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Advertising America. The United States Information Service in Italy
Tobia-fronte-400-9 15-12-2008 10:45 Pagina 1
Simona Tobia
Advertising America
The United States Information
Service in Italy (1945-1956)
INTRODUCTION
Despite the highly complimentary reports she sent to Washington illustrating the results of the work carried out by the United States Information
Services (USIS), ambassador Clare Boothe Luce sometimes doubted the
efficient operation of the American informational network in Italy. Satisfactorily accomplishing its mission under the real conditions the USIS had
to deal with in the Fifties was not always an easy task.
I should like to remind you that as a member of the staff of USIS I have
seen to it that certain fairly important public relations arrangements have
gone decidedly well for you – and to assure you that, if I have anything
to do with them, others in the future will go decidedly well for you again
[…]. It is my job, and it would be my pleasure, to do so. But I am forced
to be frank and to tell you that, in the present circumstances in USIS, I
shall not be able to do a thorough, thoughtful job for you. 1
It fell to Chief Information Officer John E. Dineen to reply to the ambassador’s complaints with a long and embarrassing letter in which he
reminded her about his efforts to do his job unfailingly, a hard duty in
Rome in those years. From Mr. Dineen’s letter, it was quite clear that a job
at the USIS in Rome was generally not considered a real job, but a sort of
reward for tasks accomplished in the past and that the staff were «people
who are somewhat relaxed from somewhat too much of the beautiful life in
Rome» 2. The officers showed limited interest in their work in Italy; many
1
NARA, RG 84, Entry 2783 A, Italy, Rome Embassy, Records of Clare Boothe Luce
1955-1957, Box 3, Urgent – Personal – Confidential, The Situation in USIS, From John
E. Dineen, To The Ambassador, 1955, p. 1.
2
Ibid., p. 3.
16
introduction
of them preferred to let themselves be seduced by the temptations of the
capital’s social life, or by other, more private relationships, like Nedville
E. Nordness, head of the Italian USIS from 1955. His affair, which he did
not even attempt to keep particularly secret, with the secretary of the Press
and Publications Service’s chief Allan J. Funch, while his wife and children
were away in Norway, had embarrassed the entire American informational
structure in Rome, attracting the attention of Via Veneto’s gossipmongers.
Despite the very relaxed attitude of both the American and Italian staff
however, it is undeniable that the whole USIS network achieved important results in developing American cultural policies for Italy in the first
decade after the war, an important step towards the ‘Americanization’ of
the country during the Cold War.
In recent years, many scholars have attempted to study the ‘Americanization’ of the world from several points of view. The most recent example
is Victoria De Grazia’s work published in 2005 3, which highlights the way
that America’s consumerist society has won over the world; Richard Pells
attempted a much broader approach to the question of the ‘Americanization’
of Europe in 1997 4, considering several aspects of the problem, including
public diplomacy as well as mass culture and economic and social life.
Pells then extended his research not only to several types of sources, but
also to many European countries, avoiding the constraint of concentrating on one in particular, which resulted in a very wide-ranging work. The
study of the influence of the American model on Italian culture is not
new, but those who have attempted it have rarely shown an interest in the
activities of the USIS. Pier Paolo D’Attorre 5, for instance, analyses several
aspects of the question, from comics to advertising, but does not show
an interest in activities of cultural diplomacy, whereas Stephen Gundle 6
considered cinema first and foremost; those who approached diplomatic
cultural activities generally preferred to concentrate on the period of the
Allied liberation/occupation of Italy 7. It must be noted, however, that most
scholars interested in Italian-American relations generally focus especially
on economical activities, such as those linked to the Marshall Plan and to
relations with the trade unions, and on political affairs 8. Nor, on the other
hand, do the studies dealing with the history of either the USIS, the United
De Grazia 2005.
Pells 1997.
5
D’Attorre 1991.
6
Gundle 1995.
7
Ellwood 1977; Pizarroso Quintero 1989.
8
Aga Rossi 1977 and 1984; Del Pero 2001; Di Nolfo - Rainero - Vigezzi 1990 and
1992; Di Nolfo 1986, 1990/1991 and 2002; Ellwood 1985 and 1992; Faenza - Fini 1976;
Gabrielli 2004; Guasconi 1999; Poggiolini 1990.
3
4
introduction
17
States Information Agency (USIA) or Voice of America (VOA) 9, analyse
the case of Italy in depth, concentrating essentially on the history of those
agencies and of their policies as they were conceived in Washington. Two
exceptions to this rule are the recent books by Silvia Cassamagnaghi, which
deals with the influence of the American model on Italian women, and by
Giles Scott-Smith, which pays particular attention to American cultural
exchanges with Great Britain, France and the Netherlands 10. As to influences on Italian culture, much has been written, especially in Britain, but
these works are often conceived in close contact with cultural and media
studies and generally are not purely historical analyses, tend to trace the
relations between politics, culture and society 11.
The most important exception to all this is Luigi Bruti Liberati’s book 12,
the first published historical account of the USIS in Italy in the post-war
years. As he pointed out very clearly in his introduction, the entire concept of the ‘Americanization’ of Italian society is doomed to remain quite
vague if the concrete processes through which it was accomplished are
not analysed in depth 13. This book, although far from being exhaustive,
is intended to continue Bruti Liberati’s work right from where he left off,
and it represents a contribution to the debate on ‘Americanization’, trying to determine the limits and success of the State Department’s public
diplomacy in the Italian cultural environment.
The USIS was the network of overseas branches of the various offices
in charge of the State Department’s international cultural and informational
policies 14 between 1945 and 1953, and which after 3rd August 1953 merged
to form the independent agency known as USIA; its foreign branches, still
called USIS, were based in embassies and consulates. They had arrived in
Italy in 1943 with the Office of War Information (OWI) and the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB), and after the Liberation they started to work
independently. The USIS’ aim was to convince the Italians that the main
objective of American policies was peace, firmly rooted in freedom and
security, but they also wished to provoke attitudes and actions in support
9
Barrett 1953; Bogart 1976; Cowan Shulman 1990; Dizard 1961; Esterline - Esterline
1997; Heil 2003; Henderson 1969; Krugler 2000; Pirsein 1979.
10
Scott-Smith 2008; Cassamagnaghi 2007.
11
Baranski - Lumley 1990; Baranski - West 2001; Duggan - Wagstaff 1995; Forgacs Lumley 1996; Forgacs 1990; Risso - Boria 2006.
12
Bruti Liberati 2004.
13
Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. II-III.
14
Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs (1945-1948); Office of
International Information (1948-1950); Office of International Information and Cultural
Exchange Programs (1950-1952) and International Information Administration (1952 1953).
18
introduction
of the United States’ objectives in both the people and the government, as
stated in one of Washington’s country plans for Italy 15. The USIS’ work
was divided among various branches: American libraries and cultural
centres, the Press and Publication Service, the Motion Picture Section,
the International Broadcasting Branch, namely VOA, and the section in
charge of cultural exchange including Fulbright grants. They produced huge
amounts of publications, films and radio shows, but they also organized
art exhibitions, concerts, conferences and other events that could lead to
scientific, economic, and especially cultural cooperation.
The main theme of USIS-produced material and of VOA broadcasts
to Italy was the idea of advertising the American model, and the American
‘way of life’, namely ‘advertising America’; their mission was to make the
Italians feel they needed American welfare, wellbeing and wealth as linked
to the model of democracy and freedom which ultimately depended on the
‘Western choice’ of the Italian people. This was because Italy, in addition to
having the strongest Communist Party in Western Europe, was not a very
resolute ally. More widespread production, obtained through American
aid, would have spread prosperity through all sectors of society, solving
the problem of social and labour struggles, which, in the USIS officers’
opinion, were primarily associated with poverty. Economic growth would
thus bring the Communist Party’s influence to an end; hence, the necessity
of showing American wellbeing and wealth, already present in nuce during
the war years, was strengthened in the post-war period.
The approach chosen by this book is strongly analytical, and although
the nature of the area under discussion is close to cultural and media studies,
this remains purely a historical work that attempts to trace the history of the
Italian USIS and tries to determine the actual importance of its endeavour
to influence Italian life in the late Forties and Fifties. The five chapters
divide the subject into two main areas: the policy as it was conceived in
Washington and the history of the agency in general on the one hand, and
the policy’s practical application in Italy by USIS officers in embassies and
consulates on the other hand. The book also follows chronological criteria
adopted to highlight the relations between the developments in American
informational and cultural diplomacy, those in Italy’s social and political
situation, and the changes in the international Cold War situation. The
material is thus divided into three main areas: the legacy of the war and the
reconstruction, until the Italian elections in 1948; the shift from ‘containment’ to ‘roll back’ until the change of Administration in 1953; and the
15
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65/2-852, Box 2466, USIE Country
Plan – Italy – 3rd Priority Area – Confidential – Security Information, January 1952.
introduction
19
years of Clare Boothe Luce’s mandate as American ambassador in Rome,
between 1953 and 1956.
At the end of the war, the USIS initially tried to reach Italian mass
audiences primarily through the press and the radio, but clearly this was
not working. In 1950 country plans for Italy established a huge and hardhitting intervention, extended to the whole population, especially to those
who were part of the so-called ‘labour’ target group, mainly factory and
rural workers who were more likely to be seduced by the Communist Party.
This kind of intervention was very expensive and, as has been said, it did
not seem to be working. The news bulletin sent to newspapers and magazines every day was hardly used by the Italian press, and VOA’s listening
figures testified that the population was clearly more likely to listen to the
RAI frequencies.
When, on 22nd April 1953, Clare Boothe Luce arrived in Naples on
board the Andrea Doria, it was clear that a plan to roll back communism
in the country was ready. Along with the Italian USIS chief director Lloyd
A. Free, Ambassador Luce prepared a prospectus for Italy for 1954-1955 16.
Important budget cuts 17 were on their way for the new fiscal year, so an
‘Italianization’ of the USIS work was needed, letting Italian ‘public opinion
moulders’ move to the front lines. The Italian cultural elite thus became
the most important target group. The USIS started to develop personal
contacts with a group of people chosen very selectively from among journalists, politicians, free trade union leaders, teachers and university students,
and anyone who could be considered as a ‘moulder’. This was the cheapest
way of reaching the mass public indirectly, and it also proved to be the
most effective. Clare Boothe Luce’s USIS thus transformed Italian cultural
leaders into cultural ‘brokers’, to put it in the words of David Forgacs 18.
The principal tools used to engage Italian cultural leaders were basically
words: spoken and written words. The emphasis was on book translation
and presentation campaigns, on the establishment of university courses on
American studies in Italian faculties and, to form well prepared scholars,
on cultural exchange programmes. When the primary target group was
no longer the one called ‘labor’, VOA was moved to the rearguard; in
1953, its broadcasts were cut to only 15 minutes per day, and they were
abolished by 1957. VOA’s Italian Desk, however, continued to exist and to
16
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65/5-1353, Box 2467, Foreign Service
Despatch, From Amembassy Rome – Lloyd A. Free, To The Department of State, Washington, Subject: IIA Prospectus, 13th May 1953.
17
In fiscal year 1953: 628,000 U.S. dollars USIS; 3,500,000 MSA. Fiscal year 1954:
656,000 USIS; 1,000,000 MSA.
18
Forgacs 1990, p. 5.
20
introduction
work in close cooperation with the USIS officers on the other side of the
ocean, in Rome. And they were doing so with a new aim: to colonize the
RAI, and possibly try to control the news it aired, supplying it with both
ready-made programmes and material to be used in the RAI-produced
broadcasts, without any label indicating that those programmes originated
in the USA.
The USIS’ aim was to involve those leaders who were already interested
in American culture. They were not conservative, but open and ready to
receive new cultural views, and also new subjects, such as those regarding
the social sciences, which were not yet popular in Italy at that time, and still
considered by many as instruments of the capitalist culture. Thus subjects
such as sociology, political science, economics, and public opinion studies,
but also American history and literature, began to be regarded as the best
weapons for fighting communism in Italy. The USIS recruited the soldiers
for a new cultural army from among those leaders that could be defined
liberals, as they were both anti-fascist and anti-communist. Il Mulino and its
founders, intellectuals who wanted to come down from their ivory towers,
were just the right people in the right place. The introduction of courses
of American studies into Italian universities is another example of the
recruitment of liberal scholars. The USIS propagandists regarded writers
like Moravia, and later Silone, who were closer to the Communist Party,
with great interest in the hopes of winning over not only their hearts and
minds, but also those of their readers. The right ‘public opinion moulders’
could convey the right message to their fellow-countrymen.
These operations can certainly be considered as ‘Americanization’, but
Italy proved to be somewhat less than eager to be passively conquered by
a foreign empire. The USIS officers, therefore, could only appeal to those
who were already intellectually interested in all things American, namely
the cultural leaders, and Italy used American propaganda, or ‘cultural
imperialism’, and not just the Marshall Plan money, as an opportunity to
advance.
