Propaganda and the Cold War:
A Commentary by Rebecca A. Burns
Propaganda is a deliberate endeavor to manipulate the thoughts, emotions, perceptions,
and behavior of a group of people to achieve a desired response.
During the Cold War, both
the United States and the
Soviet Union used
propaganda to unite their
countrymen and to wage
psychological warfare on the
opposing country.
The Soviet Union wanted to
The Soviet Union and the United States
spread communism to other
emerged from World War II as world powers; countries, and
the “two nations contended for power and
the United States wanted to
influence” (Davis 321).
contain communism and
defend democracy
Americans, in general, view propaganda as a “treacherous,
deceitful, and manipulative practice:” propaganda is
something that “other,” more controlling governments
utilize (Osgood 1).
The leaders of the Soviet Union realized the effects of
propaganda. Thus, they prevented ideas that were not
strictly in favor of communism from reaching their
 After WWII, the United States worked to quickly dismantle the
propaganda system.
 President Truman wanted at least a moderate information program to
support U.S. foreign policy
The “information program”
regrew rapidly and quietly.
 Smith-Mundt Act - 1948, gave the State Department jurisdiction
over information operations and exchange programs
 Central Intelligence Agency - conducted additional
propaganda activities
 Psychological Strategy Board - 1951, purpose was to
“coordinate the American psychological warfare effort”
• Josef Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924-1953
(“Cold War – Propaganda” 1).
(Osgood 6).
(Osgood 6).
 George Kennan’s idea of “containment” was practiced
 1954 – Added “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance
•direct system of propaganda which involved very strict media control
•Stalin presented himself and Lenin to his citizens in such a light so as
to make them revered: he “generated a personality cult” around
•Specific details regarding the progress of propaganda in the Soviet
Union are not widely available. This is because the communists were
afraid of the “wrong” kind of intelligence. They did not wish other
countries or their own people to fully realize the extent to
which they were controlling their citizens.
•Atheistic society
Propaganda and the Cold War:
A Commentary by Rebecca A. Burns
Mediums of Propaganda in The USA and the Soviet Union
Newspapers, books, art, posters, radio messages, television, documentaries, and films were all utilized as forms of propaganda.
 Newspapers were
 Comic books were very
“America’s main source of
information during the Cold
War era” (Cold War, Media Use 11).
 Jackson Pollock, “became a
weapon of the Cold War”
through his art (Lin).
 Political posters were used
to depict the strength and
nobility of the American
democracy and ideals, and
inspired fear of the Soviets
through bold images.
Renamed The
Woman on Pier 13
because the
original title
clearly resonated
Articles exploiting a
fear of communism
destroying American
This poster shows
the impending
danger of the
“iceberg” of
communism that
could “sink” the
entire U.S.
Jackson Pollack’s
paintings expressed the
freedom of expression
enjoyed in democratic
Iron Man battles the
infamous Red
The movie, My Son John,
shows a family torn apart by
their son’s becoming a
successful in influencing
children. Iron Man battled
with notorious communist
villains, such as the Red
Barbarian, the Crimson
Dynamo, and the
Mandarin (Fellman 1).
 Anti-communist science
fiction books were
written for adult
audiences in the 1950s
(Davis 345).
Political posters, radio and television broadcasts, and military parades were used in the Soviet Union.
 George Orwell’s book,
Animal Farm, was
written as an allegory for
the Communist society
 Political posters were
 Military parades played
the most effective modes
of propaganda (Aulich 4).
 These posters gave the
communist leaders the
ability to present
themselves and their ideas
to their countrymen in the
most favorable light.
 Other types of political
posters showed that
a large role in boosting
the morale of the citizens
of the Soviet Union
 Large posters/banners
depicting the political
leaders emphasized the
hierarchy of authority and
gave the participants a
feeling of reverence
towards their leaders (Aulich
Americans were power
hungry and anxious to
wage nuclear war
Stalin holding the future of the
Soviet Union. The message:
he is preparing a better world
for your children
A caricature of “Uncle Sam” was often
used to represent the United States,
and he was frequently shown as an
evil, badly dressed older man bent on
destroying the Soviet Union (Soviet
Propaganda Posters).
The military parades were constant reminders
of the strength of the Soviet Union, and
discouraged uprisings.
 Radio and television
broadcasts were generally
unavailable because of
the damage of WWII
April 8, 2014

Honors Project - Propaganda and the Cold War