Thursday, September 29, 2016
Guy Sims Fitch was created by the United States Information Agency (USIA), America’s official news distribution service for the rest of the world. Today, people find the term “propaganda” to be incredibly loaded and even negative. But employees of the USIA used the term freely and proudly in the 1950s and 60s, believing that they were fighting a noble and just cause against the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism. And Guy Sims Fitch was just one tool in the diverse toolbox of the USIA propaganda machine.
“I don’t mind being called a propagandist, so long as that propaganda is based on the truth,” said Edward R. Murrow in 1962. Murrow took a job as head of the USIA after a long and celebrated career as a journalist, and did quite a few things during his tenure that would make modern journalists who romanticize “the good old days” blush.
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.
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. The twist? The CIA wants to make sure that the privacy rights of this fictional character aren’t violated. Or, perhaps, that the privacy rights of the people who wrote under that name aren’t violated. The short version? They’re toying with me.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, federal agencies are required to take into consideration the privacy rights of living individuals. Dead people don’t have privacy rights under US law, which is why you’ll see agencies like the FBI release their files on notable individuals after a famous person dies. (And the not so famous, if you ask for it.) But Guy Sims Fitch can never die, because he was never born...
It's yet another exhausting example of how people working at a bank got up in the morning, cheated and lied to their customers, went home to their families, ate dinner, were fairly normal, went to bed, and then got up in the morning to lie and cheat at work again.
Here's what happened at Wells Fargo: Under intense pressure to meet performance targets from above, thousands of employees opened fake accounts for clients.
The bank has agreed to pay a fine of $125 million (peanuts, really, at a company with a market capitalization of $235 billion), and thousands — excluding the executives who ran this division, of course — were fired.
In front of Congress, Stumpf was apologetic but weak and ineffectual.
He said Wells Fargo was dealing with the issue for a number of years before he was made aware of the issue. "If I could turn the clock back, I — we all — wish we had done something earlier," Stumpf said.
And then he said something that you could've seen coming. He couldn't remember details. Specifically, Stumpf said he couldn't remember when exactly in 2013 he learned about the issue. He was repeatedly asked if he had known before the Los Angeles Times published a story on the practices, but he didn't answer.
This, you see, is a Wall Street coping mechanism. It also happens to beget more disastrous behavior...