This study is based on the very abundant, and for the most part still
unexplored, materials available at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. The papers of the USIA are available
there, within the huge Record Group 306, which is entirely dedicated to
the Agency; the papers of the State Department, in the immense Record
Group 59, have also been very useful, especially for the study of the information offices that preceded the creation of the USIA as an independent
agency. Record Group 84, containing the papers of the foreign posts, has
been extremely valuable in examining the case of Italy, especially for the
recently-declassified Record of Clare Boothe Luce 1955-1957, which, if
used in conjunction with the Clare Boothe Luce Papers at the Library of
introduction
21
Congress, is very helpful in determining the role of Mrs. Luce’s intervention on Italian culture. The American National Archives have also provided
the primary sources for the study of VOA, both through papers held in
Record Groups 59 and 306, and through the VOA’s scripts held in the
National Archives and Records Administration Northeast Region in New
York City. These archive materials have been used in comparison with the
results of some Doxa surveys which are held at Doxa’s premises in Milan,
Italy, and with the USIS-produced publications still available in various
Italian libraries that inherited them when the USIS libraries closed in the
Nineties.
Different studies of the material available are also possible, both from
the point of view of Italian home affairs, comparing the developments of
the USIS policy with the history of Italian political affairs, and from the
perspective of cultural and media studies. In this book, in fact, the part
regarding cultural exchanges was limited to the most important examples
for the period of time under consideration, because its primary purpose
is to trace a more comprehensive history of American diplomatic cultural
activity in Italy during the Cold War. Furthermore, this book does not aim
at providing an exhaustive response dealing with the actual dimension of
Italy’s ‘Americanization’, which calls for wider analysis, of which cultural
diplomacy is just one aspect. Its aim is, on the contrary, to determine the
intentions of the American government in this country and to what extent
it actually succeeded in obtaining some long-lasting results.
I
WARS OF IDEAS:
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION SERVICES
1. 25th February 1942: on the air
The Voice of America speaks. Today America has been at war for seventynine days. Daily at this time, we shall speak to you about America and
the war. The news may be good or bad, we shall tell you the truth. 1
It was 2.30 a.m. on 25th February 1942, exactly 80 days after Pearl Harbor, when this broadcast was aired from New York to London, and then
re-transmitted to Germany. A new international radio service had been
created to keep war-torn Europe informed with the truth, and it was included within the net of information offices desired by President Franklin
D. Roosevelt after the United States entered the war.
Voice of America, and its acronym VOA, has been the name of the new
broadcaster since March 1942, and it was regularly used both by announcers on the air and in correspondence headings. Thanks to its simplicity
the name spread very quickly; indeed, to start with: «You are listening to
a broadcast by the radio production division of the Foreign Information
Service of the Coordinator of Information of the United States of America»
would have been quite complicated. «The Voice of America speaks» was
certainly much better.
1
USIA, America’s Overseas Information Program, Washington 1958, in Pirsein
1979, p. 58. Heil 2003, p. 32, the most recent publication on VOA’s history, covering
the period since its creation in 1942 until 2001, offers a slightly different version of the
quotation: «We bring you voices from America. Today, and daily from now on, we shall
speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good for us. The news may
be bad. But we shall tell you the truth».
24
wars of ideas
William Harlan Hale, an announcer who spoke German with a slightly
American accent, was recruited for that first time on the air. Only two
studios were working at the beginning of February 1942, at VOA’s Madison Avenue premises in New York. The ‘German desk’, consisting only
of two journalists and a secretary, started to produce a daily 15-minute
programme, consisting only of news from newspaper clippings. These were
then broadcast across the Atlantic Ocean by cable to London. The British
Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) European Service re-transmitted them
from London through its relay stations, while other programmes, on the
other hand, were recorded on acetate discs, and were then sent to Europe
by air. The BBC thus received the first broadcast during the night between
24th and 25th February 1942, and passed it on to Germany through its famous relay stations, on medium wave. VOA, however, usually celebrates
the anniversary of its foundation every 24th February, because that was the
day when the first programme was actually prepared and all the work was
done. Two days later, on 26th February 1942, the regular transmission of
a news programme that passed through London and reached Germany,
France and Italy daily in their own languages was started as well. A fourth
programme in the English language was added on 8th March; it could be
listened to all across Europe, from Stockholm to North Africa, and it became
famous as the Yankee Doodle Hour, from the title of the song that opened
and closed the programme. The choice was not casual at all. As a matter
of fact, among American traditional songs dating back to the Revolution
years, Yankee Doodle probably best represents the national pride of the
country, being the tale of a ‘Yankee’, a simple settler, dressed only in rags
(also called ‘doodles’). It was a mocking song, and British troops were said
to sing it while going to battle in the first days of the War of Independence.
The settlers soon started to sing the same song, but adding dozens of new
verses both to mock the British troops and to praise George Washington’s
men. After the British defeat of Yorktown in 1781, Yankee Doodle became
a sort of informal American anthem, representing the true soul of a nation
that had grown thanks to the work of the poor ‘doodles’ who had nothing
but their own strength. Those themes suited American war propaganda
very well in Europe during the Forties 2. Thus the song, played at the be-
2
Forcucci 1984, pp. 44-46. The song Yankee Doodle became American after a process of assimilation. Before the War of Independence it was known not only in Britain,
but also in the rest of Europe, and the British surgeon Richard Shakburg used it at the
beginning of the conflict to mock the rebels, who soon made the song their own. They
even played it at the ceremonies following Yorktown, on 9 th October 1781. For the different versions of the lyrics, see: Lomax - Lomax 1935 and 1954; Lomax 1960. Also see
the section ‘Songs and Poems’ in the Library of Congress’ web site.
words as weapons
25
ginning and at the end of every one of its programmes, became the icon
of VOA’s radio broadcasts, a sort of trademark that made it immediately
distinguishable from other international broadcasters such as the BBC or
Radio Mosca. Even VOA’s headquarters in Washington are still sometimes
called ‘Yankee Doodle Station’ 3. Actually, a version of The Battle Hymn
of the Republic should have been used as VOA’s theme song, and Fred
Waring’s Pennsylvanians were recruited to play it. John Houseman, first
director of VOA, recalls the reason for this change of mind:
It sounded glorious, and we were very proud of it – until we were informed, by the British, that this was exactly the same tune as an old
German marching song. Laura, Laura it was called, to which Nazi troops
had marched into Norway and the rest of Europe the year before. Sadly,
we replaced Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians with a sprightly small
band rendition of Yankee Doodle, which Virgil Thompson orchestrated
for us in a hurry, which became the signature of the Voice of America.
It had the right spirit, and as we later discovered, the ability to pierce
the organized bedlam of jamming. 4
2. Words as weapons
«Together we cannot fail» 5. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to
communicate this message to the nation one evening in March 1933, when
he had just started his mandate. Those were the dark years of the Great
Depression and Roosevelt had already understood that his voters needed
consolation and reassurance. To reach them directly in their homes, the
President choose radio, giving the first of his popular 31 ‘fireside chats’.
Between 1924 and 1936 the number of radio sets in American homes
increased from 3 to 33 million 6; it was an enormous change, which did
not stop even during the crisis that was at its peak right before the Second
World War. In 1937 no less than 80 per cent of the population had the
Ingrassia Fitzgerald 1987, pp. 12-13.
J. Houseman, Excerpts from John Houseman’s Speech, USICA World, 1982, in Heil
2003, p. 38.
5
It is the sentence that President Roosevelt used on 12 th March 1933 to close the
first of his ‘fireside chats’, the famous speeches he gave on the radio to encourage the
population, exhausted after three years of deep recession. The ‘fireside chats’ were
transmitted until 6th January 1945, whenever the President felt the need to speak directly
to the population, and they were aired through every national channel at 10 o’clock at
night (East Coast time), so that they could be heard in every time zone.
6
Holbrook Culbert 1976, p. 15.
3
4
26
wars of ideas
chance to have a seat next to a radio set, and in the same period Americans
used to listen to the radio for four and a half hours a day on average 7. At
the beginning of 1940, there were as many as 44 million sets, and 91 per
cent of homes in urban areas had at least one set, while in rural areas the
percentage decreased to 69 per cent, but still remained substantial 8. So,
Roosevelt’s choice was not casual, as in those years it seemed natural to
exploit a medium that made it possible to reach the widest possible public, practically coming into the living rooms of the whole population. The
President easily understood that this would grant him enormous and unprecedented political power, so during that night in March 1933 he invited
radio audiences to sit next to him and hear his speech about the way he
intended to stop the crisis that was making America starve to death.
Nothing was left to chance in Roosevelt’s speeches: they were usually quite short and written by a staff of professional writers who tried to
choose mainly among the 1000 words most used in the country, in order
to make them understandable by as many people as possible. On the night
of 9th December 1941, Roosevelt addressed his ‘fellow Americans’ speaking about the declaration of war on Japan following Pearl Harbor, and
said: «So we are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace
that follows».
In 1939, when war broke out in Europe, the United States was the only
power without an international propaganda service. The efforts of Nazi
propaganda architect Joseph Goebbels were well known, as well as those
of the Soviet Union, Italy, Japan and Britain, who used their mass media
to spread their own ‘truth’ outside national borders. In the spring of 1940,
the collapse of France was partly attributed to a loss of willpower due to
the Nazi propaganda that had preceded the military intervention, and the
United States became aware that greater efforts were needed to awaken
faith in democratic values and spread them among Europeans. President
Roosevelt, as a consummate politician, had started to exploit the mass
media for his ‘fireside chats’, and it was probably because of these efforts
that often his non-interventionist opponents were not granted the same
space on private mass media. However, the Administration still had not
given way to an explicit and spectacular propaganda, which could cause
too much criticism, and would not do so before the 1940 elections. As
a matter of fact, for many Americans the First World War heritage still
strengthened the feeling that propaganda was a sinister and alien thing,
typical of totalitarian regimes such as Germany. In fact between 1917
7
8
Parrish 1992, p. 505.
Frezza 1986, pp. 216-217.
words as weapons
27
and 1918 the Committee on Public Information, better known as the
Creel Committee from the name of its creator and director, the journalist
George Creel, literally covered the country with propaganda posters and
leaflets, exciting national fervour almost to frenzy. It was a campaign of
hate against the enemy, which contributed to distorting the perception of
war events. The original purpose of the Committee was to coordinate and
simplify the circulation of government news, but Creel turned it into a huge
propaganda network to drum up support for American intervention in the
war throughout Europe, and for this purpose many writers, journalists,
publishers, and people working in advertising and theatre were recruited.
The Congress, especially the republican minority, soon expressed its worries
that such an impressive structure could also be used by President Wilson
for political purposes, and not only to help win the war. At the end of the
conflict, the United States returned to its traditional isolationism, rejecting
the very concept of propaganda, also because of the suspicion that British propaganda had induced the country to join the war in 1917, widely
circulated among public opinion. The Creel Committee was not allocated
any more funds and the Congress abolished it on 30 th June 1919 9.
Between 1939 and 1941 President Roosevelt created a series of bodies, often with similar or converging tasks, with the task of taking care of
information in accordance with government policies.
The first of these bodies was the Office of Government Reports (OGR),
created towards the end of 1939 and in charge of informative propaganda;
it had to spread news about public defence programmes, but also to supply the government with information about public opinion trends. The
President thus hoped to create an atmosphere of confidence in his foreign
policy, providing information that private media could also use. Lowell
Mellet, former editor of the Washington Daily News, was chosen to direct
the OGR.
In 1940 Roosevelt was worried by Nazi penetration in Latin America,
so he decided to create the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA),
directed by Nelson Rockefeller, grandchild of John D. Rockefeller 10.
For an outline of the Creel Committee see Bruti Liberati 2004 and Henderson
1969.
10
John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937) was the founder of one of the first big trusts
in the United States, the Standard Oil Company. He was also one of the most important
American philanthropists, who created many foundations and institutions both for medical research and for education, such as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research,
created in 1901, and the General Education Board, which distributed more than 300
million dollars of education funds between 1902 and 1965. But the Rockefeller Foundation, created in 1913, is certainly the better-known institution, with the goal of promoting
welfare throughout the world. Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979) was a businessman
9
28
wars of ideas
On the home front, more prudence was required. In 1941 the President
established an Informational Division within the Office of Emergency
Management (OEM), in line with the informational propaganda strategy.
In 1941, after Roosevelt’s confirmation at the national elections, interventionists started insisting on the construction of an office in charge of
active propaganda, i.e. suggestion, because in their opinion, the existing
bodies did not satisfy the needs concerning the circulation of information.
On 20th March 1941 the President created the Office of Civilian Defence
(OCD), with Fiorello La Guardia 11 as director, which was included in the
list of government bodies in charge of the preparation for war.
On 11th July 1941 the President, as Army and Navy Commander in
Chief, issued a military order 12 creating the Office of the Coordinator of
Information (COI), which represented not only regular propaganda, but
also psychological war: it was an actual secret service, also in charge of
missions abroad and which cooperated in close relations with the Army; its
tasks included ‘dirty’ propaganda, using tendentious rumours to produce
confusion and defeatism among enemy forces. The office was thus in charge
both of ‘open-information’ and of the so-called ‘covert information activities’ and of intelligence. At the head of the COI in Washington there was
Colonel William J. ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, former lawyer in New York and
hero of the first World War, who had developed a passion for international
politics and intelligence during his trips to Europe. Despite being republican,
Donovan was close to the President, and his appointment as COI director
contributed to creating a bipartisan structure that Roosevelt wanted for
the war years. In March 1944 Donovan came back from Europe ready to
take care both of psychological warfare and of intelligence. He had very
clear opinions concerning propaganda, based on the political and military
purposes to be fulfilled: the COI should not be merely an information service, but it should use news as an actual weapon to fight the enemy. ‘Wild
and a politician. Son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the only male heir of the Standard
Oil founder, Nelson enlarged the family interests from business and philanthropy to
politics, and he was appointed to several governmental offices. After being Coordinator
of the Office of Inter-American Affairs during the Roosevelt presidency, he continued to
be interested in foreign policy during the Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon Administrations.
