Friday, January 22, 2016

A Silver Brick


On September 30th 1951 the president of Radio Free Europe (RFE) General Charles Douglas Jackson spoke in Reno NV. It was part of the "Crusade for Freedom" campaign by RFE.  There were 1,500 people in the Reno high school gymnasium. Radio station 1230 KATO-AM carried his speech live.  The vent went on for three hours and Clark Gable wielded the gavel to auction off a silver brick bearing the words "Nevada 1951." It was only one small part of the RFE "Crusade for Freedom" which financed their operations. Jackson toured the country and held TV network events on ABC, CBS and NBC.

Back in 1951 the silver brick was won with a high bid of $800 by casino and hotel magnate Charles W. Mapes Jr.  Then Mr. Mapes donated the brick back to RFE and it was taken to Las Vegas the next day where it was auctioned off again in front of a crowd of 2,000 at Elks stadium. This process was repeated at least fifty times, even once at the tiny Smith Valley Rotary Club in Wellington, NV where it only went for $21. The process seems so Normal Rockwell that you can overlook the fact that Charles Douglas Jackson was a spook that worked for the CIA for almost 50 years.

In official RFE history they usually refer to the man as C.D. Jackson. (I'm not sure if anyone actually called him that.) If you recall, RFE was created by the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE), a CIA front organization formed by Allen Dulles in 1949. The NCFE included a mix of government spooks and moneyed business men from banker Frank Altschul to Reader's Digest owner DeWitt Wallace. The first chairman of the NCFE was diplomat and spook Joseph Grew, Jackson was it's second from 1951 to 1952. His speech at that rally was mostly about the evils of Communism.
"Truth is Communism's deadliest enemy. If the United States can win the cold war against Communism in Europe, the world stands a good chance of avoiding a shooting war. America's chief hopes for winning the cold war must be pinned on such innovations as radio networks and balloons, which carry messages of truth behind the iron curtain."

So, however you feel about the efficacy of it's mission or accomplishments, you have to concede first that the RFE was a U.S. government-controlled propaganda outlet. This a common use of resources by all governments. Given the ability to present information in a self-interested manner, most nations, businesses and individuals will do so. The criminality lies in the scope and scale. The important thing here is that the story about the silver brick was not a fund-raiser. It was a marketing ploy.  Propaganda was broadcast on the radio in Europe, but in the U.S. it was a pantomime.