Magazine | May 9, 2016, Issue

Letters

The VOA’s Unfulfilled Promise

As a former Voice of America manager responsible for launching the VOA Ukrainian TV program hosted by Myroslava Gongadze, I applaud Jay Nordlinger for his article on this courageous and talented Ukrainian-American journalist (“A Voice of America,” April 25). I feel obliged, however, to comment on VOA’s early history and its current effectiveness.

Contrary to the Voice of America’s promise to tell the truth, during World War II it was primarily a propaganda tool of the Roosevelt White House and its own pro-Soviet sympathizers. The station’s World War II leadership did not permit any significant criticism of Joseph Stalin after his alliance with Hitler collapsed and Russia suddenly became Britain’s and America’s valuable wartime ally while remaining a strategic and ideological enemy. Elmer Davis, the head of the Office of War Information (OWI), VOA’s parent agency, personally penned commentaries promoting the Soviet lie that the Nazis were responsible for the executions of thousands of Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest massacre. More than 20,000 Polish prisoners were in fact murdered on Stalin’s orders in 1940 by the NKVD secret police. Even State Department diplomats were appalled by VOA’s pro-Soviet Katyn propaganda and urged caution. Their warnings were ignored.

Elmer Davis and others in charge of VOA’s World War II broadcasts openly referred to themselves as propagandists during and after the war. They sought White House approval to coordinate their propaganda with the Soviet government. A number of Soviet sympathizers employed by VOA made sure that spokesmen for non-Communist governments allied with the United States in fighting the Nazis but viewed unfavorably by the Kremlin would not be heard in U.S. overseas broadcasts. The OWI even tried to censor U.S. media to prevent the news of massive Soviet human-rights crimes and Stalin’s aggressive designs on Eastern Europe from reaching the American public. After the war, several of VOA’s foreign-language broadcasters and their spouses left the United States to work for the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe as anti-American propagandists. One of them, Stefan Arski, had worked on VOA’s Polish desk during the war. Another defector who became a Communist official, Adolf Hofmeister, had been in charge of VOA’s wartime broadcasts to Czechoslovakia.

Thanks to Myroslava Gongadze and other similarly experienced Voice of America broadcasters, some of the current propaganda from the Kremlin is being exposed, but VOA’s overall performance is highly uneven due to years of mismanagement by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency now in charge of VOA. While journalists such as Ms. Gongadze cannot be fooled by Russian propaganda, the same cannot be said about all Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) programs. (RFE/RL, also overseen by the BBG, made a recent Facebook post accusing Israel of practicing “wholesale racism” in its anti-terror security measures.) Ms. Gongadze alluded in her interview to some of these difficulties and the lack of sufficient support from VOA’s government agency. Journalists like her cannot be fully effective against the new massive anti-American propaganda offensive from Putin’s Russia and from ISIS until the U.S. Congress and the White House work together to reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Ted Lipien

Former VOA Acting Associate Director

Via e-mail

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Witnesses

The attempt to better understand the complex and elusive connections between the personal and the political realms in our psyche is a worthwhile endeavor.

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

The VOA’s Unfulfilled Promise As a former Voice of America manager responsible for launching the VOA Ukrainian TV program hosted by Myroslava Gongadze, I applaud Jay Nordlinger for his article on ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Is there anything insulting we can say about New York? ‐ The New York Post, for decades a conservative opinion leader with a brash, Gotham accent, endorsed Donald Trump for ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

ONE FLOWER One flower stands for beauty, two for hope. More buds begin their version of cross-talk With tangled leaf and strong, supporting stalk. Subject to breeze, they sway but somehow cope. Shadows of butterflies, ...

Most Popular

U.S.

Nathan Phillips Lied. The Media Bought It.

If you’re in a public place and someone starts heckling you, are you entitled to heckle back? How about if someone does something much worse than heckling you in a public place? What if that person in fact takes a drum up to you and starts banging it in your face? Are you entitled to heckle back? How about ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Letters

The VOA’s Unfulfilled Promise As a former Voice of America manager responsible for launching the VOA Ukrainian TV program hosted by Myroslava Gongadze, I applaud Jay Nordlinger for his article on this courageous and talented Ukrainian-American journalist (“A Voice of America,” April 25). I feel obliged, ... Read More

Alert: NRPlus Call with Devin Nunes is Imminent

We are delighted that Republican congressman Devin Nunes is joining us this week for a call with our NRPlus members. It’s Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. If you are a member, you should have an invite in your inbox. If you are not, you can sign up here. I’ll be moderating and we’ll be taking your questions through ... Read More