11
Fiorello Henry La Guardia (1881-1947) was a politician and mayor of New York
City for three terms, from 1933 to 1945. The son of Jewish immigrants of Italian origins,
La Guardia started his political career in 1916, when he was elected to Congress with
the Republican Party.
12
The creation of the body through an executive order would have established an
executive agency, directly subordinate to the Congress and funded through the Bureau
of the Budget. On the other hand, the creation of the office through a military order
allowed Roosevelt to fund it with his Presidential budget.
words as weapons
29
Bill’ Donovan explained his theories to the President: «The specific role
of propaganda is to soften up the civilian population and make the job of
the armed forces considerably easier» 13. In his opinion, propaganda thus
represented the initial phase of penetration, to be followed by espionage
and guerrilla actions, and then by open war. Propaganda could also be
used for more specific purposes, such as fomenting rebellions and political
opposition, and consequently demoralizing the enemy before sending the
troops. To be effective, propaganda had to be combined with an intelligence
team, which should collect all the necessary information to prepare covert
operations 14. This was Donovan’s recipe for the creation of a new secret
service, and the CIA would later use all these ingredients.
Owing to the confusion and criticism caused by the creation of all
those bodies and offices, in the autumn of 1941 Roosevelt established the
Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), with the task of coordinating the other
bodies and spreading thorough information. But the government only
actually started its own ‘war of words’ in July 1941, when Robert Emmett
Sherwood, a playwright, liberal in politics, whom Roosevelt had chosen to
write his presidential speeches, decided to establish the Foreign Information Service (FIS) and became its director. Sherwood was from a family of
high social standing and of conservative tradition. After his isolationism
of the post-First World War period, in 1939 he was converted to active
interventionism. In those years he was quite famous as an author of light
comedies, and President Roosevelt asked him to join his staff as the writer of
presidential speeches after the publication of a full page article in the New
York Times in 1940, about American efforts in support of Great Britain and
against Axis powers 15. From the Administration’s point of view, Sherwood
was certainly the ideal propagandist, as he was liberal but not too much
inclined towards the left, he was well respected in the whole nation and
did not have political enemies. Moreover, the fact that he was passionately
devoted to the President surely did no harm. Bob Sherwood believed in
the power of words to influence audiences, and consequently in the need
to use them as weapons. In his opinion America’s words should tell news
about America and about war, focusing on the campaign to counter Axis
forces, and should be based especially on ‘the power of truth’. He wanted
FIS radio programmes to be based on official speeches of politicians and on
real events, with the twofold purpose of keeping the allied troops morale
high and weakening the enemy’s. To realize this project, Sherwood recruited
13
Memoranda from Donovan to Roosevelt, March 1942, quoted in Cowan Shulman
1990, pp. 14-15.
14
Cowan Shulman 1990, pp. 14-15.
15
Cowan Shulman 1990, p. 17.
30
wars of ideas
a staff with the following qualifications: «[…] knowledge of foreign affairs,
aggressive support of Roosevelt’s foreign policy, and willingness to work
for very little money» 16. They were mainly journalists.
The FIS was initially a branch of Donovan’s COI, which Roosevelt
had created with a military order on 11th July 1941, in charge both of informational policies and propaganda, as well as espionage and intelligence
services. After only three days, the President also assigned the COI the
responsibility for all international broadcasting linked to the achievement
of moral objectives abroad, i.e. radio propaganda management, namely
the FIS’ task 17.
The COI, however, was destined to have a short life. The Joint Chiefs
of Staff, the military authority, wanted an organization that would take care
of intelligence and covert operations solely following military directives, in
order to avoid such operations hampering war plans. In other words the
Joint Chiefs of Staff aimed at integrating the COI into the armed forces.
The impressive number of informative organizations created between 1939
and 1941 caused a certain amount of administrative chaos: COI and CIAA
were in charge of propaganda to Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America,
while OFF and the informative division of OEM were working on the
home front. The Bureau of the Budget decided to join all those bodies into
just one agency in charge of both home and foreign information services.
Presidential approval was needed for the reorganization, but Roosevelt, in
spite of his advisors’ pressures, wasted some time because he was afraid of
causing the public opinion’s loss of confidence in the Administration. The
President signed executive order 9182 on 13th June 1942, and the White
House announced the creation of the Office of War Information (OWI),
directed by Elmer Davis, former CBS analyst and New York Times editorialist. This body united all information and propaganda functions of four
preceding offices: the OEM Division of Information, the OGR, the OFF and
the FIS, which would later become the Overseas Branch of the OWI.
The presidential order that created the OWI established that its task
was to undertake campaigns to improve knowledge about war matters
both at home and abroad, and to coordinate all government information
activities taking care of contacts with the media 18.
Cowan Shulman 1990, p. 18.
Pirsein 1979, p. 43.
18
Matchette 1995, RG 208, Records of the Office of War Information (OWI). The
guide to the federal archives reports OWI’s functions as follows: «Functions: Formulated and executed information programs to promote, in the United States and abroad,
understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities,
and aims of the U.S. government».
16
17
words as weapons
31
Besides simplifying the network of offices dealing with informative
tasks, the creation of the OWI also allowed the Administration to separate
these responsibilities from those related to intelligence and covert operations, which had been under the COI until then. On the same 13th June
1942, another presidential order established the Office of Strategic Services
(OSS) 19, the forerunner of what in 1947 would become the CIA 20, which
was granted intelligence tasks under ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan’s direction. The
reorganization also settled the differences that had marred relations between
Donovan and Sherwood. The office in New York, headed by Sherwood,
was too concerned with radio production needs and good journalism, and,
according to Donovan’s men, it disregarded the subversive potential of
broadcasting, instead of exploiting it. On the other hand Sherwood did not
like the kind of propaganda that ‘Wild Bill’ wanted, a sort of initial arrow
of penetration and subversion, and preferred to build a radio which could
compete with the BBC for the quality and reliability of its production 21.
The OWI’s Overseas Branch was in its turn divided into two sections,
in charge of the two war fronts: Atlantic Operations and Pacific Operations.
Joseph Barnes and his assistant Louis G. Cowan 22 directed the former,
which acted through its four departments: Motion Picture Bureau, Publications Bureau, News and Features Bureau, and Radio Program Bureau,
namely VOA 23.
19
Matchette 1995, RG 226, Records of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Its
functions were the following: «Functions: Conducted overt and covert intelligence
procurement activities in support of the war against the Axis Powers. Analyzed raw
intelligence and disseminated finished intelligence to appropriate government agencies.
Engaged in clandestine operations in support of planned military operations».
20
Matchette 1995, RG 263, Records of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The
OSS was abolished on 20 th September 1945 with an executive order effective from 1st
October 1945. It was followed by the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) of the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of War from 1945 to 1946, and then, from 1946 to 1947, by the Central
Intelligence Group of the National Intelligence Authority (NIA). They were all embryonic
stages of the CIA. The National Security Act created the agency within the National
Security Council (NSC) on 26th July 1947, and it has been effective since 18th September
1947. Matchette’s guide to the NARA summarises its functions as follows: «Functions:
Advises the National Security Council and other Executive branch agencies concerning
intelligence matters. Coordinates federal intelligence activities and provides centralized
services for other agencies. Develops and disseminates intelligence, counterintelligence,
and foreign intelligence information. Engages in intelligence and counterintelligence
activities outside the United States».
21
Cowan Shulman 1990, p. 31.
22
Louis G. Cowan was the second director of VOA, from August 1943 to August
1945. His daughter, Holly Cowan Shulman, authored an important book on VOA’s history in wartime (Cowan Shulman 1990), and dedicated it to her father.
23
For OWI’s history, gestation and operative procedures, see Winkler 1978; Koppes Black 2000; Bruti Liberati 2004; Henderson 1969.
32
wars of ideas
From the beginning, however, Elmer Davis and his OWI had to face
a troubled life. Despite the fact that the new agency was intended to have
a certain amount of autonomy and power, it was immediately clear that
very few people in Washington wanted it to work independently and freely.
Not only could the OWI not take part in the formulation of information
policies and psychological warfare guidelines; neither did it receive all the
necessary information about military operations on time. The armed forces
were actually the worst enemies of the agency, because they considered it
as the main supporter of a clear and transparent policy of communication.
This could be very dangerous from the military point of view, especially
for the planning of operations, but also for fear that too much information
could reach the enemy as well as the allies. In fact, War and Navy Departments maintained the power to choose the news.
Another big problem concerned OWI’s personnel, which at the end of
the war consisted of about 13,000 employees and cost 70 million dollars
a year. Most of them were communication professionals, who came from
journalism or advertising, but there also were artists, writers, technicians
and expert broadcasters. The accusation levelled by part of the politicians
and of the public opinion, which looked unfavourably on propaganda,
was that they were liberal intellectuals, former New Dealers or even communists. These fears were especially rooted among republicans, who also
thought that an impressive propaganda structure could also be used after
the war for the next electoral campaign. In spite of all these troubles, the
OWI soon started to work at full pace, and continued to take care of psychological warfare and propaganda for the duration of the conflict. The
most important part of the agency’s job was the transmission of news, so
the American press also saw it as an excellent competitor.
VOA started its transmissions on 25th February 1942 under the aegis
of the FIS, whose headquarters were an office in 270, Madison Avenue,
in New York. The office was in charge of the diffusion of propagandistic
material produced and funded by the government, such as posters, leaflets,
and of course medium and shortwave radio broadcasts. The FIS had to
spread this material throughout the whole world, except Latin America
because this area was still managed by the CIAA. At the beginning, in 1941,
the FIS did not have any broadcasting stations at its disposal, nor did it
have agreements to use frequencies with the private broadcasters that had
spread through the United States since the Twenties. Thus, the FIS could
not start transmissions on its own frequencies until February 1942. In 1941
the radio service started by sending material to private networks 24. Press
24
Pirsein 1979, pp. 44-48.
words as weapons
33
offices in Washington sent items of news to the FIS’ News and Editorial
Section, directed at the time by a former Berlin correspondent of the New
York Herald Tribune, Joseph Barnes. The office selected the most interesting
pieces, rewrote them for shortwave broadcast, and then sent them to the
office of the Coordinator for International Broadcasting (CIB), headed by
Stanley Richardson, which eventually sent them to private stations under
the heading «The following from the Coordinator of Information is for
your use if desired» 25. In the same period a former presidential advisor,
James P. Warburg, was working to organize a Foreign Language Section,
which was later to become VOA’s actual backbone. With a staff of expert
translators, preferably native speakers, in November 1941 the Foreign
Language Section could provide the private networks with material in 16
foreign languages 26, and Italian was among them.
The propaganda strategy used in these transmissions was the opposite of
the Axis strategy, aimed at dividing, weakening and immobilizing. American
material on the other hand aimed at converting the audiences to the allied
cause, convincing them to believe in its force. All campaigns were thus
centred on encouragement and on an explicit promise to succeed 27.
The FIS Broadcasting Section became more structured in 1942, particularly after the first direct transmission. By March, the Section had three
branches: the Radio News and Feature Division, headed by Joseph Barnes,
in charge of enemy propaganda analysis, of the preparation of materials, and
of the supervision and monitoring of all shortwave transmissions; the Radio
Technical Division, responsible for equipment operation and maintenance;
and the Radio Production Division, which prepared the programmes and
translated texts based on the materials provided by the News and Features
Division into foreign languages. John Houseman was its director. After Pearl
Harbor, on 26th December 1941, Sherwood summoned the producer John
Houseman to New York to take care of the new governmental broadcasting
station. As a matter of fact, Houseman was the first director of VOA, from
its creation until July 1943. Houseman came from the world of entertainment, and he was particularly famous for his productions for the Mercury
Theatre; his popular radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, produced
with Orson Welles and aired during Halloween night in 1938, frightened
thousands of listeners with its tale of an alien invasion taking place on earth
during the broadcast. Undoubtedly, Houseman knew how to appeal to
the audience. For him «news was the raw material from which it was my
Pirsein 1979, p. 44.
Pirsein 1979, p. 46.
27
For a more detailed analysis of American radio propaganda during the Second
World War, see Cowan Shulman 1990.
25
26
34
wars of ideas
job to fashion shows» 28, as he wrote in his memoirs. In politics he was a
liberal, like many of the FIS propagandists 29, with whom he prepared the
first three 15-minute weekly broadcasts in German, French and Italian, to
be aired in Europe through the BBC.
When the FIS became part of the OWI in June 1946, its staff consisted
of 816 people, and produced more than 42 hours of programming per day 30.
