Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘finks’

“The links between the world of literature and the U.S. surveillance apparatus” — FINKS author Joel Whitney interviewed on Scheer Intelligence

Friday, February 5th, 2021

“George and Mary Oppen were branded enemies of the state. Their FBI files document just how deep their activism went, and the price they paid for it.” — FINKS author Joel Whitney writes for the Poetry Foundation

Monday, January 18th, 2021

“The Violent Years”

Read the article here.

“Lorraine Hansberry Was an Unapologetic Radical” — FINKS author Joel Whitney writes for Jacobin

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Lorraine Hansberry is best known for her classic play A Raisin in the Sun. But she was also a committed radical who insisted that black workers must be at the heart of the struggle for liberation.

Read the article here.


Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

The hosts discuss, “Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers” with author Joel Whitney. It describes a situation that almost no Americans know about. In the early days of the Cold War, the CIA clandestinely recruited some of the greatest writers in the world–household names—to spy for them. They talk to the author about why this happened and why it’s been a secret for so long. Joel Whitney, the author of “Finks” and a co-founder of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics, joins the show.

Listen to the full interview here.

Swarajya calls FINKS “an invaluable addition to growing studies of government propaganda in the cultural sphere.”

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Read here.

An excerpt from FINKS, published at The Baffler, has been selected as a Notable in Best American Essays

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Read here.

“When a democratic government seeks to remove the ban on lying to you, be very skeptical indeed, because you’re in for a long, bumpy ride.” JOEL WHITNEY on the contemporary relevance of FINKS, at The Nation

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Read it here.

“An informative view of a time when writers and intellectuals were probably in the limelight more than they are now.” FINKS is reviewed at Penniless Press

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Read it here.

Part one of an extended interview with JOEL WHITNEY at The Nation

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Read it here.

FINKS is “a riveting account of the CIA’s machinations to recruit some of the world’s leading writers,” says The National

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Read the review here.

FINKS is reviewed alongside other books on the CIA at January Magazine

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

As Donald Trump positioned himself at odds with the Central Intelligence Agency in the early months of his presidency, many people wishing for an end to Trumpist madness may have wound up rooting for the creepy forces of the CIA. Whether or not the tension between Trump and the agency continues, it’s wise to look beyond the headlines to see the reality of the CIA. That reality is laid bare in three recently published books examining some dark truths about this American spy agency, which remain still largely unknown to most of the everyday people the CIA theoretically protects.

Joel Whitney’s Finks is reviewed alongside Douglas Valentine’s The CIA As Organized Crime and Nicholas Schou’s Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood at January Magazine.

JOEL WHITNEY “points the flashlight at the US government.” FINKS has been reviewed at the History News Network

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

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JOEL WHITNEY put together a playlist for FINKS at Large Hearted Boy

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Joel Whitney has created a playlist for Finks, running from jazz to reggae to Radiohead, at Large Hearted Boy.

Siddhartha Deb praises FINKS in The Baffler

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

This fiction of independence and innocence survives whatever insidious nexus between state and writer the historical record might offer. Joel Whitney’s recent book, Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, offers an enthralling account of the weird, hallucinogenic mix that incorporated the CIA, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (an anti-Communist advocacy group funded by the CIA), and The Paris Review, with its worldwide web of deception ranging from ensnaring Gabriel Garcia Marquez into publishing his fiction in a right-wing magazine to putting select American writers in the “joint emploi” of literature and the CIA.

Read more at The Baffler.

“In 1967, much of the intellectual world learned that the United States had outsmarted itself.” FINKS in The Wire

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

“In 1967, much of the intellectual world learned that the United States had outsmarted itself. Two decades earlier, it had quietly created several vehicles for secret cultural patronage. The scheme was billed as necessary to fight cultural penetration and patronage of the Soviet variety, which was presumed to lie behind not just propaganda, but also student and labor unions, world peace conferences and more. To maintain their secrecy, then, many of these American vehicles, such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom, were launched under the CIA’s covert bureaucracies. The agency’s secret budget was seen as a way to circumvent debates in the US legislature, whose hardline right-wingers hardly could be convinced to fund “little” intellectual magazines, say, or classical music, or the haphazard paint splashes of Jackson Pollock.”

Read the full review here.

“A compelling tapestry.” FINKS in WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

“The Central Intelligence Agency is part of America’s national security system, carrying an acronym linked to spies, dirty tricks, assassinations and violent regime changes throughout diverse regions such as Iran, Guatemala and Chile.

Joel Whitney, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics, constructs a compelling tapestry depicting members of America’s intellectual elite collaborating with this paranoid agency during the Cold War, confirming why novelists like John Le Carré were never short of grist for their spy mills.”

Get the full story here.


