Originally, the word ‘Propaganda’ was used in religious context. The Roman Catholics used it when referring to an arm of the church responsible for “de propaganda fidei” – propagation of faith. However, the word has gained more popularity in the political arena. Specifically, propaganda refers to systematic spreading of information that usually promotes narrow political or religious viewpoint (O’Neil and Rees 33). As of 20th century, the word acquired negative connotation when different regimes employed every available medium of communication to distort and spread falsehood. The use of propaganda takes center stage in the analysis of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1946 to 1949 (Kostin and Baratov 11).
The gist of hostility amongst the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war period was because of the desire to be identified as the most dominant. Even though the two conflicting power blocs did not at all involved in an actual fight, they took advantage of battles that divided a country into two (for example, the Korean War and Vietnam battle). Besides, both the USA and the Soviet Union employed propaganda with the objective of terrifying and causing other states to think that one and only it (USA or Russia) is more strong (Kostin and Baratov 17). This essay will examine the premises of the cold war involving the USA and the Soviet Union. Mainly, the paper will scrutinize the assertions made by the two power blocs and their reality.
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During the cold war, the Soviet Union declared that communism served the interests of its people better than capitalism that the United States proposed (Kostin and Baratov 15). Thus, during the period between 1946 and 1949, the Soviet Union used every available medium of communication to promote political ideologies of the Communist Party line (Kostin and Baratov 11). The Socialist Party’s values resulted in the creation of a communist federation, a federation that impresses by its communal possession. Such an economic system uses the principles of production that aim at satisfying human and economic needs as opposed to the principles of production to generate profit and accumulate capital. The Soviet Union realized that socialism could be established through government policies (Kostin and Baratov 14). Through these policies, the communist party was a supreme political institution and a force of the societal organization. Therefore, the communist party or its equivalent had an obligation to create a classless social system, a social system that impresses by collective ownership of the means of production. In essence, the central idea of Soviet Union’s propaganda was that the communist system would accrue more advantages to the Soviet Union and its subjects because it treats people socially equally. However, according to the United States, Communism is not beneficial to society because it destroys the very foundations that build the community (Kostin and Baratov 14).
In the 1950s, the United States’ propaganda, as an instrument of the cold war, intended to serve many purposes. The primary purpose of the propaganda was to demonstrate misconception of communism. The intention of the United States was to caution the people in the Middle East and the rest of the world about adversaries, a society that practices communism. Another purpose of the United States’ propaganda was to strengthen its international relations with other nations, especially those in the Middle East (Soldatov 19). As the United States exposed the fallacies of communism and threats of the Soviet Union, it gave the people an alternative to communism. The US promoted its Western-oriented elements among the people and its willingness to cooperate both regionally and with the West. For instance, in Iran, the US propaganda promoted the view of a close relationship that would result in a more profitable course (Soldatov 16). The propaganda is intended to exert pressure not only on the Middle East but also on the entire world toward capitalism. Different people fall prey to the cold war propaganda (Kostin and Baratov 27).
The target audience of the cold war propaganda was varied. It included the poor and wealthy, the illiterate and the literate, as well as the young and the old. Objectively, everyone was a victim of the cold war propaganda: political elites, teachers, prominently illiterates, and among others were all molders opinions. Information was controlled and manipulated in interpretation using different tools (Kostin and Baratov 27). Some of the tools that were used in the spread of falsehood during the cold war included financial assistance, newspapers, magazines, music, films, posters, cartoons, and many others. However, the media played a significant role in the spread of propaganda.
To get a clear understanding of the role of media in the spread of propaganda, it is necessary to note that during the cold war, the media consisted of the print, radios, television, and films. During the cold war, electronic social media were centralized (Soldatov 22). Broadcasting required an enormous amount of money that were susceptible to the state control. Therefore, the media significantly contributed to the maintenance of the cold war antagonism. In every instance, when American aspirations were at jeopardy, the media would jump into influence the people and spread more propaganda (Soldatov 3).
The cold war propaganda reached its climax in the 1950s and 1960s. This period is characterized by concerted efforts that demonize communism while extolling capitalism and democracy among the people. Pro-Americans use the media to spread openly propaganda with little subtlety (Kostin and Baratov 32). In fact, some examples of such propaganda are nonsensical. In 1948, the animated film “Make Mine Freedom” explains advantages and privileges that a capitalist society enjoys. The film demonstrates how a capitalist society is content with a promise of safe working conditions and returns. Not to mention, a capitalist enjoys many freedom privileges, as demonstrated in the film “Communism: A 1952 Anti Soviet Propaganda Short Film From The Cold War Era”. The film and television produce propaganda of themselves, instead of incorporating acceptable ideas and values into their production. The main ideas of radio series, films, and television production revolve around advantages of living in a capitalist nation – the United States, the accruing benefits of nuclear families, schools, obedience, and loyalty (Kostin & Baratov 19).
Besides the condemnation of communism as a social system, the United States’ propaganda condemns communist ideology (Kostin & Baratov 24). All mediums of communication portray the US under the heel of a communist dictatorship. One classic example is the 1950s film “Red Nightmare”. The film makes claims that the entire United States’ cities have been reconstructed within the Soviet region to train communist infiltrators in ways to build a similar government to that of American (Kostin & Baratov 28). The propaganda cultivates positive view of American way of life to the people of the Middle East; thus is the desirable social system.
The image projected by American propaganda is of a society that values and supports freedom (Kostin & Baratov 21). The propaganda emphasizes America as a beacon of liberty for the world. Indifferent to the Soviet Union, the United States respects military power and is a peace-loving nation. The Soviet Union is portrayed in the US propaganda as a nation that sort in using violent and disruptive means to its people. The US accuses the Soviet Union of mobilizing its material power for war in the media (Kostin & Baratov 31). However, the media presents the US religious morals, economic and political strengths as those who emphasize hope and intent to bring peace.
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Arguably, the United States projects an idealized image in the Middle East during the cold war (Kostin & Baratov 34). The United States is popularized as a nation that builds virtues of peace, love, and freedom. However, in reality, the United States of the cold war did not walk the talk (Kostin & Baratov 36). The US did not appreciate foreign scrutiny of American racism. The truth of the matter is that black people were openly discriminated and sometimes murdered for minor reasons like violation of traffic rules (Soldatov 3). Not to mention, team owners treated contracted players as a property of the team, an equivalent of inventory and other stock (Kostin & Baratov 37).
In addition, despite the fact that Americans were portrayed as people who did not love any form violence, they in reality cheer and seem to enjoy violence in its crude form. For example, according to the story of Strelnikov (13), in 1962, such children as Johnny took pride in identifying themselves rather as robbers than cops. Not to mention, American people enjoyed violence in the form of sports. Sports, such as boxing, sometimes lead to the death of its participants; however, the audience, American people, cheers it on (Strelnikov 13).
In conclusion, evidently, propaganda played a central role during the cold war. Different mediums of communication were used to produce and maintain the antagonistic positions of the US and the Soviet Union. The two super powers used propaganda to denature each other as being inferior. Notably, the media – radio, print, films, and television – made a substantial contribution to prolonging and maintaining the antagonism of the cold war (Strelnikov 12). The media acted as a direct tool of the conflict between the US and the Soviet Union by communicating to the people of the Soviet Union. Immaterial source, the distributed propaganda, did not give a realistic representation (Strelnikov 15). Every piece of information during the cold war was meant to persuade people to believing either communism or capitalism was best suited for the society without any consideration made to the facts and evidence.