An actual international radio service was thus fully operative. As chief of
the OWI’s Overseas Branch, Bob Sherwood was in charge of the planning
and realization of psychological warfare and government propaganda. The
Overseas Branch was divided in two sections: Pacific Operations, focusing
especially on Japan, and Atlantic Operations, directed by Joseph Barnes
and by his assistant Louis G. Cowan. The section, in charge of Europe,
had four offices: the Motion Picture Bureau, the Publications Bureau, the
News and Features Bureau and the Radio Program Bureau (VOA). With
the creation of the OWI and the branching out of its structure, the old
FIS headquarters in Madison Avenue became too small, and Houseman’s
Radio Program Bureau moved to the Argonaut Building at 224, 57th Street,
New York City. It remained there until 1954, when it moved to the capital where it still is. Until 1954 the fact that the operative structure was in
New York and the political headquarters in Washington remained one
of the biggest problems for VOA. In the OWI, VOA’s internal troubles
were mainly linked to matters of military security: if its policy was to tell
the truth, some borderlines had to be settled, in order to avoid the risk of
revealing too much to the enemy. Besides jurisdictional disputes between
the New York and Washington premises and between the OWI and the
OSS, there was also the question of the autonomy of every single Language
Service, which was to remain even after the end of the conflict. The dispute
between the tendencies towards autonomy and towards centralization was
solved only in 1998, with the BBG’s independence.
VOA’s development was linked both to national transmission plants and
to the relay stations across the Atlantic, on which the quality of reception
also depended. The most effective response to enemy jamming 31 was the
use of more than one relay station simultaneously in different geographical areas, and the use of several different frequencies. At the time of the
OWI’s foundation, the Administration was taking leasing arrangements
Houseman 1979.
Cowan Shulman 1990, pp. 3-12.
30
Pirsein 1979, p. 56.
31
‘Jamming’ is the effort to make a transmission or programme difficult or even
impossible to hear by sending out a signal, on the same frequencies, that interferes with
it. It was a very common practice in the Cold War years.
28
29
words as weapons
35
for the use of private shortwave transmitters existing in the United States,
and at the same time the President approved a project for the construction of new stations 32. In this way shortwave transmissions reached Great
Britain, where the United States had an agreement for the use of the BBC
relay station in Wofferton, England, which then retransmitted them on
medium wave to other countries. The government had built 19 shortwave
transmitters by the end of the conflict, all linked to the lines leased from
the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). So VOA had
two networks at its disposal: the Bronze Network for transmissions towards
Europe, and the Pacific Network for all the others 33. Towards the end of
the war, many of the relay transmitters used in Europe were those that the
OWI had taken possession of by commandeering them from the enemy,
and putting them back to work, but with the suspension of hostilities they
had to be returned to their owners. Besides, as liberated areas such as
Southern Italy were controlled by the allied armed forces, responsibility for
the use of commandeered transmitters by VOA laid with the Psychological
Warfare Branch (PWB).
In April 1944 another broadcaster was also set up, the American Broadcasting Station in Europe (ABSIE), which transmitted directly from Europe
using some of the British relays. Its signal was thus a lot stronger than
VOA’s, and it also had better reception. ABSIE’s first program was aired
on 30th April 1944 and, being in the war field, it was subject to General
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s orders. Its existence came to an end on 4th July
1945, because its mission was by that time accomplished.
During the OWI’s life, government policy was determined in the Planning Board weekly meetings, attended by OWI’s Overseas Branch, State
Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff officers. The result was a directive
which set general propaganda lines and supplied information on military
and political matters, also suggesting how to deal with them. Some regional
directives were also produced, and these were very important for the Language Desks because they defined which points of the general directive
had to be handled in depth in different transmission zones. Furthermore,
two daily meetings were held to establish how to deal with the most recent
pieces of news, which also produced some ‘guidance notes’, the actual
pattern for VOA programmes. In its general lines, this model remained
operative at least until USIA’s independence in 1953.
The OWI received the news by cable and then supplied the Language
Desks with adaptations to be translated. Most of the programmes were
32
33
Pirsein 1979, p. 66.
Pirsein 1979, pp. 78-79.
36
wars of ideas
mainly news and analysis, but there were also different types of shows
such as America at War, The Labor Show, Women’s Show, and Projection
of America, all with the purpose of telling about life in the United States.
There were also Made in America, describing American industrial organization and wartime reconversion, and American Profiles, which told life
stories of important political, military and industrial personalities 34. Besides
English, Italian, German and French were of course considered the most
important languages, and it was quite hard to find adequately qualified
personnel who could speak in a way suitable for radio. So the Language
Desks chose to recruit war refugees, people with well defined opinions
about the conflict and whose loyalty was not questionable.
In June 1944, at the peak of its war activity, VOA transmitted in more
than 50 languages and produced about 119 programming hours per day.
In the same period of time, 750 people were working at the New York
premises, while the whole VOA personnel in the United States and abroad
counted about 3,000 people, within the total OWI staff of 10,000 people 35.
In the meantime the progressive liberation of enemy-occupied territories
was slowly changing New York’s Radio Program Bureau objectives. Listeners in liberated areas were free to choose their radio programmes again;
while before the liberation the BBC and VOA were the only sources of
democratic information they could have access to. The new challenge
for VOA was thus to keep the listeners it had gained and in order to do
that it changed its programming, reducing time for news and increasing
entertainment and cultural programme time. The board of directors also
changed: John Houseman went back to Hollywood, and he was replaced
by Louis G. Cowan in 1943, while Edward Barrett took Sherwood’s place
at the beginning of 1944 as Overseas Branch executive director. In Feb­
ruary 1944 Warburg and Barnes resigned as well.
With the end of the war clearly approaching, VOA’s effectiveness started
being studied: the results showed that it was widely popular, even among
enemies, but its credibility and effectiveness were very small if compared
to those of the BBC. During 1945, many people wondered what future
information services would have after the conflict, while VOA’s staff was
already being reduced. In January the workforce was reduced from 750
to 555 employees, and programming for Europe was cut; the language
services under the New York office were cut from 25 to 19. The fact that
VOA could survive the conflict was in severe doubt, even if one of its most
eminent advocates was President Roosevelt himself:
34
35
Pirsein 1979, pp. 68-70.
Pirsein 1979, pp. 90-92.
words as weapons
37
If the principle of freedom to listen is to help in providing the basis for
better understanding between the peoples of the world, it seems to me
important that we lay the proper foundations now for an effective system
of international broadcasting for the future years. 36
But the person who decided on OWI’s future was his successor, President
Harry Truman, when in the summer of 1945 he signed executive order
9608, which closed the office from 31st August 1945. Some of its functions,
and VOA was among them, were transferred to the Interim International
Information Service (IIIS), within the State Department. IIIS’ existence,
additionally, was limited to 31st December 1945.
The first step for the creation of a permanent international information service was taken a few months before the end of the war, during the
reorganization of the State Department. On 20 th December 1944, the role
of Assistant Secretary of State in Charge of Public and Cultural Affairs was
established, and conferred on Archibald MacLeish. But for the moment,
information and psychological warfare remained the OWI jurisdiction.
President Harry Truman decided on the OWI’s destiny, closing the
agency on 31st August 1945, with executive order 9608, and transferring
its functions to the IIIS. Its existence was scheduled only until 31st December of the same year. With the executive order that closed the OWI,
Truman declared in a White House press release that: «The nature of
present-day foreign relations makes it essential for the United States to
maintain information activities abroad as an integral part of the conduct
of our foreign affairs» 37.
The President also urged the Secretary of State to formulate a programme «to be conducted on a continuing basis» 38 within the end of the
year. The presidential declarations that followed Truman’s executive order
were the first official recognition concerning the need for a peacetime propaganda system, and the thought expressed by those declarations would
continue to prevail in the process that led to the creation of the USIA,
especially the fact that the United States would continue to «endeavor to
see to it that other peoples receive a full and fair picture of American life
and of the aims and policies of the United States Government» 39.
36
Memorandum ‘President Roosevelt to Chairman of Federal Communication Commission (FCC), James L. Fly’, 16th November 1943, quoted in Pirsein 1979, pp. 100-101.
37
Bruti Liberati 2004, p. 11.
38
Henderson 1969, p. 35.
39
Henderson 1969, p. 36.
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
89
3. «Radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»:
Voice of America’s production for Italy
From the landing in Sicily in July 1943, an authentic psychological penetration had begun, with the intention of destroying the fascist forces, but also
of consolidating those values and ideals that had inspired the conduct of the
Allies during the whole conflict, such as love for freedom and democracy
and mistrust of Soviet communism. To the Italians, these values were deeply
linked to the image of welfare that the American presence, in particular,
managed to spread in the ‘Regno del Sud’. From that moment on, the
myth of ‘Americanism’ was charged with the promise of better lives, of the
end of hunger and suffering, and of the arrival of wealth and welfare. The
penetration was performed with a variety of instruments, all coordinated
by the PWB, whose task was exceedingly complex in a country that was
co-belligerent, enemy, occupied and liberated all at one time.
The Allies directly or indirectly controlled all Italian media, nonetheless
for the first time after twenty years of fascist dictatorship, they felt free
to express themselves. If the press was directed mainly at the liberated
territories, the radio could also reach behind enemy lines, and it had two
main groups of listeners: southern Italians and northern Italians. According to a PWB survey of 1943, 10% of Sicilians listened to the radio every
day, 64% of radios could receive shortwave transmissions, and 87% of the
audience regularly listened to local broadcasters controlled by the Allies. It
is interesting to note, however, that 48% of the population tuned to Radio
Londra 18 times a month on average, VOA 12, and Radio Algeri five. But
50% of the audience also tuned to the Ente Italiano Audizioni Radiofoniche
(EIAR) still in republican hands in the north and in the centre, 15 times a
month on average. This should have seemed alarming to the Allies 94.
While they advanced towards the north, the Allies liberated EIAR
relay stations, or what remained of them, and used them to broadcast
other transmissions besides those which reached Italy through the BBC
or Radio Algeri relays.
Radio Palermo was put back into operation on 6th August 1943, with
a staff of Italian-American and British journalists enrolled by the PWB
because of their familiarity with the Italian language and culture. The
transmissions consisted of a detailed news programme, commentaries,
special features on the war, but also music and cultural programmes with
the aim of keeping the population’s moral high. All were based mainly on
94
PWB-AFHQ, Surveys of Public Opinion Held in Sicily, 1944, in Pizarroso Quintero
1989, pp. 44-45; cf. also Holt - Van De Velde 1986, p. 132.
90
selling america to the italian people
AFHQ press releases, on international press agencies and sometimes on
articles by Italians who were unquestionably anti-fascist. Radio Palermo
also retransmitted BBC, Radio Algeri and VOA programmes 95.
The person in charge of Radio Palermo at the time was Mikhail ‘Misha’
Kamenetzky 96. The journalist had already worked for the PWB at Radio
Algeri, in the preparation of programmes directed at Italy, because of his
knowledge of the language and culture of this country, but also, and it
is important to stress it here, because of his plainly liberal and Crocean
education. After Palermo, Stille followed the Allied troops northwards,
to Naples and to Milan. The group of young bourgeois anti-fascists that
occupied Radio Bari after 8th September 1943 had the same inclinations 97.
Radio Bari remained in their hands for a few days only, and then it passed
under Allied control on 16th September. The British Major Ian Greenlees
was called to direct the broadcaster, being a noted expert on Italian culture and language. He did not remove the staff of Italians that had got
Via Putignani’s radio operational again; on the contrary he directed it
responsibly, and left freedom of choice and opinion. Radio Bari’s broadcasts thus appeared more and more trustworthy and they were the first to
stimulate debates and confrontations despite the PWB censorship. Radio
Bari is still considered as «the first audible voice of Italian democracy» 98
and all the members of its editorial staff were members of the PWB and
of various anti-fascist parties. They were journalists, writers and politicians
who wanted to contribute towards rebuilding the Italian state; they had
to work hidden behind a pseudonym, still an important precaution for
everybody in that period.
From 1944, the Allies’ attitude was reflected by the mass media, especially by the radio, which emphasized its moderate line in accordance with
a certain allied diffidence towards anti-fascist movements and ideas 99. As
a matter of fact, the freedom in work and relations in the allied broadcasting stations was limited by careful censorship, to make sure that political
comments followed the official allied policy.
Many of those who had worked for Radio Bari moved to Radio Napoli
in 1944, together with some communist journalists such as Italo De Feo,
95
Pizarroso Quintero 1989, pp.119-122. Quintero’s work is still unsurpassed, but
a detailed reconstruction of the PWB’s relations with Italian radio can also be found in
Monteleone 1995, pp. 164-172, and in Monteleone 1980, pp. 3-44.
96
On Ugo Stille, see supra, pp. 69-72.
97
They were a group of habitués of the Libreria Laterza, members of the Action
Party and thus republicans and democrats. Cf. Monteleone 1980, p. 26.
98
«La prima voce sonora della democrazia italiana» (Monteleone 1995, p. 170).
99
Cf. Monteleone 1995, p. 194n, and Faenza - Fini 1976, p. 50.
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
91
and others who had worked for fascist journalism 100. Ugo Stille was part
of the Radio Napoli group as well.
In the meantime, negotiations between the Italian government and the
PWB for the EIAR management went on from December 1943 until the
definitive signing of an agreement on 11th May 1944 in Naples 101. Until
that moment, the Allies’ attitude had been only apparently conciliatory,
and the negotiations had been conducted following the principle ‘those
who pay, decide’. The May 1944 agreement established the creation of a
general management office within EIAR, in charge of administrative and
technical matters, but left out of programming matters. It was thus clear
that the Allies wanted to keep their control over radio broadcasts for as
long as possible; this agreement remained effective for the whole duration
of the AMG, except for a modification made in October 1944 that granted
EIAR the responsibility solely for the music programming.
