for more than two decades during the Cold War, the public was bombarded by an enormous publicity campaign to shape American views of Russia and its foreign policy.
.. in 1950, it created Radio Free Europe, a government-sponsored broadcasting station. Ostensibly, it provided unbiased news for Eastern Europeans, but in fact the agency used it to wage a subversive campaign to weaken Communist governments behind the Iron Curtain.
.. how to hide the agency’s hand? How to account for the millions of C.I.A. dollars pouring into the broadcasting station? Simple: pretend that ordinary Americans are paying the bills.
.. a well-heeled and well-connected front group, the National Committee for a Free Europe. Each year it ran an enormous fund-raising campaign called the Crusade for Freedom
.. annual appeals resembling a hybrid of World War II war bond campaigns and contemporary NPR pledge drives.
.. Even newspaper delivery boys played a part, soliciting donations from subscribers on their paper routes.
.. They dutifully wrote checks to Radio Free Europe, and their contributions were magnified by gifts from many of the country’s biggest corporations, yielding, on average, about $1 million annually.
It wasn’t enough: The donations barely covered the cost of running the “fund-raising drives,” to say nothing of Radio Free Europe’s $30 million annual budgets. But that wasn’t the point.
.. the C.I.A. saw that it could exploit the fund-raising campaign as a conduit for domestic propaganda.
.. It provided the leitmotif for Reagan’s denunciations of the “evil empire” in the 1980s. One can even hear echoes in Donald Trump’s recent speech to the United Nations: His long digression on the evils of socialism seems drawn from the heated rhetoric of ads gone by.
.. The crusade blasted all information from enemy sources as lies and deceit — fake news, we could say. This counter-propaganda sought to inoculate the public from being receptive to anything said by the other side. It’s a tactic we’ve seen play out in real time on the president’s Twitter feed.
.. Radio Free Europe itself — which continues to operate out of its headquarters in Prague — has shaped Vladimir Putin’s worldview. Russia has long tried to claim Eastern Europe as its sphere of influence. Moscow hated the station for its meddling. As a K.G.B. officer, Mr. Putin no doubt spent many hours fretting over its activities in the Soviet bloc. It was a major irritant. He may even see the 2016 election hack as a way to even the score. If so, it’s payback indeed.