'Hugh Wilford's The Mighty Wurlitzer – How The CIA Played America makes for fascinating reading.  A thorough examination of said organization's prowess in paranoia, the book is as equally academic, as it is at times autocratic (in style) and auxiliary (in content).  Given the all pervading nomenclature of the subject matter, this ought hardly to be surprising.  

Wry it most certainly is not, as Wilford delves deep into all Machiavellian machinations of post-War America.  By the summer of 1946 for example, the author shoots straight from the hip by declaring in Chapter Two's 'Secret Army,' that: ''the War Department was systematically spiriting away to the United States Germans who had desirable 'technical' expertise (and, often, terrible records as war criminals) in a secret operation code-named 'Paperclip.'''   So whilst the US government turned a blind eye to the perpetrators of mass murder, it deemed itself exonerated; simply by denouncing Communism.  That it simultaneously cloaked its own foreboding in the name of homeland security, was and remains, spurious to say the least.   As Harry Rositzke, a Soviet expert within the then CIA explains: ''It was a visceral business of using any bastard as long as he was anti-communist.''   

In light of recent events in Georgia - which has spurred a veritable barrage of (probably hollow) threats from Washington – not a lot has changed really.  The suits and the tonality by which current day American and Russian leaders address themselves, may well have changed; but the political undertow remains as treacherous today, as - that which the CIA often referred to as the ''Golden Age'' of the Cold War - the 1950s.  

No-where was this more evident, and as a result, long lasting, than in culture; which the author both explores and substantiates thoroughly in Chapter Five's 'The Cultural Cold War – Writers, Artists, Musicians, Filmmakers.'  According to Wilford, it was this kulturkampf of ideology, which truly sparked the Cold War - and by proxy, the CIA – into everlasting political hate:  ''As well as being a political, an economic, and (only when other methods failed) a military conflict, the confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union was a clash of cultures.  The communists were fond of pointing toward their cultural achievements as proof that they, not the western bourgeoisie, were the true heirs of the European Enlightenment.  Witness the excellence of Soviet cinema, theatre, dance, art, music, and literature.  The United States, in comparison, was a cultural wasteland, its few artists treated as mere ornaments by its capitalist class, and its workers cretinized by the idiotic products of its culture industries.''

Be that as it maybe once was, the trajectoral influence of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan alone, has done much to tip such esoteric subscription.  To be sure, with the exception of the Beat Poets (who struggled inexorably to get themselves heard) and the emergence of rock'n'roll (which was considered nothing other than ''nigger'' music by the establishment), 1950s America was rather ghastly.  Not only was it void of true artistic merit, it was indeed, void of the truth itself.  Even the CIA has since recognized and admitted as such!

If you want a true bearing on the stasis of American foreign policy, and in turn, the current American Election, read The Mighty Wurlitzer.  It sheds far more light than either candidate are in a position to do (John McCain in particular).  More importantly, it tells it as it truly is - for it has nothing to gain by telling otherwise.

David Marx
The Mighty Wurlitzer – How The CIA Played America
By Hugh Wilford
Harvard University Press –  £18.95