Monday, February 13th, 2017

In 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with several big Hollywood players to talk about getting the idea of “militant liberty” into movies. John Wayne was eager.

That anecdote is told in Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” It may not surprise that the Duke was on board with Uncle Sam, but Whitney’s primary focus is on the government’s relationship with a less likely band of double agents: writers and editors at The Paris Review.

Get the full story here.


Monday, February 13th, 2017

In 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with several big Hollywood players to talk about getting the idea of “militant liberty” into movies. John Wayne was eager.

That anecdote is told in Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” It may not surprise that the Duke was on board with Uncle Sam, but Whitney’s primary focus is on the government’s relationship with a less likely band of double agents: writers and editors at The Paris Review.

Get the full story here.


Friday, February 3rd, 2017

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“Will appeal to readers curious about the political agendas behind CIA manipulation” FINKS in LIBRARY JOURNAL

Friday, January 27th, 2017

“Among the Cold War’s many grim realities, some only now being revealed, is the extent of CIA influence on the publishing industry. Whitney’s (cofounder, ­Guernica) exhaustive research and interviews uncover details belying the myth of intellectual solidarity and comfort commonly projected onto the literati. In 1982, John Train, founding managing editor of the Paris Review, offered funding from his NGO, the Afghanistan Relief Committee, for a film about that country, which amounted to “Cold War propaganda on broadcast television.” Train’s archives from the period document his use of a shell nonprofit with a CIA code name to send journalists on anti-Soviet intelligence missions. Novelist and Paris Review cofounder Peter Matthiessen admitted to out-of-the-loop fellow cofounder Harold “Doc” Humes that, in 1952, the magazine was created as a cover for Matthiessen’s role as a spy for the CIA. Editor-in-chief George Plimpton was complicit but apparently toed the line by claiming aesthetics—not politics—guided his decisions. Plimpton’s visits to idol Ernest Hemingway in Cuba are chronicled, as well as the witting and unwitting involvement of Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, and others. VERDICT Will appeal to readers curious about the political agendas behind CIA manipulation of publishing in America and abroad during and after the Cold War.”

Get the full story here.

“What he discovered was a network of funding and operatives that connected the Ivy League, some of literature’s biggest names and the CIA’s propaganda machine.” FINKS in PASTE MAGAZINE

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

“The CIA’s mystique during the Cold War was undeniable, as the Agency became a symbol for indiscretions in the name of advancing the United States’ international influence. In Joel Whitney’s new book, Finks, the author explores the CIA’s specific role in combating Soviet propaganda by creating its own. The text chronicles the relationships between the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and the literary community, revealing how the Agency helped fund literary magazines around the world, including The Paris Review.

During the process of launching the magazine Guernica, Whitney had often encountered an idea that politics and literature should be separate. It was something that stuck with him.

“It never landed right and I never forgot about it,” Whitney says in an interview with Paste.

Then he learned something that seemed to counter that very thought while watching Immy Humes’ documentary about her father and The Paris Review co-founder H.L. “Doc” Humes. The film discusses the CIA’s role in establishing the supposedly apolitical magazine, so Whitney decided to do some digging. What he discovered was a network of funding and operatives that connected the Ivy League, some of literature’s biggest names and the CIA’s propaganda machine.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 12.12.58 PM.pngAlthough arrangements varied, the case of The Paris Review stands out. The CCF paid the magazine’s founders—Humes, Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton—a fee in exchange for their famed Art of Fiction interviews, which would then be syndicated in other publications. The CCF also funneled money to the founders through various organizations, and in turn the magazine’s editorial policy was apolitical in name but aligned with the CIA’s larger mission of promoting American culture. Elsewhere, editors involved with the CIA published anti-Soviet works, like Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, and also suppressed work seen as too critical of U.S. policy, including that of Dwight MacDonald and Emily Hahn.”

Get the full story here.

“Entertaining” FINKS in FREE BEACON

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

“Joel Whitney opens his Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers with a telling anecdote. It’s 1966. A paranoid Harold Humes, co-founder of The Paris Review, is living alone in London. His wife has just left him, and he is convinced that the Queen is listening to his conversations through microphones in his bedposts. Peter Matthiessen, another co-founder, visits and tells Humes that he used the magazine as cover during his short stint at the CIA in the early 1950s. In response to this, Humes writes what Whitney calls a “clear and sensible” letter to George Plimpton, the magazine’s third co-founder and editor, asking him to make the magazine’s early ties to the CIA public or remove him from the masthead. The magazine’s reputation would be tarnished, he argues, when it became known that it was “created and used as an engine in the damned cold war …””

Get the full story here.

“How a legitimate news or cultural organization could be useful and have its levers pulled in the subtle game of the cultural Cold War.” JOEL WHITNEY in Guernica

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

“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.”

Get the full story here.

