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Thread: Watch The Videos The CIA Made To Tell Ronald Reagan About The Soviets

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    Watch The Videos The CIA Made To Tell Ronald Reagan About The Soviets

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    Thanks very much for linking to the CIA vids, Scott! I haven't had time to watch them all because of preparations for the big Thanksgiving dinner with the family, but (starting from the bottom of the list), I did watch "Soviet Media's Portrayal of America"...



    ...and "Soviet Internal Propaganda":



    My first reaction is that the content is more balanced than many Americans might expect given that it was made by the CIA during the Reagan years of the Cold War -- it doesn't have the hysterical "The Reds Are Coming To Take Away Our Churches!" tone of some 1950s films made for American classrooms.

    On the other hand, there's definite anti-Soviet spin: for example, they mention that Soviet children got a steady diet of pro-Lenin messages from kindergarten, but they don't mention that at least some of the "Lenin indoctrination" was rather innocuous or even positive, such as "Учись, учись, и учись!" ("Learn, learn, and learn!"). They also give a sample of the constant footage of impoverished inner-city American blacks shown on Soviet TV, but then they arguably use the very same propaganda technique by showing delapidated Soviet apartment blocks, rusty playground equipment, and so forth.

    Perhaps the best moment of unintended hilarity comes at 8:34 in the "Soviet Media Portrayal of America" short, from a Soviet news commentator addressing the claim that media in the USSR gives a distorted, one-side view of American life:

    "I think we are not distorting the news -- I would disagree; we are showing not only the unemployed; we show the millionaires, too, and high society!"


    Suffice to say, it was precisely the high living standards of American middle-class workers that Soviet media found most threatening, and was most eager to hide from the Soviet people. But the fact that America had both yacht-owning millionaires and unemployed poor people was never a secret.
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    Also, tying into another current "Politics" thread -- the "Internal Propaganda" short film makes a brief mention of Marshal Ogarkov addressing the KAL 007 shootdown in Sept. 1983.

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    The "Moscow Summit" video is also worth checking out -- not because it gives much insight into Soviet life, but for the behind-the-scenes look at the meticulous planning for everything the US President does. Essentially, it's a brief travelogue showing a video-itinerary of Moscow so that Mr. and Mrs. Reagan would know what to expect (and so that they would be able to say, "Oh, this must be the Palace of Congresses I've heard so much about -- and here's Spaso House, how nice!").

    The un-narrated musical interlude from 2:15 - 4:00 (to the accompaniment of Подмосковные Вечера) is interesting in the way that it presents "comfortingly Western" aspects of Soviet life -- people drinking Pepsi, going to discos, and having fashion shows, etc. Presumably all this stock footage was provided by the Soviet government at the request of the Americans. Incidentally, at 2:30, there appears to be a shot of a Georgian newspaper stand, unless my eyes deceive me.

    One location NOT shown in the film: the Gorbachev dacha (it's mentioned at around 15:30, over footage of the Bolshoi Ballet, but there's no video footage of the dacha).

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    A few more comments: the CIA's "Chernobyl Accident" video is probably the least-interesting of the group, except as a historic snapshot of the guesswork that US analysts were attempting to do immediately after the disaster. But from today's standpoint, there are no surprising revelations, and you can get a far more detailed analysis of Chernobyl from Wikipedia, thanks to two decades of candor in the post-Soviet period.

    "The Andropov Succession" is marginally more interesting in that it shows CIA analysts attempting to predict something that hadn't happened yet (namely, who would be picked to replace Andropov), rather than discussing something that had already occurred, as with the Chernobyl disaster. But again, kinda boring for a viewer today.

    The "Soviet Space Program" short also contains very few or no surprises. However, it's notable for the mixed attempt to give the "enemy" its proper credit for technical innovations, while at the same time demonizing the USSR in a rather unsubtle way, by repeatedly referring to the "Jekyll and Hyde" character of the Soviet space efforts. (I.e., the scientific missions were Jekyll, while the military missions were Hyde). Needless to say, the US space program itself has always had a "Джекил и Хайд" character, if you want to insist that scientific applications are Jekyll and military applications are Hyde!
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    Finally, there's "Afghanistan: The Gallant Struggle"...



    ...and what can one say here but ё-моё, what a painful goldmine of American naivete and misguided thinking, from a post-9/11 perspective -- basically, the whole point of the video is to sell the idea that it would be a great idea for America to give lots and lots of weapons to the mujahideen. You could make a drinking game out of the all the times that the narrator proclaims, "Muslim faith can beat Communism..."

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    So, my quick movie-review summary of the seven videos...

    for "Soviet Space Program", "The Andropov Succession", "Chernobyl Accident", and "Moscow Summit" -- they're of rather marginal interest and can be skipped.

    for "Afghanistan: The Gallant Struggle" -- quite interesting, but sure to provoke flames about ongoing US military policy.

    for "Soviet Media's Portrayal of America" and "Soviet Internal Propaganda" -- I enjoyed both of these as admittedly propagandistic attempts by CIA analysts to guess whether the average Soviet citizen truly believed the anti-Western messages of the Soviet media, and I think there's good material for discussion on such questions as whether state-promoted conformity is in all cases worse than the conformity encouraged by mass-media and consumerist cultures in the US.

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    By the end the Soviet propaganda had the opposite result. People loughed at it and assumed everything that was said lie, even if it was true. Especially it refered to the western life. People were convinced that in the West текут молочные реки с кисельными берегами. They did not accept any criticism of the West as communist propaganda. Dissidents and all the nonconformists were extremely popular as well as everything that was "forbidden". Many writers wouldn't be known today, but they can't understand that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    By the end the Soviet propaganda had the opposite result. People loughed at it and assumed everything that was said lie, even if it was true. Especially it refered to the western life. People were convinced that in the West текут молочные реки с кисельными берегами. They did not accept any criticism of the West as communist propaganda. Dissidents and all the nonconformists were extremely popular as well as everything that was "forbidden". Many writers wouldn't be known today, but they can't understand that.
    That was exactly the end the Soviet lying bullshit had deserved.

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    From what I have seen on Russia Today about Latvia - lying bullshit still continues...

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