The Challenge of Ideas

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Despite desperate protestations asserting hoary journalistic ethics and objectivity, LRC readers know that establishment mainstream media reporters and news anchors have always been indistinguishable from regime stenographers, bit players on the world’s stage. Check out The Challenge of Ideas, a curious example of Cold War propaganda produced by the United States Army Pictorial Center and the Department of Defense during the Kennedy administration. This half-hour documentary is entirely derivative of Frank Capra’s classic WWII series, Why We Fight, which was utilized to mobilize and indoctrinate Americans in uniform abroad and on the home front against the Axis. The film focuses upon the Manichean battle between the forces of light and darkness, the struggle between the United States and its allies versus Monolithic World Communism. The heretical reality of the Sino-Soviet Split is nowhere hinted at in this tightly-scripted drama, no shades of gray here. But what is shockingly evident in this ancient archival record of how our once governing elites sought to mold our perceptions and ideological world-view is that “we” are no longer “us” but have become “them”: The once noble American described in the film by actor John Wayne as cherishing God, family, and individual liberty, has become “a creature, not of God, but of the State. In this system the value of individual man diminishes sharply, and the State is all important. The State will run his life for him, his political life, his business life . . . his social life.” The film features the iconic Edward R. Murrow (late of CBS News and participation in Operation Mockingbird), the head of the United States Information Agency. The chain-smoking Murrow essentially filled the polished jackboots of Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels in what novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand dared label “the Fascist New Frontier.” Other authoritative titans lending gravitas to the production include news reel legend Lowell Thomas, NBC News correspondent Frank McGee, and Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times. Cameo performances by actors John Wayne and Helen Hayes were simply icing on the cake.

12:26 am on February 28, 2012