The liberation of Rome, followed by the transfer of the Italian government, was a real turning point in the relations with the Allies, who
were both liberators and occupants. The transfer of competences to the
Italian authorities was accelerated in every field, including that of information, but the deep diffidence towards the expansion of leftist groups
within the anti-fascist forces undoubtedly hampered the process. Newly
liberated Rome lacked everything, from electrical power to radio stations,
partly dismantled by the Germans; however, by the second half of 1944,
the capital had already become the main radio production centre in the
country. Journalists, operators and technicians who had previously run
away, came back to Rome, together with some of those who had worked
for Radio Napoli, like Longanesi and Soldati, while Italo De Feo became
chief of the Radio office of the Presidenza del Consiglio.
On 26th October, the first Bonomi government issued the first bill on
the reorganization of the whole radio system, transforming EIAR, created
during the years of fascism, into Radio Audizioni Italia (RAI).
In November 1944, the AFHQ and the ACC decided to maintain
control, through the PWB, of the news and commentary programmes on
Italian radio, and over other spoken programmes as well, such as theatre
and prose readings. After the liberation of Rome, however, disputes between
Italians and the Allies for the management of the RAI began. In December
100
Among others, Antonio Piccone Stella, Leo Longanesi, Mario Soldati, Arnoldo Foà
and Franco Rosi worked for Radio Napoli. For a better description of this environment,
which is not the theme of this book, see Monteleone 1980, pp. 47-52.
101
Pizarroso Quintero 1989, p. 146. The agreement was signed by Ellery W. Stone of
the ACC, George W. Edman (PWB chief in Italy), and Mario Fano, Italian undersecretary
of state for post and telegraphs.
92
selling america to the italian people
1944, the PWB and the AFHQ issued a ‘Radio Plan’ for liberated Italy 102,
which established the transfer of all competences regarding radio broadcasting to Italy by 1st March 1945. The date was obviously the same as that
chosen for the transfer of functions regarding the press from the PWB to
ANSA. During the first months of 1945 there was unrest among the RAI
personnel, because many demanded that the new structure purge the fasc­
ist elements. In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, the Allies were
afraid for the future of the RAI, because with the transfer to the Italian
government of both press and radio control, the AMG would risk finding
itself at a great disadvantage in the event of tensions. They also suspected
that not all journalists were above suspicion 103.
There were many dismantled relay stations in northern Italy, but those
in Milan and Genoa remained operational. The CLNAI had started to use
them before the arrival of the Allies, and it demanded a model of management for radio in northern Italy similar to that of Florence 104, but both the
AMG and the Rome government objected to that request. At the time, in
fact, while Florence was at the limits of the radio system and the RAI in
Rome was fully functioning, the allied control in the north was still very
strict, and would relax only when the PWB ceased its activity. Before leaving, however, the office left a great deal of audio material in Italy; moreover,
the RAI continued to air British and American programmes produced in
London and New York: Voce di Londra (Voice of London) and VOA.
Both the BBC and the OWI, as well as the information offices that would
follow it, pursued a PWB directive 105 until the Fifties establishing that
Italian radio had to present daily BBC and OWI programmes even after
the PWB departure.
It was a very sensitive moment in Italian history, when there were many
people among the listeners who needed a model to follow, a model of
welfare and wellbeing that was more and more linked to the western style
102
NARA, RG 331, AFHQ-INC-PWB, Radio Plan for Liberated Italy, 27th December
1944, in Pizarroso Quintero 1989, p. 172.
103
Cf. Pizarroso Quintero 1989, pp. 172-175.
104
Radio Firenze represented a peculiar case in the history of radio broadcasting during
the liberation. After Florence’s liberation on 11th August 1944, the clash between the new
PWB elements and the old EIAR staff became sharper. Radio Firenze had already been
more autonomous than other broadcasters during the clandestine period, and after the
liberation, together with the local administration, the left-wingers succeeded in creating
a managing council elected by an assembly of the entire Radio Firenze staff. See also
Monteleone 1980, pp. 52-55; Monteleone 1995, pp. 182-183; Pizarroso Quintero 1989,
pp. 203-205.
105
NARA, RG 331, PWB, 15th Army Group final Weekly Activities Report, n. 45/29
15th July 1945, in Pizarroso Quintero 1989, p. 231.
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
93
of democracy. VOA had to suggest and describe this model in detail, in
order to prevent the Soviet model from attracting part of the audience.
However, Italian radio really only started its post-war life on 3rd November 1946, when the national network was unified again through the parallel
connection of two complete channels. But until then, the reconstruction
process was very complicated. As to the management of the Italian radio
system, it was entrusted to the RAI, the sole concessionary, which still had
to fulfil the obligations of the 1927 convention, due to expire in 1952 106. The
first RAI board of directors was appointed in April 1945, whereas the first
president, Arturo Carlo Jemolo 107, was appointed on December 1945.
For both technical and financial reasons 108, two different groups of channels continued to exist until November 1946: those for northern Italy and
those for the centre-south. Their programme schedules were quite similar,
with news, cultural programmes, special programmes for veterans as well
as English and French courses. On 23rd December 1945 the publication
of the Radiocorriere was resumed also 109.
With the unification of the national network in November 1946, it
was decided that the two channels were to be equal, both in terms of the
power of transmission and for their artistic and cultural contents, so as
to avoid one being considered more important than the other. The Rete
Rossa and the Rete Azzurra were thus created. The government, however,
remained the sole authority concerning radio broadcasting, because it had
both financial and political instruments at its disposal. From this moment,
the rigorous control over and influencing of the RAI by the DC also commenced, by means of Jemolo’s replacement with the Christian Democrat
Giuseppe Spataro in August 1946. Between 1947 and 1949, various elements contributed to the relaunching of the RAI, and among them there
was an improved organization that eventually managed to overcome the
division along the Gothic line, and an increase in funding due to a licence
106
EIAR was created in 1927; the state granted it the monopoly for broadcasting services until December 1952. The concession was transferred to the RAI in October 1944.
107
Arturo Carlo Jemolo was an Italian jurist and historian. He was particularly interested in ecclesiastical law, wrote for Mario Pannunzio’s Il Mondo and for Piero Calamandrei’s Il Ponte; initially close to the Action Party, he later supported the alliance between
the Republican Party and the Radical Party, and in the last part of his life he was among
the Vatican’s advisors and one of the most authoritative writers of La Stampa.
108
The relay stations and the recording facilities were still severely damaged, and the
limited funds available were not enough to cover the reconstruction costs. The license
fee had not been adjusted for inflation and advertising incomes were still very limited.
109
The Radiocorriere’s publication had been suspended during the war, and it was
resumed in two editions, one for the north, published in Turin, and one for the centresouth, published in Rome. It was eventually unified on 23 rd March 1947.
94
selling america to the italian people
fee rise in January 1948 and to the ERP aids. Between 1949 and 1952, the
reconstruction of the RAI could be considered completed, thanks to new
medium wave relay stations that allowed the new Programma Nazionale
to reach the whole country. The two networks maintained two different
management organizations in Turin and in Rome until the February 1948
unification, with the creation of a ‘general management’ office responsible
for all decisions. The DC victory at the 18th April elections marked the
consolidation of the RAI management related to that party.
The radio and all mass media became the instrument of a heated propaganda campaign regarding both domestic and international affairs; in a
typically Cold War perspective, the left was seen as the spectre of bolshevism,
which needed to be fought in order to defend liberal and Catholic values.
And it was to be fought, for both economic and political reasons, following
the American model 110. In this complicated situation, the audience from different social strata increasingly expressed its need for information, testified
by the doubling of radio subscriptions. At the end of 1947, however, the
radio density 111 in Italy still was among the lowest in Europe, but thanks to
a huge propaganda campaign, subscriptions rose from 1,646,466 in 1945,
to 2,242,507 in 1948 112, and to 4,800,170 in 1953 113. On 28th June 1954
the RAI eventually celebrated its 5 millionth subscriber 114.
The take off of both the company and listening figures thus took place
between 1948 and 1953. In 1952, upon the expiry of the 1927 agreement,
the concession for all broadcasts (including television) was renewed with
the RAI for a further 20 years. As to programming, the distinction between
Rete Rossa and Rete Azzurra remained in force until 30 th December 1951,
when a new organization took its place: the channels were divided into
Programma Nazionale, Secondo Programma and Terzo Programma. For
the first time, a division based on contents was introduced to satisfy the
audience demands 115, and programmes reached the whole country. The
Programma Nazionale was thus conceived to satisfy the average audience
requirements, with news programmes for those who wanted to be informed
110
The use of radio as an instrument of political propaganda, but also for spreading
Catholic values, together with the presumed lack of interest on the part of the left for the
medium, which is not relevant in this analysis, can be read in Monteleone 1995, pp. 231242.
111
Monteleone indicates as ‘radio density’ the diffusion of radio sets, which could be
measured by comparing the number of subscriptions out of 1,000 inhabitants.
112
Natale 1990, p. 113.
113
Monteleone 1995, pp. 245-246.
114
Radiocorriere, 26 (27th June - 3rd July 1954).
115
The listeners’ preferences were determined through the analysis of the various letters that the RAI received, but the programming also considered listeners cultural levels.
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
95
on political questions and international affairs, but also with entertainment
programmes; the Secondo Programma was more recreational, while the
Terzo Programma was more cultural, with a programme schedule aimed
at more intellectual listeners. The radio thus replied to informational and
educational exigencies of a wide and very diverse audience: the majority
needed programmes of a basic level, whereas a smaller group could aspire
to expand its knowledge, and only a very limited part of the public could be
considered as intellectuals, with a higher level of education. Keeping these
differences in mind, it is clear that VOA’s radio propaganda was conceived
for an audience of a lower level of education, since its programmes aired
through the Italian network were mainly of entertainment and appeared
on the Programma Nazionale and on the Secondo Programma, but never
on the Terzo Programma. VOA, in fact, not only used its own frequencies,
always advertised in the RAI’s official magazine Radiocorriere, but it also
introduced some of its programmes directly into the RAI’s programme
schedule. This confirms the fact that the USIS choice for Italy was to
provide the cultural elite with means such as libraries, cultural centres and
educational exchanges, which as a matter of fact seemed more effective. A
survey by the RAI’s Servizio opinioni performed in 1955 revealed that in
the first month of that year, there were 19.1 million people over 12 years
of age who owned a radio set. More than 80% of these listened to the
radio every day, and the others between 3 and 5 times a week. About 3.2
million people did not have a radio set in their own home, but they formed
a sizable part of the audience because they listened to the programmes at
relatives or friends’ homes and, two or three times a week, in public places
like bars or village clubs. It was also estimated that radio was listened to
for four hours a day on average, and the Secondo Programma was more
popular than the other two 116.
Thus, in 1955, radio was chosen as means of information and entertainment mainly by the middle and lower social and cultural classes, and this
observation is quite useful for the analysis of VOA programming aired
through Italian radio.
I find a particular kind of poetry in skyscrapers, a poetry with verses made
of stone, cement and iron; the desire of bridges cast between reality, the
earth and the sky. I beheld them many times in the ‘hour that turneth
back desire’, when the colour of the sky fades away and becomes as
grey as stone: the limit between air and material is lost and one has the
sensation of finding himself in front of a huge theatrical scene, in which
thousands of windows lit from within have been capriciously carved.
116
Cf. Monteleone 1995, p. 250.
96
selling america to the italian people
No, the building where Voice of America is located is not a skyscraper:
it only has eight floors and seems like a younger brother, close to the
huge skyscrapers facing 57th street. Its name is ‘Argonaut Building’ and
it contains the essence of radio, that travels without a halt from country
to country. 117
Carlo Alberto Pizzini used these words at the beginning of 1950 in his
reportage for the Radiocorriere’s section ‘Radiomondo illustrato’. VOA’s
headquarters in New York must have made a respectable impression on
Italian readers, with its stately building, its advanced technology, and its
organization that could reach the whole world. From there, in the heart
of New York City, America also spoke to the Italians through its international Voice. The ‘Italian section’ was on the sixth floor of the Argonauts
Building:
And now let’s enter the Italian section: sixth floor, at the end of the corridor on the right. Even very early on Sunday mornings you can hear
people answering the phone and typewriters tirelessly typing: there is no
weekend here! Let’s enter the huge room crowded with desks, typewriters and shelves together. Are you looking at the walls? Yes, they most
certainly are posters printed in Italy to advertise tourism; the staff of the
section put them up to create authentic scenery and to feel less homesick.
Naples, Florence, Venice, Bologna, Trento, the Dolomite mountains and
Sicily: the whole of Italy, all told, with its lively colours and its attractions.
In that tiny closet with the glass door, in the right corner (where only a
tiny desk and a chair can fit), sits – when he can – the editor of the Italian
section, the dearest and very good Aldo D’Alessandro, a magnet for all
his regular and occasional collaborators. There is never any shortage of
work, with this collection of two-legged volcanoes! They share the task
of writing news, commentaries, the various reviews, the answers to listeners, assembling, and so on. In a country where everything is multiplied
by hundreds, it is amazing to see that the organization of the radio does
not respect the same proportions; on the contrary, very good results can
be obtained even with a limited staff. Be careful, though, not to tell the
117
«Io trovo nei grattacieli una particolare poesia, una poesia verticale dai versi di
pietra, cemento e ferro; dei ponti gettati fra la realtà, la terra ed il cielo, l’aspirazione. Li
ho contemplati più volte nell’ora – che volge al disio –, quando il cielo scolora e diventa
grigio come la pietra: viene così a perdersi il limite fra aria e materia e si ha l’impressione
di trovarsi davanti ad un immenso fondale di teatro, nel quale siano state capricciosamente
intagliate miriadi di finestre, illuminate posteriormente. No, il palazzo dove è sistemata –
La voce dell’America – non è un grattacielo: ha soltanto otto piani e fa la figura del fratello
minore, vicino ai contigui e prospicenti grattacieli della Cinquantasettesima Strada. Si
chiama ‘Argonaut Building’ e nel nome c’è l’essenza della radio, che viaggia incessantemente da Paese a Paese»: C.A. Pizzini, «Radio all’ombra dei grattacieli», Radiocorriere,
6 (5-11th February 1950).
