JULY 16, 1951
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I have a letter in my mail asking me to explain how I can say that the Iron Curtain countries cut us off from information and knowledge, when columnists and newspaper stories keep telling us things about those countries—as, for instance, to what degree rearmament goes on, and various other items.
The answer is really very simple. As a nation we know very little about the lives of the people of the USSR, or about what is really going on behind the Iron Curtain. That is because it is practically impossible to get a visa to go into Russia or to travel around Russia; and because our embassy in Moscow, like the other embassies, is limited in the distance that any member of its staff may travel outside of Moscow.
It used to be said that certain correspondents had managed to travel without being especially guided or needing any special papers. Whether those who speak Russian could still do that, I do not know. The language itself is a barrier to understanding because so few outsiders speak Russian. Newspaper stories and columns obtain their information from official publications. The USSR government gives out information that it wishes us to know about armament or its various activities. The Russian newspapers are published, digests are made, and most of us receive these digests of what has been said in Pravda, the Gazette or some other paper.
There is no way of verifying what is true or not true. On the other hand, anything which is said about the United States can be verified or disproved here; but since all the newspapers are more or less under government control in Russia, our denial of any USSR story about us would probably never appear.
A few days ago, for instance, Moscow reported a story to Soviet radio listeners which will sound odd to all of us. It stated that the children of our workers, dressed in tatters, pale and thin from hunger, are standing at the doors of luxurious hotels and restaurants begging, and that on Fifth Avenue they search the garbage pails for food. And finally, it said, some foolish woman was reported to have left her dog $75,000,000 and to have ordered that he sleep on a golden bed and be attended by a staff of 48 servants and six lawyers. We simply shake with laughter as we read this story. This implausible figure, which very few people today actually would possess in the first place, obviously would be eaten up by the high cost of the servants, the high cost of living, the high cost of the lawyers, and the taxes.
I have now seen "The King and I" three times, and I want to say it loses nothing either of artistic value or of real interest. You simply see more in it and enjoy it more each time, and find Gertrude Lawrence and all the other principals more charming.