To the editor:
The attack upon Bertrand Russell and myself by Frederic Raphael (Book Review, April 8, and Correspondence, April 22) appeared in a review nominally promoting a putative biography of Bertrand Russell by Ray Monk.
Raphael advanced official disinformation, pace Monk that I was "an agent of the CIA, planted to make the Left look deranged" while labeling me "a keen Maoist," the antithesis of my anti-Stalinist socialist views.
Ezra Pound once said that the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and get people arguing heatedly over which one of them is true. The campaign of character assassination against Russell gained its major impetus in the aftermath of our forming the "Who Killed Kennedy Committee" in early 1964 on the heels of JFK's assassination.
The committee's investigations secured documents refuting the Warren Report and exposed the role of the CIA in this virtual coup d'etat by "the military-industrial complex" about which Eisenhower had sounded the alarm.
In early 1964, we brought Mark Lane to London and "Rush to Judgment" was written in the Russell Foundation flat. When we released documents exposing the actual weapons, triangulation of shot and dynamics of the Kennedy killing, U.S. Ambassador David K.E. Bruce unleashed a propaganda campaign to reinvent Russell as "senile and demented" and myself as his "Svengali."
Flora Lewis, seemingly of The New York Times and Look magazine, summoned Arnold Toynbee to the U.S. Embassy to enlist him in this effort. Toynbee was outraged at being propositioned on behalf of what he perceived to be an operation deploying a cadre of "assets" to assail government critics. The launching by Russell of the International Tribunal on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (of which I was secretary-general) induced a marked escalation of Operation Character Assassination.
Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Isaac Deutscher, Vladimir Dedijer, Lelio Basso and Simone de Beauvoir presided over the exhaustive documentation of U.S. nerve gases exploding the pupil of the eye, of bacteriological weapons permeating Vietnamese vegetation, water and soil, of white phosphorous eating through flesh and bone, of napalm and fragmentation bombs whose millions of razor sham slivers sliced through civilian flesh like machetes and the unrelenting B-52 carpet bombing, whose cumulative tonnages were equivalent to a Hiroshima bomb every few weeks.The cruelty and the barbarity of it all seared the conscience of a generation. Russell did not need to be "manipulated" to raise his voice against these horrors, nor did he require a controlling amanuensis to mobilize support for the victims of death squad regimes and their CIA sponsors in Congo, Indonesia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia. During the 10 years of my association with Russell, he appeared at mass demonstrations, gave press conferences continuously, was accessible to heads of state, received distinguished people from across the world and gave interviews on a virtually daily basis. Yet writers with a real hidden agenda have sought to promote and legitimize the denigration of Russell and the demonization of our relationship.
I settled recently my defamation suit against Random House in the U.S. and Orion Press in Great Britain concerning the book "Confessions of a Philosopher" by Bryan Magee, in which these fabrications about "CIA affiliation," "manipulation" and "sinister intent" were promulgated. Magee has acknowledged that these statements were "false, without any evidentiary basis, malicious, damaging and should never have been published." The publishers have had to replace the defamatory edition in university and public libraries in the United States and Great Britain.
Frederic Raphael and Ray Monk repeat and promote these slanders. I support the right of anyone to voice the most vehement criticism of the views and political activity of Russell, myself or anyone else. An acid test of the belief in civil liberty is to defend opinions one detests, as any authoritarian can embrace views or ideas of which she or he approves.
Uninhibited debate, however, has nothing in common with calculated character assassination--disinformation, whose purpose is to reinvent and destroy people, often deploying undeclared government assets for the purpose.
This practice permeates many prominent avenues of communication in our society. It has nothing to do with civil liberty or freedom of speech. On the contrary, it represents the antithesis of both.