A KGB guide to subverting the press to your agenda

The methods of a former KGB operative remain applicable in the modern era, leading to disinformation and outright lies

Lee Harding“I cannot but wonder why are people pushing for socialism and communism?” an elderly friend wrote on Facebook. “Are they that misinformed and believing it?”

If we concede the answer is “Yes,” the next question is “Why?”

The late Yuri Bezmenov, a former KGB operative with the RIA Novosti press agency, had some answers. One of those answers is that the western press has been targeted and seduced by Marxist media management – and has been for decades.

Bezmenov defected from the Soviet Union in 1970 and died in 1993. Some thought his observations were dated even while he lived, but he offered his wise response in his 1985 book World Thought Police, penned in his western name, Tomas Schuman.

“Nothing is outdated if we talk about the goals and methods of KGB-Novosti. Nothing has changed since the Chinese genius of subversion Sun-Tzu for the last 2,500 years of human history,” he wrote.

Bezmenov claimed until the “World Communist Movement” vanished, his words “will remain an accurate, though impressionistic and highly opinionated, description of the largest subversion system in the history of mankind.”

The ex-KGB ‘journalist’ should know. Bezmenov was a disinformation agent who sowed false propaganda in India and welcomed western journalists to Russia as part of the operation.

In a 1985 interview with G. Edward Griffin entitled Soviet Subversion of the Free World Press, Bezmenov gives interesting anecdotes of his methods. We can assume media manipulators still use those methods.

Pick friendly media or make them friendly

Novosti employed Bezmenov to “accompany groups of so-called ‘progressive intellectuals’: writers, journalists, publishers, teachers, professors of colleges.” He said, “Most of them pretended they don’t understand that we are actually working on behalf of the Soviet government and the KGB. For us they were just a bunch of political prostitutes to be taken advantage of for various propaganda operations. … another victim of ideological brainwashing.”

Bezmenov was told to “aim higher” than leftists and find others to co-opt to the Marxist cause.

Alcohol was Bezmenov’s ally. “One of my functions was to keep foreign guests permanently intoxicated,” he said. Bezmenov stayed sober.

“At [a] certain point in time, I had to withdraw alcohol from them, so that some of them who are the most recruitable would feel a little bit shaky, guilty, trying to remember what they were talking [about] last night. … That’s the time to approach them with all kind[s] of nonsense such as ‘Joint Communiqué’ or [a] statement for Soviet propaganda. That’s the time they are the most flexible.”

It’s reasonable to expect that alcohol and drugs are still used to compromise people, then co-opt them when they sober up.

Bezmenov led American journalists on tours. Novosti penned 20- to 25-page backgrounders on the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics for journalists who wanted to come. The reporters had to give a response to what they read. Based on that, a Soviet diplomat in Washington or a Novosti representative would assess whether they should get a visa to visit Russia.

Giving friendly media exclusive scoops is a technique that remains to this day.

Lie to the media so they can lie for you

Look magazine sent reporters to Moscow at great expense on the 50th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution. Bezmenov accompanied the delegation to ensure a Soviet success. “From the first page to the last page, it was a package of lies: propaganda cliché[s] which were presented to American readers as opinions and deductions of American journalists.”

Lying was part of the game. “For the stupid question, we’d give them stupid answer. ‘No, there are no prisons in Siberia. No, most of the people who you see are free citizens of U.S.S.R.; they are very happy to be here, and they are contributing to the glory of the socialist system.’ Some of them pretended that they believed what I was telling them.”

Staged places and events were part of the propaganda. On tours to Siberia, Bezmenov took his guests to a kindergarten with apparently happy children eating a meal. It was all staged.

Such experiences left Bezmenov with questions. “What are the motivations of these people? Why would they stubbornly bring lies to their own population through their own mass media?” he asked. “They know nothing or next to nothing. Or they pretend that they know more than they actually do. I would say they are dishonest people who lack integrity and common sense and intellectual honesty.”

Bezmenov concluded reporters wanted to be “conformist to their own editorial bosses” and had a more immediate concern abroad. “It’s fear: pure biological fear. They understand that they are on the territory of an enemy state, a police state, and just to save their rotten skins and their miserable jobs, their affluence back home, they would prefer to tell a lie than to ask truthful questions and report truthful information.”

The U.S.S.R. may be gone but the Marxist dream remains. Only a vigilant and discerning public, served by journalists, educators and politicians with integrity, can maintain freedom and avoid succumbing to subversion.

Lee Harding is a research associate for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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kgb guide to subversion

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