Joel Whitney’s “Finks” explores how the CIA used writers to fight the Cold War

John Semley in The Globe and Mail:

ScreenHunter_2524 Jan. 21 15.58Since finishing Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia a few weeks ago, I have been gripped by one singular ambition: moving to Moscow.

I desire nothing more than getting an exorbitant, unturndownable job offer at a media company in the Russian capital, moving there and working diligently at spreading Kremlin propaganda and misinformation. My motivations – beyond the rather obvious allure of “being evil” – are simple. Pomerantsev, a Russian-born Brit who made a similar move, makes the idea seem so bizarrely enticing. As described in his book, Putin’s post-post-perestroika Russia is a place of astonishing intellectual fertility. It’s a place where TV producers, film directors and journalists engage with high-level philosophy and critical theory, all in the aim of serving the authoritarian interests of the state.

It sounds awful (or indeed, straight-up evil) but it offers a certain kind of clarity: In Putin’s Russia, no matter how slippery the ground may seem, you always know where you stand. Sure, everything may be a sham. But at least everyone knows it’s a sham.

It may all seem reprehensible. Certainly, such media operations constitute an ostensible affront to what Joel Whitney, in his new book about America’s own insidious control of domestic and foreign journalism, identifies as “the traditional adversarial role of media, a role that at least theoretically checked government power and guarded against overreach.” But what Whitney’s Finks makes astonishingly, harrowingly clear is that such affronts are a matter of course in the United States as well, where intellectuals, editors and self-styled belletrists were employed as CIA stooges during the Cold War. Sometimes they have had plausible deniability. But in many more cases, they collaborated all too willingly.

More here.