FBI Used Fake Underground Newspapers to Neutralize Anti-War Sentiments in ’60s, ’70s

Steve Neavling

The FBI produced fake newspapers in the 1960s and ’70s to combat anti-war sentiment, the Austin Chronicle reports.

The newspapers, which were recently discovered in a cache of declassified documents, included a campus newspaper at Indiana University Bloomington, called the Rational Observer.

“[They are] one of the ‘smoking guns’ that activists who produced the underground press in the Sixties and Seventies could little have imagined: right-wing campus papers produced by the FBI,” said James Danky, instructor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin, and author of Undergrounds, a librarian’s catalog of alternative press publications. “These papers’ faltering efforts … speak to the cultural and political distance between the forces of repression led by J. Edgar Hoover and the seismic changes in America’s social fabric.”

Part of the point was to expose the identities of so-called leftists in the newspapers.

“The purpose of this program is to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of this group and persons connected with it.,” a letter to Domestic Intelligence Director William C. Sullivan said. “It is hoped that with this new program their violent and illegal activities may be reduced if not curtailed.”

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