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Quote: “For ANY Government agency to call itself the Voice of America is an impertinence.” – Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann, c. 1920. Harris & Ewing, photographer - Library of Congress

For ANY Government agency to call itself the Voice of America is an impertinence.

– Walter Lippmann, “Why the Voice of America Should Be Abolished,” Reader’s Digest, August 1953. Condensed from New York Herald Tribune.

Cold War Radio Museum

Cold War Radio Museum

During the Cold War, some liberal American journalists like Walter Lippmann, founding editor of New Republic and Pulitzer Prize winner, questioned the usefulness of the Voice of America, especially the U.S. government’s involvement in such broadcasts.

It will be said, I know, that if we abolish the Voice of America, if we limit our broadcasts to straight news, that we shall “lose the battle for men’s minds to the Communist [sic] who conduct incessant propaganda. I do not think there is any evidence that the Voice of America has been winning that battle. On the contrary, there are all sorts of reasons, I believe, for thinking that it does more harm than good to our influence abroad.” 1

Walter Lippmann, c. 1920. Harris & Ewing, photographer - Library of Congress.
Walter Lippmann, c. 1920. Harris & Ewing, photographer – Library of Congress.

Lippmann would have been right in his assessment several years earlier, but by 1953, there was already a new group of anti-communist journalists and experts, both American and foreign-born, working for VOA. Lippmann did not trust them not to create their own propaganda. They were, however, subject to much stricter security checks and policy control at the State Department after the war than were the pro-Soviet VOA officials and journalists who had worked for the Office of War Information, where Voice of America broadcasts originated from 1942 until 1945.

"Why the Voice of America Should Be Abolished" by Walter Lippmann in "Reader's Digest," August 1953.
“Why the Voice of America Should Be Abolished” by Walter Lippmann in “Reader’s Digest,” August 1953.

Lippmann’s column, titled “Why the Voice of America Should Be Abolished” appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Herald Tribune, and was condensed and reprinted in the August 1953 issue of Reader’s Digest. Lippmann wrote:

For ANY Government agency to call itself the Voice of America is an impertinence. 2

 

READ MORE:

Office of War Information – Descriptions of Voice of America, OWI, and Office of Censorship Show Similarities to Disinformation Governance Board

Notes:

  1. Walter Lippmann, “The Voice of America Should Be Abolished,” Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1953. Accessed on John Brown’s Notes and Essays (blog), September 30, 2014, http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2014/09/walter-lippmann-voice-of-america-should.html.
  2. Walter Lippmann, “Why the Voice of America Should Be Abolished,” Reader’s Digest, August 1953. Condensed from New York Herald Tribune.
Author
Curator

Ted Lipien is the online Cold War Radio Museum's principal volunteer editor. He is an independent journalist, writer, and media freedom advocate. He was Voice of America’s Polish Service chief during Poland’s struggle for democracy and VOA’s acting associate director. He also served briefly in 2020-2021 as RFE/RL president. His book “Wojtyła’s Women” was published in 2008 by O-Books, UK. E-mail him at: tedlipien@gmail.com.

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