Secrets of Spreading Rumors
Among the players in this spy ring: Ian Fleming (later of James Bond fame), Noel Coward, David Ogilvy and Roald Dahl—a tall, charming, killer-handsome bachelor on disability from the RAF who wheedled his way into Eleanor Roosevelt's inner circle and became a back-alley conduit of information between the president and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Dahl went on to marry actress Patricia Neal and become a highly successful author of children's books, as well as a prolific television- and screenwriter ("Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "You Only Live Twice").
Here is the fascinating tale of a band of buoyant blackguards who wormed their way into the dining rooms, salons, saloons and bedrooms of the nation's rich and powerful, reported everything back to the British embassy, the high command in London and, when applicable, Churchill himself. In addition, they generated an avalanche of misinformation, disinformation, rumors and counterintelligence. The revolutionary techniques of molding public opinion, and manipulating the media, government and businesses, that were developed by the naughty playboys of BCS are as relevant today in the epoch of the Internet as they were when the world was threatened with Nazi domination.
A sampling from "The Irregulars":
For large-scale whispering campaigns, the [British Security Coordination] maintained an organization known as the Rumor Factory, which dated back to 1941 and was directed from the New York headquarters. Its purpose was to make sure misleading stories were spread through many different channels—from established newspaper and radio figures to special commercial and diplomatic contacts—and on many different social, professional, and economic levels. The BSC took this form of political warfare very seriously, and the official history lists the key rules its representatives were expected to observe:
1. A good rumour should never be traceable to its source.
2. A rumour should be of the kind which is likely to gain in the telling.