Monday, August 30, 2010

Famous Loomises (I): Henry Loomis

I think it's time for an occasional series entitled "Famous Loomises," dedicated to those people out there with whom I share a last name.

Henry Loomis was a foundational figure in the beginnings of the Voice of America. A high-ranking official within the United States Information Agency (USIA) during World War II, Loomis fought hard to open Americans to the value of international propaganda. Oddly enough, those very right-wingers like Joe McCarthy who most decried the potential of communism to take over America also led the charge against funding an agency that would present the U.S. side of things to the rest of the world. They feared the government producing left-leaning propaganda that would then be used to influence American citizens against god and country and whatever. Senseless worries that again remind me that Joe McCarthy was a Soviet dream--no provocateur could have done more to damage the U.S. during those years than McCarthy.

Anyway, Loomis ensured that the USIA retain power within early Cold War foreign policy. In 1958, President Eisenhower named Loomis head of the Voice of America, an agency that had mixed success in its propaganda goals during the Truman and Eisenhower years (again largely because of Congressional interference). Loomis remained VOA head until 1965, when the Johnson administration became agitated that VOA was reporting negatively on U.S. foreign policy.

This always bugged me--the idea that if we don't talk about our foreign policy failures that no one else will either. That's absurd--every other country's news agencies were talking about Vietnam and Cuba and the Dominican Republic--and all we were doing by pressuring VOA and other agencies to be more positive was to lessen our credibility to people around the world.

In 1973, Richard Nixon named Loomis the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but he spent his five years at the head of that agency fighting with PBS over control of programming, something that showed neither agency in the best of light.