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
97
Voice’s staff that their programmes are well made. They would become
your enemies! I know this, because during an interview on the air, I said
I had found a perfect organization. I still remember Fred Chamber’s
fierce glare, very different from the looks he threw me when we were
together at Liceo Tasso in Rome. He was about to turn down my interview because of my frank and most spontaneous declaration. We want
criticism from a technician like you – he kept repeating – not praise! I am
taking advantage of Fred’s absence to assure you, dear readers, that the
radio in the shadow of the skyscrapers works perfectly. 118
VOA’s Italian section was made up of Italians and Italian-Americans mainly,
such as its first editor Giorgio Padovano, who was born in Italy in 1903 and
was already in New York when the broadcaster first started its transmissions
in 1942. Padovano studied at the University of Florence and in the USA he
began to work for a private broadcaster in Cincinnati in 1941, becoming
an American citizen in 1945. His successor, Aldo D’Alessandro, on the
other hand, was born in New York City in 1911 119. After the interruption
of direct transmissions to Italy on shortwave in July 1957, both conti­nued
their career within VOA. Padovano became one of the broadcaster’s Senior Officials, whereas D’Alessandro continued to write comments on
European affairs with a passionate anti-communist emphasis. He later
118
«Ed ora andiamo nella Sezione Italiana: sesto piano, in fondo a destra. Anche
alla domenica mattina di buon’ora, sentite gente che risponde al telefono e macchine da
scrivere che battono instancabilmente: qui non si rispetta il week end! Entriamo insieme
nel vastissimo stanzone affollato da tavolini, macchine da scrivere e scaffali. Guardate le
pareti? Sicuro, sono proprio cartelloni murali, editi in Italia per la propaganda turistica;
i redattori della Sezione li hanno affissi alle pareti per dare un’ambientazione e per sentir
meno la nostalgia. Napoli, Firenze, Venezia, Bologna, Trento, le Dolomiti e la Sicilia: tutta
l’Italia insomma, coi suoi colori vivaci e le sue bellezze. In quel minuscolo sgabuzzino
con la porta a vetri, nell’angolo di destra (dove entra appena un piccolo scrittoio ed una
seggiola), siede – quando ne ha la possibilità – il direttore della Sezione Italiana, il carissimo e bravo Aldo D’Alessandro, calamita dei suoi collaboratori abituali ed occasionali.
Il lavoro non manca mai, con questa collezione di vulcani a due gambe! Essi si dividono
il compito della stesura delle notizie, della redazione dei commenti, delle varie rassegne,
delle risposte agli ascoltatori, dei montaggi, ecc. In un paese dove ogni cosa è moltiplicata
almeno per cento, stupisce constatare che l’organizzazione radio non rispetti le medesime
proporzioni; anzi con personale limitato di numero, si ottengono ottimi risultati. State
attenti però a non dire ai redattori de ‘La voce’ che i loro programmi sono ben fatti. Ve
li fareste nemici! Ne so qualcosa io che, nel corso di un’intervista al microfono, ho detto
che avevo trovato una organizzazione ottima. Ricordo ancora lo sguardo feroce di Fred
Chamber, ben diverso da quelli che mi lanciava quando stavamo al Liceo Tasso di Roma.
Quasi quasi mi faceva bocciare l’intervista per causa della mia sincera e più che spontanea
dichiarazione. ‘Vogliamo critiche, da te che sei un tecnico – andava ripetendo – non elogi!’.
Approfitto della lontananza di Fred e vi assicuro, amici lettori, che la Radio all’ombra
dei grattacieli, funziona egregiamente» (ibidem).
119
Walter Roberts, former Associate Director of USIA, interview with the author.
98
selling america to the italian people
became director of the Munich Program Center under Barry Zorthian’s
direct supervision 120. During the second half of the Sixties, D’Alessandro
and Zorthian were again working together to fight communism in one of
the planet’s hottest zones: Vietnam. There they worked for the Joint U.S.
Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO), directed by Zorthian 121. The procedure to
recruit employees for the Italian section was the same as that which VOA
used for all its departments, but special consideration was certainly given
to those who had studied at Columbia University in New York, which
already had a very good school of journalism at that time.
In 1945, VOA’s transmissions on short and medium wave reached Italy
between 6.30 p.m. and 10.15 p.m. 122, and in 1946 new programmes were
added during lunchtime, in the early afternoon, and at 11.00 p.m. They were
news programmes and commentaries above all; the only other programmes
were Cronache d’America, Università per radio, and short musical interludes.
Already in 1947, the parts dedicated to news and political commentaries
were notably reduced in the programme schedule studied for Italy, to allow more time for various types of entertainment programmes, but this
tendency consolidated especially between 1948 and 1950.
In December 1945, VOA’s request show Ai vostri ordini also began 123,
and it was aired initially at 5.30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and then, from 1947,
on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 9.30 124 p.m., while
the reviews on topics like economics, sport, literature, medicine and even
philately were started in 1948, together with programmes especially aimed
at women and youths. From 1948, then, there was a complete reorganization of the whole programme schedule, which was divided into three
different parts of the day: at 7.15 a.m. it started with Il giornale del mat Zorthian was VOA Program Manager from 1956 to 1961.
Barry Zorthian, former VOA Program Manager, interview with the author.
122
See Appendix I, infra, pp. 287-292.
123
This programme does not appear on VOA’s programme schedule until 1947,
but the examination of the Radiocorriere reveals that it was on the RAI’s schedule from
27th December 1945.
124
From October 1948 the programme is indicated in American documents with the
title La risposta per tutti, but on the RAI’s programme schedule it always appears as Ai
vostri ordini from 1945; the Radiocorriere analysis also reveals that the programme does
not appear on VOA frequencies until 1947 and it was apparently interrupted on those
frequencies between 1948 and 1949. During that time it was only aired by the RAI. It
reappears on VOA’s programme schedule from 1950 as La risposta per tutti, but it remained Ai vostri ordini on the RAI. From the examination of VOA’s scripts at the NARA
Northeast Region in New York, Ai vostri ordini seemed to be aired daily in the first part
of L’ora italiana della Voce dell’America between 18.30 and 19.00. Cf. NARA, Northeast
Region, New York, RG 306, Samples of Broadcast Master Scripts for Calendar Years
1948-1954, Box 841 231-1949, At Your Request – Ai vostri ordini, 9 th March 1949.
120
121
«radio all’ombra dei grattacieli»
99
tino (Breakfast Show), a 15-minute news programme; at 6.00 p.m. there
was another 15-minute afternoon news programme. The transmissions
continued during the evening at 9.30 p.m. with L’ora italiana della voce
dell’America (The Italian Hour), which actually lasted between 30 and 45
minutes 125. It included different programmes, being usually opened by a
brief news roundup 126 followed by three reviews that changed according
to the day of the week.
125
Between 1948 and 1949, the daily duration of programmes was continually changed
because of VOA’s budget problems.
126
Headlines is the title that indicates these news items, consisting of only a few lines,
on VOA’s scripts.
V
SEDUCING THE INTELLECTUALS
1. Clare Boothe Luce and the USIS’ turning point
With the election of the republican Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of
the United States at the end of 1952, international politics entered a new
phase, and 1953 represented a real turning point, especially in the history
of American information services in Italy. In 1953, one phase of the Cold
War came to an end, as Stalin’s death in March marked the beginning
of a process of political revision in the Soviet Union; and the signing of
the armistice in Korea in July terminated a conflict that had represented
the passage to the ‘hot’ war. In August, the creation of the United States
Information Agency marked the beginning of a new era for informational
policies, which were reorganized from the operational point of view, and
coordinated with the most important decision-making bodies for American
foreign affairs, such as the NSC and the OCB.
Despite moving from the strategy of ‘containment’ to that of ‘roll-back’,
a dialogue between East and West seemed to be opening up, thanks to the
proposals on disarmament and to the talks on the peaceful use of atomic
energy 1. Although the détente was beginning, the Cold War was not entirely
finished, other international crises were bound to arise in the following
years, and the role of the USIA became more and more complex owing to
the necessity of conforming to government policies.
In Italy Ellesworth Bunker, the new ambassador who succeeded Dunn
in 1952, was destined to remain in charge for only a few months, because
1
It is appropriate to mention the UN conference on the peaceful use of atomic
energy held in Geneva in August 1955, which some USIA officers also took part in. Cf.
Bruti Liberati 2004, p. 167.
224
seducing the intellectuals
Eisenhower and his new Administration renewed the diplomatic representation in foreign posts with new figures that were undeniably linked to the
Republican Party. For Italy, in March 1953, the choice fell to Clare Boothe
Luce, journalist and playwright, but best known as the wife of the superpowerful publisher of Time, Life and Fortune, Henry Luce. She had also
been a republican congresswoman in the early Forties. Clare Boothe was a
champion of anti-communism, and she is often presented very negatively,
as an exaggeration of American diplomacy in the Fifties, and is criticized
by many for her excessive interference in Italian affairs; and her line was
similar to the general strategy of the Eisenhower Administration from
several points of view.
In order to create a new and more reliable Italy, which was able to
assume responsibilities and to be integrated into the new European projects, it was necessary to solve the problem of Italian communism once
and for all. Western Europe had to represent a bastion against Soviet
expansion that could allow Moscow to take control of both Europe and
Asia, damaging the United States. The risk represented by Italy in this
environment, with its powerful Communist Party, was decidedly too high,
and the new Administration decided to intensify its anti-communist policy
in the country.
The years of Clare Boothe Luce’s tenure in Villa Taverna were characterized by unprecedented intervention in Italian internal affairs, with an
unquestionable overestimation of American ability to condition the Christian
Democratic governments, and were marked by deep anti-communism 2. The
result of the June 1953 elections was not what Washington had expected,
as the DC and its allies did not obtain 50% of the votes plus one, the
total needed to obtain the majority bonus allowed by the so-called ‘legge
truffa’, the swindle law, which could have ensured them 65% of seats in
Parliament. Thus, in comparison with the 1948 results, the DC was falling
behind, while the PCI and the PSI slightly improved their positions; this
confirmed the ambassador’s concerns, and as a consequence she refused to
avoid a direct intervention in Italian affairs. A few days before the elections,
on 28th May 1953, Mrs. Luce made a speech at the American Chamber of
Commerce of Milan, during a meeting with exponents of Milan’s political
and economic spheres. Underlining the new American strategy for Italy,
the ambassador went into Italian internal affairs in depth, as can be noted
in the sentences quoted below 3.
2
Del Pero 2001, p. 180. On Clare Boothe Luce, see also: Hatch 1956; Morris 1997;
Sheed 1982.
3
Cf. Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 163-165.
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
225
In its fabulous progress along the ancient route of its natural grandeur,
Italy can confidently rely on the intimate and kind cooperation of America.
We Americans would be very saddened to see this progressive march
deviating or coming to a stop. But if – and honestly I feel obliged to
say it, although it can never happen – if the Italian people should unfortunately be the victims of the fraudulent manoeuvres of right-wing
or left-wing totalitarianism, then serious consequences – logically and
tragically – would result for that intimate and kind cooperation which
we now enjoy. 4
The declaration was obviously consistent with the policy promoted by Washington, but the fact that it had been expressed in such an open way caused
great embarrassment for both the State Department and De Gasperi.
When, on 22nd April 1953, Clare Boothe Luce arrived in Naples on
board the Andrea Doria, it was clear that a plan to roll back communism in
the country was ready, but Henry Luce’s wife was also a very hard worker.
She often left her offices in Via Vittorio Veneto to visit the provinces, as
she did when she went to the flooded Salerno region and to Sardinia. She
always attended expositions such as the Milan Fair, theatrical premières
like Porgy and Bess, and openings such as the Istituto di Alti Studi Politici
of Johns Hopkins University in Bologna. But first of all, she succeeded in
conquering people’s hearts and minds, and was seen as a sort of American
‘fairy queen’.
Dear Excellency, I am a young girl, Monaco Assuntina, 12 years old, ill
with leukaemia, and because my father doesn’t have the money for my
medicine because he is poor, I turned to you. You were so kind as to
have my medicine sent from America, and now I am quite well. I tell all
those who come visit me that it happened only thanks to the beautiful
Mrs. Ambassador Luce. […] You were my fairy godmother, just like
in fairy tales. 5
«Nel suo entusiasmante progresso lungo l’antica via della sua naturale grandezza,
l’Italia può fiduciosamente contare sull’intima e cordiale collaborazione dell’America.
