Former Soviet Spy Chief’s Unique Perspective on ‘Propaganda’ and ‘Disinformation’

What is the difference between “propaganda” and “disinformation” according to the highest-ranking intelligence officer to ever defect from the Soviet bloc?

Lt. Gen. Ion Pacepa explains in his book “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism,” which he co-wrote with Ronald Rychlak, that disinformation comes from a trusted source, while propaganda is far more overt.

The former tactic has been successfully used by the Soviets and the Russians for decades, he adds, and can be far more effective.

Rychlak appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio and television programs Tuesday to explain the concept in greater detail. Pacepa still does not appear in public under his real name, since many in Russia still want him dead.

Ronald Rychlak speaks with Glenn Beck about disinformation on March 4, 2014 on TheBlaze TV. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)
Ronald Rychlak speaks with Glenn Beck about disinformation on March 4, 2014 on TheBlaze TV. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

“From Putin to Russia Today to us, that’s propaganda. But from Putin to the New York Times, a trusted source, then that’s disinformation, right?” Beck asked.

“Correct. Disinformation comes from a trusted source,” Rychlak remarked. “[But] it’s a political activity by a foreign government.”

The two said Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments in 1971 about Vietnam veterans are another example of disinformation.

For those not familiar with Kerry’s inflammatory remarks, he claimed Americans in Vietnam “personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephone to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan…”

Rychlak explained: “We’re not saying that Kerry was an agent of the Soviets at all. He was a young man who probably was fooled, but he became a trusted source. He spread disinformation, probably unintentionally, not knowing what he was doing.”

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