“In Greg Barnhisel’s review of my book, Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, he makes a number of erroneous claims. The most churlish is his assertion that I wrote it to accuse The Paris Review of “nefarious puppeteering.” I made The Paris Review the lens through which to examine the cultural Cold War because the quarterly remains a familiar magazine to many in publishing. It was part of a milieu that the CIA’s propaganda front, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, called its publishing “clearing house.” This was a cohort of friendly magazines, whose work the anti-communists approved of. Once a cover for Peter Matthiessen in his spying days, The Paris Review‘s membership in this cohort demonstrates how a legitimate news or cultural organization could be useful and have its levers pulled, much of the staff unaware, in the subtle game of the cultural Cold War. Unlike the official magazines of the CIA, more than two dozen of which were launched in the 1950s and 1960s, The Paris Review lives on—the rest perished in the decades after the CIA’s ties to them were revealed.

While unraveling layers of complexity in the book, I make no attempt to hammer the magazine for “nefarious puppeteering.” On page five of the prologue, in fact, I write, “Even if The Paris Review played only a small role in the Cold War’s marshalling of culture against the Soviets, the magazine’s history nevertheless opens a compelling window” onto the cultural Cold War. In the same section I describe the magazine’s as a “bit part,” instructive though it is. This doesn’t mean I don’t criticize. What’s notable about Barnhisel’s review is what he leaves out. In the final section of Finks, I write of The Paris Review‘s silence about its ties in light of several co-founders maintaining relationships with the instruments of state, which they did, and which their co-founder, Doc Humes, asked some of them to come clean about. Which they did not. Barnhisel ignores this plea from one of The Paris Review‘s co-founders, depicted in his own words, thereby ignoring one of the key controversies within The Paris Review’s own milieu.

I close the book with a coda chapter that shows one of The Paris Review co-founders, John Train, involved in media propaganda in Afghanistan, where he was part of a group that plotted to embed with the future warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and foreign jihadis to capture Soviet war crimes on camera for American networks . They also explicitly plotted to trigger those crimes. Well documented though it is, Dr. Barnhisel ignores these activities. He is evidently not interested in what the book says at all, and claims in the face of numerous cases like the one above that it contains nothing new.

Beyond the omissions, Dr. Barnhisel’s list of errata is itself repeatedly in error. The first rule of cherry picking is making sure it’s really a cherry. On page 29, I identify Senator Joseph McCarthy thus: “In the early 1950s, the House un-American Activities Committee and its Senate counterpart, led by Joseph McCarthy…” and so on. Because he has apparently cited the advance paperback, which left out the underlined phrase above, Barnhisel rightly points out that Senators didn’t run Congressional Committees. He would have found the correct identification of the senator if he looked at the hardcover.”

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