In an effort to bring America into the war in Europe on the side of England, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with the tacit approval of President Roosevelt, engaged in extensive deception masterminded by William Stephenson, aka “Intrepid.”
The story is told in detail in “The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington.”
Dahl and his colleagues were British operatives known variously as the British Security Coordination, but insiders knew them as the Baker Street Irregulars. They were British patriots intent on saving their country from a Nazi invasion.
First, consider the techniques and then the philosophy of one of the world’s most successful propaganda organizations.
The handsome and charming Dahl established himself among Washington’s foremost political, news, and social elite. He became personal friends with President and Mrs. Roosevelt and other wartime leaders such as Vice President Henry Wallace and U. S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau. It is said he and his colleagues “gossiped, bugged, and often hilariously bungled their deceit, double-dealing, and moral ambiguity to help ensure Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented fourth term and to change the mood of America to favor engagement in the war in support of England.” Their rumor mill was very instrumental in helping achieve those two significant ends.
Their philosophy produced a rumor factory employing five guidelines for a good rumor:
1. A good rumor should never be traceable to its source.
2. A rumor should be the kind that is likely to grow in the telling and retelling.
3. Rumors should be designed for particular groups (Catholics, Czechs, Poles, etc.).
4. A particular rumor should have a specific purpose.
5. To be most effective, a rumor should originate in several places at the same time and in such a way that they shuttle back and forth, with each telling reinforcing the other.
Apply those standards to Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the Justice Department, NSA, IRS, and the rest of the alphabet and a pattern appears. Sources of various stories can’t be traced to a point of origin. The stories grow with every telling. Definite groups are objects of the stories. Number four is more difficult to understand. What is the purpose of each? Reports on each of these scandals have slowly bubbled to the surface compounding the stories.
This complexity leaves the public wondering what the real story is.
What is fact and what is fiction? Who is the source? Until item one is answered it will remain difficult to separate truth from a tale. It is as though in each instance the perpetrators of stories associated with the current scandals had a check list of Dahl’s five characteristics of a good rumor.
If Dahl and members of his Baker Street Irregulars were instrumental in the election of a president and the expansion of a war what can all of the current rumors achieve in America? It is intriguing that all of these scandals emerged at the same time. Some have been known for months, but have only recently been divulged publicly.
At risk is the life-style of Americans and perhaps the life of America as we know it.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.