Note from Mr. Magazine™ You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual. Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.
The similarities between now and then were more striking to me than any other article I have read from the 1950s so far. Yes, the media platforms are different today, but the message is still the same. And for those who believe there is anything new under the sun, read this article and let me know what you think….
Enjoy this blast from the past (Focus magazine, October 1952, Vol. 2, No. 10)…
The Russians Look At U.S. Elections
Moscow takes a crack at our every 4-year voting habits, comes up with a sizzling 2 Roubles’ worth on the candidates
On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower (“the ruthless, heartless militarizer of Columbia University”) and Adlai Stevenson (“a big business candidate in spite of pious declarations”) will come to grips for the office of President of the United States. But practically nobody will bother to be at the polls “since the majority of voters, long disappointed in American democracy, refuses to go to the ballot… the really intelligent masses of people prefer to stay away.”
Thus speaks Pravda and Izvestia on our electoral habits. And though Americans may laugh heartily, the average Russian citizen, clutching his newspaper as he rides the Moscow Metro home from work, knows that this is the “truth” about decadent, capitalistic U.S.A.
If you’re at all confused as to how General Eisenhower managed to snare the Republican nomination, Russia’s Tass News Agency has the exclusive story: “The convention was a battle between Eastern financial interests headed by the duPonts, Morgans, and Rockefellers supporting General Eisenhower, and Midwestern fiscal and industrial giants backing Senator Taft.” (The Russian account goes on to mention Andrew Mellon, dead since 1937, as a leading Taft backer.) “One of the strongest Eisenhower backers was Henry Ford II who directed the campaign in behalf of his candidate from abroad a yacht anchored off Michigan Boulevard.” (Ford was undoubtedly the first truly floating delegate in U.S. history.)
The Democrats, however, got the full treatment, with non-candidate Truman bearing brunt. Pleased to hear Truman was not up for re-election, the Russian Literary Gazette commented: “As is well known, Truman has never been distinguished by any originality of ideas. He was always a copy-cat. It was from Hitler he borrowed his delirious ideas of establishing a Fascist empire… from the Japanese Emperor he bought the patent to use the black plague fleas in Korea.”
As for the actual candidate Stevenson, however, Communists can’t help whip up much enthusiasm because they have known since May that “Eisenhower is not a Republican at all. He is a Trojan horse, skillfully smuggled by the Democrats into the opposing camp.” (Liberation, pro-Communist Paris paper.)
Russian Press attention included pre-convention closeups: Taft: “Die-hard companion of Dulles and company.” Kefauver: “He always tried to palm himself off as the personification of honesty, but he did not show any real zeal to uproot crime in America.” Pre-election propaganda focused on Ike, as “spiritual father of the 6-legged European monster, the NATO Army” and “an ignoramus who has not read a book in the last 9 years.”
On May 4 this year, Pravda told whom we’d vote for if not terrorized by capitalist bullies: Red-dominated Progressive Party and its candidate Vincent Hallinan.
But terrorized and bullied, caught between the Devil (“militarizer” Ike) and the deep blue see (“lackey” Adlai) close to 50 million unhappy Americans will turn out to vote. And whatever happens, the Russians barrage of written and cartooned propaganda will continue, for, Republicans and Democrats, we’re a decadent lot. Consolation is: We are free, and our elections have more than one man from whom to choose.