Agency briefings in video format. The CIA produced more than 40 short informational videos for Reagan, ranging from evening-newsy looks at topics like the Chernobyl nuclear accident to profiles of foreign leaders.

Bob Woodward and others have maintained that Reagan preferred these videos since he was not keen on heavy reading. Not so, says CIA historian Nick Dujmovic. "This myth is supported by Reagan's purported preference as a former career actor in films and television and by the old perspective of Reagan's simple-mindedness," he asserts in an agency report on the Great Communicator's consumption of top-secret intelligence. While Reagan found the videos helpful and asked for more, the original idea for the televised briefings was the CIA's. The president still received regular written and in-person briefings, Dujmovic writes.

The CIA declassified and released several of the videos in 2013, including this look at how the Soviet media portrayed the United States. It's worth a watch as an '80s-tastic Cold War relic, featuring cameos by Michael Jackson and Rambo. There are also references to the Russian translation of oral historian Studs Terkel's Working and the state-run newspaper Pravda's interest in Native American activist/prisoner Leonard Peltier. The agency refrained from criticizing the Russian media for translating the title of Jackson's Thriller as Film of Horrors.

"The Soviet media," the CIA narrator explains, "portrays the US political system as an oligarchy ruled by big capitalists who control the impoverished masses. Moscow radio said recently that the American public has been lulled by the demagoguery of politicos whose services have been bought by capital."

...As it turns out, Indian country's most famous political prisoner was a much more important topic to the editors of Pravda (the Communist Party's official newspaper) than he was to their American counterparts. Here's a passage from the transcript:

Moscow has seized on the case of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist convicted in 1977 of murdering two FBI agents. While Peltier's case is almost forgotten here, his legal appeals getting only brief mention in the New York Times, Pravda published seven stories about him this past September. Other Soviet newspapers also ran prominent coverage. The Soviets seemed to be trying to use this case to counter Western publicity about their own political prisoners.

The entire video below is interesting watching from start to finish, but the segment on Peltier doesn't start until the 7-minute mark.


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