The Central Intelligence Agency’s video squad made short documentary-style films to educate President Ronald Reagan about the Soviet Union. Now you can watch them for yourself.
Seven videos the CIA made for Reagan — “The Soviet Space Program,” “Afghanistan: the Gallant Struggle,” “Andropov Succession,” “Soviet Internal Propaganda,” “The Soviet Media’s Portrayal of America,” “The Chernobyl Accident,” and “The Moscow Summit” — were posted on YouTube by the CIA last week in conjunction with a report on Reagan’s use of intelligence during his presidency.
Described by MSNBC’s Robert Windrem as “fairly straightforward and not particularly sophisticated,” the videos are reminiscent of something you’d remember from a cold war era social studies class.
It was actually the CIA that suggested to the White House in the summer of 1981 that the videos, already in production as an in-house effort, might be helpful for Reagan, according to a paper released on the subject.
The first video for Reagan was delivered in September 1981, according to the lead paper sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Center for the Study of Intelligence. The White House loved it, and there “were increasing requests for more videos from around the Reagan administration, but the production schedule and limited resources dictated that CIA produce videos almost exclusively on subjects of interest to the President.”
The author of the paper on Reagan’s use of intelligence says the videos shouldn’t perpetuate the “myth” that Reagan wasn’t an intellectual.
“Much — probably too much — has been made of Reagan’s acting career and its alleged inﬂuence on his substantive knowledge of intelligence and national security matters,” writes Nick Dujmovic. He continues:
The view that Reagan was not a reader but at best a casual watcher of intelligence has been perpetuated by political conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans alike. That view is not consistent with the general reappraisal of Reagan’s intellectual abilities as evidenced by new scholarship over the past decade, but it has persisted. Logic and evidence, rather than political bias or personal opinion, paint a different picture. Logic would support the notion that Reagan, whom recent scholarship has established as an enthusiastic reader, was also a reader of intelligence, and new evidence presented herein has conﬁrmed as myths the perceptions that Reagan was ignorant of intelligence, read little of it, and consumed it primarily in video form.
The videos released by the CIA are embedded below.
“The Soviet Space Program”
“Afghanistan: The Gallant Struggle”
“The Andropov Succession”
“The Moscow Summit”
“The Chernobyl Accident”
“Soviet Internal Propaganda”
“The Soviet Media’s Portrait of America”