“A fascinating and timely book” FINKS in National Post

Friday, January 20th, 2017

“Do you trust the CIA? Incoming president Donald Trump compared the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany. CIA director John Brennan called those comments “outrageous.” In response, Trump blasted Brennan for perceived failures in Syria, Crimea and the Ukraine.

Whether you trust the CIA has a lot to do with which of the two versions of its history you read. The official version focuses on lives saved, wars averted and the bravery of individual agents. It’s also the version you get from Hollywood, in films the CIA helped make including Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.

The second version is marginal, but in many ways, ascendant. It focuses on the CIA’s coups and death squads, secret wars and extra-judicial drone strikes. Joel Whitney’s Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers falls squarely into the second camp.

Whitney chronicles the CIA’s secret establishment of literary magazines at the start of the Cold War that helped launch the careers of a generation of luminaries such as James Baldwin, Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez. They also censored authors who wanted to write about how the United States treated Black people, CIA-backed coups in Latin America and the war in Vietnam.”

Get the full story here.

“Impressive in scope, depth and its marshalling of declassified documents” FINKS in The Globe and Mail

Friday, January 20th, 2017

“Indeed, there’s a depressingly Orwellian tenor to many of the revelations packed into Finks, from doublespeakish concepts such as “militant liberty” to the grander, and seemingly paradoxical, program of “fostering cultural freedom through routine acts of censorship.” Impressive in scope, depth and its marshalling of declassified documents, Whitney’s book proves that sophisticated cultural propaganda campaigns are by no means the exclusive province of looming totalitarian regimes. As Russian/U.S. tensions reheat once again, Finks also offers a reminder that it’s not one or another government, but the totality of government power itself that proves illegitimate – even if some forms of power seem more illegitimate than others.”

Get the full story here.

“Why would the CIA use socialists to fight communism?” JOEL WHITNEY on Russia Today

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Journalist and Author Joel Whitney enters the Hawk’s Nest to bring the scoop on his new book “Finks: How The CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers” which describes how the CIA blurred the line between propaganda and literature in its fight against the Soviet Union.

Get the full story here.

“A fine historical book” FINKS in The Los Angeles Review of Books

Monday, January 9th, 2017

In Finks: How the CIA Tricked The World’s Best Writers, Joel Whitney, co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Arts and Politics, has written an essential book on a small but key part of the prehistory of this hijacking of culture: the story of how The Paris Review and other magazines from the 1950s on were funded and backed by the CIA and became a central force in pushing leading writers of the day to produce propaganda for a hungry yet unsuspecting audience. The CIA even developed a large art collection in its curious approach to cultural hegemony.

Read the full piece here.

“How the CIA Infiltrated the World’s Literature” FINKS in VICE

Friday, January 6th, 2017

When the CIA’s connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines were revealed in 1966, the backlash was swift but uneven. Some publications crumbled, taking their editors down with them, while other publishers and writers emerged relatively unscathed, chalking it up to youthful indiscretion or else defending the CIA as a “nonviolent and honorable” force for good. But in an illuminating new book Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, writer Joel Whitney debunks the myth of a once-moral intelligence agency, revealing an extensive list of writers involved in transforming America’s image in countries we destabilized with coups, assassinations, and other all-American interventions.

Read the full piece here.

“8 Books you Need to Read in January”: FINKS in Vulture

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

“The story of the agency’s infiltration of America’s cultural institutions (especially The Paris Review) has been told before, but not this thoroughly or colorfully — thanks to Whitney’s reporting as well as the wit of his subjects, who knew how to write a letter. He shreds the idea that spooks like Peter Matthiessen worked only for the “good CIA,” but doesn’t limit himself to Plimpton’s dashing crew. The government’s entanglement with the Latin American masters (ranging from negative propaganda to subtle exploitation) gets a full airing that enlarges the story of the (first?) Cold War.”

Read the full piece here.

“He had no idea he’d be helping the CIA”: FINKS in Guernica

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

“In early 1959, George Plimpton was preparing to watch an execution in Cuba. The Cuban revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, had just marched on Havana and ousted the US-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista. The young Paris Review editor and other New York literary figures arrived during a period marked by hope for a democratic Cuba. They were there, too, as witnesses. Wary of US media distorting events, the revolutionaries had called in writers and intellectuals to witness the changing of the guard.

The changeover involved infamous trials—and even more infamous executions—that had become increasingly controversial. Guevara had witnessed an earlier coup in the region, in Guatemala, and calculated that it had been possible only because the country’s new leader allowed military officers loyal to the imperialists to remain in their posts after the election. Fearing a similar US-supported rollback, Guevara insisted the war criminals who had done the dictator’s bidding must be tried, read an accounting of their crimes, and summarily executed.”

Read the full piece here.

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