Noi americani saremmo molto rattristati di vedere arrestarsi o deviare questa marcia in
avanti. Ma se – e in tutta onestà mi sento obbligata a dirlo, benché è impossibile che
accada – il popolo italiano dovesse sfortunatamente cadere vittima delle fraudolente
manovre del totalitarismo, di destra o di sinistra, ne deriverebbero – logicamente e
tragicamente – gravi conseguenze per quell’intima e cordiale collaborazione di cui ora
beneficiamo» («Discorso dell’ambasciatrice Luce alla Camera di commercio americana
per l’Italia», Notiziario quotidiano USIS per la stampa, 29 May 1953).
5
«Eccellenza, sono la bambina Monaco Assuntina di anni 12 ammalata di leucemia
e, non avendo mio padre i soldi per comprarmi le medicine perché povero, mi rivolsi a
lei. Fu tanto buona da farmi mandare dall’America le medicine e ora sto quasi bene. A
tutti quelli che vengono a trovarmi dico che il merito è della bella signora Ambasciatrice
Luce […]. È stata per me la buona fata, proprio come si legge nei libri di favole» (NARA,
4
226
seducing the intellectuals
The USIS did a lot for her in this sense, to enhance her image in the country,
and conversely she did a lot for the USIS, with constant supervision and
exceptional reorganization of its work in Italy.
In the spring of 1954, an embarrassing incident involved the ambassador
and the world of the Italian press. The 25th March issue of the magazine
L’Europeo, edited at the time by Arrigo Benedetti, denounced Mrs. Luce’s
intrusion into Italian internal politics in a speech she made on 3 rd January
at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. She had mentioned electoral fraud
perpetrated by the left at the June 1953 elections, advising the government on how to fight the communists. After the denial that Mrs. Luce
sent L’Europeo, a dispute broke out among various journalists including
Nicola Adelfi, author of the first scoop, the famous Indro Montanelli, and
Benedetti himself 6. The ambassador declared the following:
An article published last week in an Italian magazine which purported
to be substantially the text of a speech I am supposed to have made to
American correspondents during my recent visit to the United States,
twists, distorts, and utterly misrepresents my views on Italy, her problems
and her leaders. The article is a fabrication pure and simple. I made no
such speech. 7
Clare Boothe often showed her loss of faith in the Italian government as an
ally of the republican Administration, and this led her to assume a more
and more uncompromising attitude towards Italy in the fight against communism 8. All this was also mirrored by the management of information
programmes, and caused huge reorganization in the Italian USIS, which
was completed in 1955. In May 1953, an action plan 9 was established,
and it had two main objectives: to mobilize support for American policies
and increase confidence in American leadership on the one hand; and to
mobilize support for democracy in Italy, in contrast with right-wing or
left-wing extremism, and strengthen pro-democratic elements both among
the people and the government on the other hand.
Four tasks, actually not very different from those of the preceding years,
were established for the USIS in order to reach the first of these objectives:
RG 84, Entry 2783 A, Italy, Rome Embassy, Records of Clare Boothe Luce 1955-1957,
Box 3, Italian Thank You, 14th October 1955.
6
Cf. Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 216-221.
7
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Clare Boothe Luce Papers, Box 637,
Statement on L’Europeo Article, April 1954; cf. also Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 216-221.
8
Cf. Del Pero 2001 and Guasconi 1999 on her attitude towards Italian trade
unions.
9
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65, Box 2467, USIS Country Plan – Italy,
May 1953.
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
227
promoting acceptance of specific American programmes, especially those
involving Italy such as the Mutual Security Program, and commercial trade
with the United States; promoting support for specific international policies by the Italian government, the most important of which was NATO;
convincing the Italians of the historical continuity of American foreign
policy 10; and building confidence in American leadership to convince the
Italians of the maturity of democratic thought, by emphasising the elements
the Italians could use to identify their interests and aspirations with those of
the Americans. The plan established three main target groups to accomplish
this design: professional figures from the information field, including the
press, radio, cinema and publishing; political leaders, especially members
of Parliament; and university students, mainly those of the faculties of
jurisprudence, where future political leaders were most likely to be found.
For the first and second task it was also necessary to consider the directors
of the so-called free trade unions, the CISL and UIL, and all those who
worked in the highest ranks in the financial, business and industrial fields 11.
The second objective proposed by the plan was targeted more at a wider
audience, through the leaders, and it had several new aspects compared
with the preceding plans:
Task One: to convince Italians that the political principles of democracy
(rather than those of Communism or Fascism) and the practices of civic
action will lead to a fuller and a better life for themselves and for their
country.
Task Two: to convince Italians that adoption of the principles and
practices of a ‘dynamic economy’ (with emphasis on the concepts of
‘productivity’ and labor-management cooperation) will benefit their
economic and social welfare.
Task Three: To assist in strengthening the Italian free trade union movement as a means not only of strengthening Italian democracy, but especially of diminishing the power of the Communist leadership of the
CGIL.
Task Four: To expose the Communist movement (in its manifestations
both as political party and labor organization) as an international conspiracy, directed by the Kremlin for the furtherance of Soviet interests. 12
10
As the reader probably already knows, this is a very debatable point; consider, for
example, the well established isolationist tradition of the 19 th Century, which was only
betrayed in 1917 to take part in the Great War, and definitively abandoned only during
the Second World War.
11
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65, Box 2467, USIS Country Plan – Italy,
May 1953, pp. 1-2.
12
Ibid., p. 2.
228
seducing the intellectuals
To accomplish these four points, which implied quite deep interference by
the Americans in Italian internal affairs, the plan established the necessity
of appealing to a well-selected audience:
For Task One:
Key Ministry of Education officials (with a view toward their providing
instruction in democracy in the Italian school, particularly at the Liceo
level).
Defense Ministry officials responsible for troop orientation (looking
toward a more vigorous program of pro-democratic indoctrination in
the Italian Armed Forces).
Organizations which encourage civic action and responsibility (with a
view to assisting and strengthening them).
For Tasks Two and Three:
Business leaders, with particular attention to the more enlightened industrialists and younger potential leaders in industry and finance.
Key economists who now influence or in the future will influence the
economic thought of Italy, both in the universities and in commerce
and industry.
For Task Four:
Key professionals in creative and intellectual fields who concern themselves with political and social problems. 13
The intention was clearly to intrude more and more into Italian life, not
only in political matters but also in daily routine. The indications that
this plan gave the USIS were moving towards an attempt to indoctrinate
the population on a long-term basis, an attempt which should have had
its starting point in the schools, universities, and armed forces training.
The concerns of informational programmes began from that moment to
focus more and more on the public opinion moulders of the present and
future, who would have been able to pass the message on more effectively
to their fellow countrymen, becoming, to use a popular phrase, cultural
mediators.
Theories regarding the concept of ‘flow of information’ can be useful
to understand the developments of the USIS’ policy between 1953 and
1955: «Whereas before Lazarsfeld’s studies social scientists had believed
that information followed a ‘one-step’ flow, henceforth they defined a
‘two-step’ flow, according to which the media spoke to a national elite,
who in turn addressed the common people» 14. Over the last century and
Ibid., p. 3.
Cowan Shulman 1990, p. 127. Cowan Shulman’s statements quoted supra and
the analysis of both VOA and the USIS work in Italy show that although their public
statements were all centred on themes such as ‘the truth’ and ‘information’, they were
13
14
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
229
a half, the Italian word ‘cultura’ (culture) has always been strongly associated with education and literacy; this humanist-intellectualist concept of
culture seemed not to have been changed by the anti-fascist struggles and
demand for social change of the post-fascist and post-war years. Between
1953 and 1955, the USIS propagandists who had always aimed at a ‘mass’
or ‘popular culture’ understood this point of view, and reformulated their
policies for the country, aiming this time not only at taking advantage of
the intellectual’s thirst for knowledge about America, American studies,
and the new disciplines studied there, but also at exploiting the role of
‘high culture’ and the role of the intellectual elite for their purposes. In
fact «Italian intellectuals are courted by political parties of all persuasions
to add lustre to their slates at election time, and wooed by the media as
influential opinion makers» 15.
In the spring of 1953, Mrs. Luce’s embassy and Lloyd A. Free’s USIS
prepared a ‘Prospectus for Italy’ for the two-year period 1954-1955. In
fiscal year 1953, the informational structure had worked with a budget
of 628,000 dollars, added to the 3,500,000 dollars of the MSA campaign,
which operated together with the USIS 16. The emphasis, and the majority of the resources, had been dedicated to the information sector, with
a huge production of publications, leaflets and films, especially aimed at
the ‘labor’ target group; the ‘public opinion moulders’ target only came
second. For the next fiscal year, however, some budget cuts were on the
way, and a sort of ‘Italianization’ of the intervention was needed, making
Italian intellectuals jump to the front lines in the cultural battle.
Both because of expected reductions in funds and because of increasing sensitivity among Italians to ‘U.S. interference’, the future program
outlined in the enclosed documents calls for a sharp curtailment in these
direct ‘mass communication’ operations in favor of activities designed
to stimulate and assist key Italian leaders and organizations to do the
propaganda job that will continue to be needed in Italy. However, conditions in Italy will continue to be such for some time that a program
limited to such a highly selective audience cannot do the job alone. For
this reason a complementary ‘mass communication’ program involving
pamphlets, films and radio is also prepared. 17
actually trying to mould the public opinion of the country using the most recent techniques.
15
Ward 2001, p. 81.
16
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65/5-1353, Box 2467, Foreign Service
Despatch, From Amembassy Rome – Lloyd A. Free, To The Department of State, Washington, Subject: IIA Prospectus, 13th May 1953.
17
Ibidem.
V
SEDUCING THE INTELLECTUALS
1. Clare Boothe Luce and the USIS’ turning point
With the election of the republican Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of
the United States at the end of 1952, international politics entered a new
phase, and 1953 represented a real turning point, especially in the history
of American information services in Italy. In 1953, one phase of the Cold
War came to an end, as Stalin’s death in March marked the beginning
of a process of political revision in the Soviet Union; and the signing of
the armistice in Korea in July terminated a conflict that had represented
the passage to the ‘hot’ war. In August, the creation of the United States
Information Agency marked the beginning of a new era for informational
policies, which were reorganized from the operational point of view, and
coordinated with the most important decision-making bodies for American
foreign affairs, such as the NSC and the OCB.
Despite moving from the strategy of ‘containment’ to that of ‘roll-back’,
a dialogue between East and West seemed to be opening up, thanks to the
proposals on disarmament and to the talks on the peaceful use of atomic
energy 1. Although the détente was beginning, the Cold War was not entirely
finished, other international crises were bound to arise in the following
years, and the role of the USIA became more and more complex owing to
the necessity of conforming to government policies.
In Italy Ellesworth Bunker, the new ambassador who succeeded Dunn
in 1952, was destined to remain in charge for only a few months, because
1
It is appropriate to mention the UN conference on the peaceful use of atomic
energy held in Geneva in August 1955, which some USIA officers also took part in. Cf.
Bruti Liberati 2004, p. 167.
224
seducing the intellectuals
Eisenhower and his new Administration renewed the diplomatic representation in foreign posts with new figures that were undeniably linked to the
Republican Party. For Italy, in March 1953, the choice fell to Clare Boothe
Luce, journalist and playwright, but best known as the wife of the superpowerful publisher of Time, Life and Fortune, Henry Luce. She had also
been a republican congresswoman in the early Forties. Clare Boothe was a
champion of anti-communism, and she is often presented very negatively,
as an exaggeration of American diplomacy in the Fifties, and is criticized
by many for her excessive interference in Italian affairs; and her line was
similar to the general strategy of the Eisenhower Administration from
several points of view.
In order to create a new and more reliable Italy, which was able to
assume responsibilities and to be integrated into the new European projects, it was necessary to solve the problem of Italian communism once
and for all. Western Europe had to represent a bastion against Soviet
expansion that could allow Moscow to take control of both Europe and
Asia, damaging the United States. The risk represented by Italy in this
environment, with its powerful Communist Party, was decidedly too high,
and the new Administration decided to intensify its anti-communist policy
in the country.
The years of Clare Boothe Luce’s tenure in Villa Taverna were characterized by unprecedented intervention in Italian internal affairs, with an
unquestionable overestimation of American ability to condition the Christian
Democratic governments, and were marked by deep anti-communism 2. The
result of the June 1953 elections was not what Washington had expected,
as the DC and its allies did not obtain 50% of the votes plus one, the
total needed to obtain the majority bonus allowed by the so-called ‘legge
truffa’, the swindle law, which could have ensured them 65% of seats in
Parliament. Thus, in comparison with the 1948 results, the DC was falling
behind, while the PCI and the PSI slightly improved their positions; this
confirmed the ambassador’s concerns, and as a consequence she refused to
avoid a direct intervention in Italian affairs. A few days before the elections,
on 28th May 1953, Mrs. Luce made a speech at the American Chamber of
Commerce of Milan, during a meeting with exponents of Milan’s political
and economic spheres. Underlining the new American strategy for Italy,
the ambassador went into Italian internal affairs in depth, as can be noted
in the sentences quoted below 3.
2
Del Pero 2001, p. 180. On Clare Boothe Luce, see also: Hatch 1956; Morris 1997;
Sheed 1982.
3
Cf. Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 163-165.
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
225
In its fabulous progress along the ancient route of its natural grandeur,
Italy can confidently rely on the intimate and kind cooperation of America.
We Americans would be very saddened to see this progressive march
deviating or coming to a stop. But if – and honestly I feel obliged to
say it, although it can never happen – if the Italian people should unfortunately be the victims of the fraudulent manoeuvres of right-wing
or left-wing totalitarianism, then serious consequences – logically and
tragically – would result for that intimate and kind cooperation which
we now enjoy. 4
The declaration was obviously consistent with the policy promoted by Washington, but the fact that it had been expressed in such an open way caused
great embarrassment for both the State Department and De Gasperi.
