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Guy Sims Fitch had a lot to say about the world economy in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote articles in newspapers around the globe as an authoritative voice on economic issues during the Cold War. Fitch was a big believer in private American investment and advocated for it as a liberating force internationally. But no matter what you thought of Guy Sims Fitch’s ideas, he had one big problem. He didn’t exist.
Guy Sims Fitch was created by the United States Information Agency (USIA), America’s official news distribution service for the rest of the world.
But even when USIA peddled its own version of the truth, the propaganda agency wasn’t always using the most, let’s say, truthful of methods. Their use of Guy Sims Fitch—a fake person whose opinions would be printed in countries like Brazil, Germany, and Australia, among others—served the cause of America’s version of the truth against Communism during the Cold War, even if Fitch’s very existence was a lie.
Sometimes Fitch would appear more transparently as a voice of the United States Information Agency.
The USIA was ostensibly an independent organization, not beholden to any intelligence organization of the US government. But scholars of the Cold War have found plenty of evidence to contradict this idea in the years since USIA was folded. We now know that USIA and the CIA worked together quite explicitly on a number of different projects to influence public opinion in foreign countries.
I recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA to get more information about Guy Sims Fitch, this fictional character that journalists and editors of the USIA would use to promote American economic interests abroad.
So instead of just giving me documents about the use of that name by the USIA, the CIA has instead decided to play games with me. They’ve asked that I submit verification of identity for the editors and journalists who wrote under the name Guy Sims Fitch in the 1950s and 60s, along with documents showing that those people consent to having their information made public. And in the case of any editors who wrote under Guy Sims Fitch who might be dead, I’m supposed to submit proof of death. Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of government agents from the 1950s that wrote under the name Guy Sims Fitch. I was kind of hoping that the CIA would fill me in on that. Or, at the very least, tell me a bit more about why they were using fake people to support causes that presumably real people could have written about.
The first that I heard about Guy Sims Fitch was in a fascinating book about the history of the USIA. Wilson P. Dizard Jr., a former employee of USIA, mentions Guy Sims Fitch almost as an aside in his 2004 book Inventing Public Diplomacy.