When, on 22nd April 1953, Clare Boothe Luce arrived in Naples on
board the Andrea Doria, it was clear that a plan to roll back communism in
the country was ready, but Henry Luce’s wife was also a very hard worker.
She often left her offices in Via Vittorio Veneto to visit the provinces, as
she did when she went to the flooded Salerno region and to Sardinia. She
always attended expositions such as the Milan Fair, theatrical premières
like Porgy and Bess, and openings such as the Istituto di Alti Studi Politici
of Johns Hopkins University in Bologna. But first of all, she succeeded in
conquering people’s hearts and minds, and was seen as a sort of American
‘fairy queen’.
Dear Excellency, I am a young girl, Monaco Assuntina, 12 years old, ill
with leukaemia, and because my father doesn’t have the money for my
medicine because he is poor, I turned to you. You were so kind as to
have my medicine sent from America, and now I am quite well. I tell all
those who come visit me that it happened only thanks to the beautiful
Mrs. Ambassador Luce. […] You were my fairy godmother, just like
in fairy tales. 5
«Nel suo entusiasmante progresso lungo l’antica via della sua naturale grandezza,
l’Italia può fiduciosamente contare sull’intima e cordiale collaborazione dell’America.
Noi americani saremmo molto rattristati di vedere arrestarsi o deviare questa marcia in
avanti. Ma se – e in tutta onestà mi sento obbligata a dirlo, benché è impossibile che
accada – il popolo italiano dovesse sfortunatamente cadere vittima delle fraudolente
manovre del totalitarismo, di destra o di sinistra, ne deriverebbero – logicamente e
tragicamente – gravi conseguenze per quell’intima e cordiale collaborazione di cui ora
beneficiamo» («Discorso dell’ambasciatrice Luce alla Camera di commercio americana
per l’Italia», Notiziario quotidiano USIS per la stampa, 29 May 1953).
5
«Eccellenza, sono la bambina Monaco Assuntina di anni 12 ammalata di leucemia
e, non avendo mio padre i soldi per comprarmi le medicine perché povero, mi rivolsi a
lei. Fu tanto buona da farmi mandare dall’America le medicine e ora sto quasi bene. A
tutti quelli che vengono a trovarmi dico che il merito è della bella signora Ambasciatrice
Luce […]. È stata per me la buona fata, proprio come si legge nei libri di favole» (NARA,
4
226
seducing the intellectuals
The USIS did a lot for her in this sense, to enhance her image in the country,
and conversely she did a lot for the USIS, with constant supervision and
exceptional reorganization of its work in Italy.
In the spring of 1954, an embarrassing incident involved the ambassador
and the world of the Italian press. The 25th March issue of the magazine
L’Europeo, edited at the time by Arrigo Benedetti, denounced Mrs. Luce’s
intrusion into Italian internal politics in a speech she made on 3 rd January
at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. She had mentioned electoral fraud
perpetrated by the left at the June 1953 elections, advising the government on how to fight the communists. After the denial that Mrs. Luce
sent L’Europeo, a dispute broke out among various journalists including
Nicola Adelfi, author of the first scoop, the famous Indro Montanelli, and
Benedetti himself 6. The ambassador declared the following:
An article published last week in an Italian magazine which purported
to be substantially the text of a speech I am supposed to have made to
American correspondents during my recent visit to the United States,
twists, distorts, and utterly misrepresents my views on Italy, her problems
and her leaders. The article is a fabrication pure and simple. I made no
such speech. 7
Clare Boothe often showed her loss of faith in the Italian government as an
ally of the republican Administration, and this led her to assume a more
and more uncompromising attitude towards Italy in the fight against communism 8. All this was also mirrored by the management of information
programmes, and caused huge reorganization in the Italian USIS, which
was completed in 1955. In May 1953, an action plan 9 was established,
and it had two main objectives: to mobilize support for American policies
and increase confidence in American leadership on the one hand; and to
mobilize support for democracy in Italy, in contrast with right-wing or
left-wing extremism, and strengthen pro-democratic elements both among
the people and the government on the other hand.
Four tasks, actually not very different from those of the preceding years,
were established for the USIS in order to reach the first of these objectives:
RG 84, Entry 2783 A, Italy, Rome Embassy, Records of Clare Boothe Luce 1955-1957,
Box 3, Italian Thank You, 14th October 1955.
6
Cf. Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 216-221.
7
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Clare Boothe Luce Papers, Box 637,
Statement on L’Europeo Article, April 1954; cf. also Bruti Liberati 2004, pp. 216-221.
8
Cf. Del Pero 2001 and Guasconi 1999 on her attitude towards Italian trade
unions.
9
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65, Box 2467, USIS Country Plan – Italy,
May 1953.
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
227
promoting acceptance of specific American programmes, especially those
involving Italy such as the Mutual Security Program, and commercial trade
with the United States; promoting support for specific international policies by the Italian government, the most important of which was NATO;
convincing the Italians of the historical continuity of American foreign
policy 10; and building confidence in American leadership to convince the
Italians of the maturity of democratic thought, by emphasising the elements
the Italians could use to identify their interests and aspirations with those of
the Americans. The plan established three main target groups to accomplish
this design: professional figures from the information field, including the
press, radio, cinema and publishing; political leaders, especially members
of Parliament; and university students, mainly those of the faculties of
jurisprudence, where future political leaders were most likely to be found.
For the first and second task it was also necessary to consider the directors
of the so-called free trade unions, the CISL and UIL, and all those who
worked in the highest ranks in the financial, business and industrial fields 11.
The second objective proposed by the plan was targeted more at a wider
audience, through the leaders, and it had several new aspects compared
with the preceding plans:
Task One: to convince Italians that the political principles of democracy
(rather than those of Communism or Fascism) and the practices of civic
action will lead to a fuller and a better life for themselves and for their
country.
Task Two: to convince Italians that adoption of the principles and
practices of a ‘dynamic economy’ (with emphasis on the concepts of
‘productivity’ and labor-management cooperation) will benefit their
economic and social welfare.
Task Three: To assist in strengthening the Italian free trade union movement as a means not only of strengthening Italian democracy, but especially of diminishing the power of the Communist leadership of the
CGIL.
Task Four: To expose the Communist movement (in its manifestations
both as political party and labor organization) as an international conspiracy, directed by the Kremlin for the furtherance of Soviet interests. 12
10
As the reader probably already knows, this is a very debatable point; consider, for
example, the well established isolationist tradition of the 19 th Century, which was only
betrayed in 1917 to take part in the Great War, and definitively abandoned only during
the Second World War.
11
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65, Box 2467, USIS Country Plan – Italy,
May 1953, pp. 1-2.
12
Ibid., p. 2.
228
seducing the intellectuals
To accomplish these four points, which implied quite deep interference by
the Americans in Italian internal affairs, the plan established the necessity
of appealing to a well-selected audience:
For Task One:
Key Ministry of Education officials (with a view toward their providing
instruction in democracy in the Italian school, particularly at the Liceo
level).
Defense Ministry officials responsible for troop orientation (looking
toward a more vigorous program of pro-democratic indoctrination in
the Italian Armed Forces).
Organizations which encourage civic action and responsibility (with a
view to assisting and strengthening them).
For Tasks Two and Three:
Business leaders, with particular attention to the more enlightened industrialists and younger potential leaders in industry and finance.
Key economists who now influence or in the future will influence the
economic thought of Italy, both in the universities and in commerce
and industry.
For Task Four:
Key professionals in creative and intellectual fields who concern themselves with political and social problems. 13
The intention was clearly to intrude more and more into Italian life, not
only in political matters but also in daily routine. The indications that
this plan gave the USIS were moving towards an attempt to indoctrinate
the population on a long-term basis, an attempt which should have had
its starting point in the schools, universities, and armed forces training.
The concerns of informational programmes began from that moment to
focus more and more on the public opinion moulders of the present and
future, who would have been able to pass the message on more effectively
to their fellow countrymen, becoming, to use a popular phrase, cultural
mediators.
Theories regarding the concept of ‘flow of information’ can be useful
to understand the developments of the USIS’ policy between 1953 and
1955: «Whereas before Lazarsfeld’s studies social scientists had believed
that information followed a ‘one-step’ flow, henceforth they defined a
‘two-step’ flow, according to which the media spoke to a national elite,
who in turn addressed the common people» 14. Over the last century and
Ibid., p. 3.
Cowan Shulman 1990, p. 127. Cowan Shulman’s statements quoted supra and
the analysis of both VOA and the USIS work in Italy show that although their public
statements were all centred on themes such as ‘the truth’ and ‘information’, they were
13
14
clare boothe luce and the usis’ turning point
229
a half, the Italian word ‘cultura’ (culture) has always been strongly associated with education and literacy; this humanist-intellectualist concept of
culture seemed not to have been changed by the anti-fascist struggles and
demand for social change of the post-fascist and post-war years. Between
1953 and 1955, the USIS propagandists who had always aimed at a ‘mass’
or ‘popular culture’ understood this point of view, and reformulated their
policies for the country, aiming this time not only at taking advantage of
the intellectual’s thirst for knowledge about America, American studies,
and the new disciplines studied there, but also at exploiting the role of
‘high culture’ and the role of the intellectual elite for their purposes. In
fact «Italian intellectuals are courted by political parties of all persuasions
to add lustre to their slates at election time, and wooed by the media as
influential opinion makers» 15.
In the spring of 1953, Mrs. Luce’s embassy and Lloyd A. Free’s USIS
prepared a ‘Prospectus for Italy’ for the two-year period 1954-1955. In
fiscal year 1953, the informational structure had worked with a budget
of 628,000 dollars, added to the 3,500,000 dollars of the MSA campaign,
which operated together with the USIS 16. The emphasis, and the majority of the resources, had been dedicated to the information sector, with
a huge production of publications, leaflets and films, especially aimed at
the ‘labor’ target group; the ‘public opinion moulders’ target only came
second. For the next fiscal year, however, some budget cuts were on the
way, and a sort of ‘Italianization’ of the intervention was needed, making
Italian intellectuals jump to the front lines in the cultural battle.
Both because of expected reductions in funds and because of increasing sensitivity among Italians to ‘U.S. interference’, the future program
outlined in the enclosed documents calls for a sharp curtailment in these
direct ‘mass communication’ operations in favor of activities designed
to stimulate and assist key Italian leaders and organizations to do the
propaganda job that will continue to be needed in Italy. However, conditions in Italy will continue to be such for some time that a program
limited to such a highly selective audience cannot do the job alone. For
this reason a complementary ‘mass communication’ program involving
pamphlets, films and radio is also prepared. 17
actually trying to mould the public opinion of the country using the most recent techniques.
15
Ward 2001, p. 81.
16
NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65/5-1353, Box 2467, Foreign Service
Despatch, From Amembassy Rome – Lloyd A. Free, To The Department of State, Washington, Subject: IIA Prospectus, 13th May 1953.
17
Ibidem.
230
seducing the intellectuals
For the application of this plan, a budget of 656,000 dollars for the USIS
and 1 million dollars for the MSA was needed, which included the expenses
for the ‘mass communication program’. The main target group, from that
moment on, included all information professional figures, the ‘opinion
moulders’ par excellence. It was a group of people chosen according to very
selective criteria, based on personal contacts established in Rome and in
the other nine cities where there was a USIS office. It was not certainly a
group formed by new acquaintances; on the contrary it was a network of
already-established contacts, because they had been considered as a target
group since 1945, even if they were not yet at the top of the list. For the
USIS, too, this was the least expensive way of reaching the wider public
as well, ‘the mass Italians’, those who did not attend the cultural centres
and the USIS libraries, or, if they did, they went only to have a look at the
most famous magazines; this was the same audience who did not tune to
VOA very often, preferring the Italian networks.
Not only would the public opinion moulders have been provided with
lots of material with the aim of strengthening their beliefs in accordance with
American policies, but they should also have been convinced to publicize
and spread American values in the best and most effective ways for the
Italian state of affairs. This group was obviously influenced by the press,
because all cultural professional figures read books and newspapers, went
to the cinema, and wrote things that their colleagues would then read in
their turn.
Despite the fact that they were usually considered ‘friends’ by American
propagandists 18, they were nonetheless very sensitive regarding the possibility of American intrusion in the internal affairs of their own country. The
situation was thus quite delicate, even if the USIS’ purpose was certainly
not to influence journalists of the communist press, which were too difficult
to convince, but it aimed at increasing the confidence of those who were
already considered as ‘friends’, and at using them as a means to reach the
rest of the population; and an inexpensive means, at that. USIS publications, radio broadcasting and movies were all aimed at the public opinion
moulders, together with the book presentation campaigns and the book
translation projects. They were also the main users of cultural centres and
USIS libraries and, last but not least, the candidates for the cultural and
educational exchange programme.
18
Cfr. NARA, RG 59, Central Decimal File, 511.65/5-1353, Box 2467, Confidential
Security Information – 1954-1955 IIA Prospectus for Italy – Program Statement, attached
to Foreign Service Despatch, From Amembassy Rome – Lloyd A. Free, To The Department
of State, Washington, Subject: IIA Prospectus, 13th May 1953, pp. 2-3.
Fly UP