Cold War Propaganda - jeb

Cold War
• Reached its heights in the 1950s and 1960s
• Significant attempts to demonise Communism whilst
extolling virtues of capitalism and democracy.
• Pro-American values were promoted in film,
television, music, literature and art.
• Done openly and often with little subtlety.
Early propaganda films
• In 1948 the animated
feature Make Mine
Freedom extolled the
advantages and
freedoms available to
those who live in a
capitalist society.
• Released the following
year in 1949, Meet King
Joe told American
workers to be content
with their lot, as they had
it better than workers
anywhere lese in the
Make Mine Freedom - 1948
Meet King Joe (1949)
A Cold War cartoon aimed at American workers with
the objective of convincing them of their good
Meet King Joe (1949)
Who is King of the workers?
Why is he King of the workers?
What makes Joe the ‘luckiest guy in the world’?
How much more does an American railroad workers
make than a coolie?
• What does the cartoon stress is important for the
success of the worker?
• What is the purpose of a video clip such as this
one? How does it contribute to peoples ideas
about Communism?
Cold-War Propaganda
• As time progressed the themes and methods in prodemocracy propaganda became more subtle.
• The government began to produce less of it themselves,
instead relying on film and television studies to
incorporate the ideas and values into their products.
• Most radio series, dramas and sit-coms made in America
in the 1950s celebrated the distinct advantages of living
in a prosperous capitalist nation.
• The following benefits were commonly promoted:
Nuclear family
Cold-War Propaganda
• Communism was also condemned both as an
ideology and a social system.
• Every medium from motion pictures down to
children’s comic books was used to portray
America under the heel of a communist
• Two examples of this is the 1962 film Red Nightmare
and the children’s comic book The Godless
• In the 1950s the CIA commissioned an animated
version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm – an
allegorical account of the Russian Revolution and
Soviet government – to serve as propaganda.
Red Nightmare (1962)
First made in the 1950s as
an instructional film for the
armed forces but was later
released on television.
Red Nightmare makes the
outlandish claim that
entire US cities had been
reconstructed in Soviet
territory, in order to train
communist spies and
infiltrators in methods of
bringing down American
government and society.
The Godless Communism
In the comic book This
Godless Communism an
American family finds the
US has been taken over by
communists, virtually
overnight, and renamed
the ‘United Soviet States of
America’. As they attempt
to find help, they find all
their rights and freedoms
have been abolished;
father is relocated to a
distant lumber mill, mother
to an urban factory and
the children to state-run
schools and nurseries.
Anti-Communism in
Popular Culture
Motion pictures brought the
battle between democracy and
communism to the big screen.
Many of these films were made
in the wake of the HUACinspired blacklists.
This was because the movie
studios and producers wanted
to appear patriotic and loyal.
One example is the film Big Jim
McLain where John Wayne stars
as a HUAC investigator who
travels to Hawaii to stamp out
Communist activity there.
Soviet and Western espionage
was a common theme,
represented in movies such as
The Third Man.
• Cold War hysteria leaked
into the science-fiction
genre, in movies such as
Red Planet Mars, Invasion of
the Body Snatchers and The
Blob. All contained aliens
who were shadowy forces
hell-bent on taking control
of the world by stealth, an
obvious metaphor for
perceptions of communism.
• Cold War themes were also
revived in 1980s films such as
Red Dawn (where the US is
subject to a joint SovietCuban invasion) and Rocky
IV (where an American
boxer does battles with a
robotic Soviet fighter).
Television was still in its infancy in
the 1950s.
Most television programs
contained music, light
entertainment and comedy, so
anti-communist themes were
represented with more subtlety.
American television in the 1950s
promoted conservative family
values and the virtues of
American society, particularly in
its situation comedies.
Situation comedies like Leave it to
Beaver and The Adventures of
Ozzie and Harriet emphasised the
importance of education, work,
obedience, respect for your
parents and the stability and
prosperity enjoyed by American
Cold War espionage was
explored in the drama series like I
Spy and The Man from UNCLE; it
was also parodied in the Mel
Brooks created series Get Smart.
• Even the villains in children’s
cartoons like Rocky and
Bullwinkle (Boris and
Natasha) and Roger Ramjet
(Noodles Romanoff) were
nothing more than
stereotypical European
communist agendas.
• Television journalists
occasionally influenced
public attitudes, such as
Edward R. Murrow’s 1954
criticism of Joesph
McCarthy, or Walter
Cronkite’s 1968 editorial
suggesting that the US
should look to withdraw from
• George Orwell’s 1984 expanded on the Cold War
by envisioning a world kept divided and obedient
with fears of ‘perpetual war’.
• The ‘spy novel’ genre was by far the most prevalent
in Cold War literature. Ian Fleming’s novels about a
British spy, James Bond, were written in the 1950s
and were motivated by tensions with the Soviet
bloc. In The Spy who Loved Me, Bond does battle
with SMERSH, a Soviet counter-espionage agency.
• John le Carre (a pen-name for David Cornwell, a
former employee of British spy agency MI5) penned
a number of novels such as The Spy Who Came in
from the Cold, set in East Germany.
The Arts
• Cold War tensions fuelled competition and shaped the
content of art forms as diverse as music and ballet. American
and Soviet dance companies performed regularly around the
world, attempting to demonstrate cultural superiority.
• This competition led to a dramatic rise in US government
funding for the arts.
• A critical moment came in 1961 when Soviet dancer Rudolf
Nureye defected to the West to perform with Britain’s Royal
Ballet; Russian leader Nikita Khruschev later signed a death
warrant for Nureyev, should he ever return to Russia.
• The US provided funds to allow several orchestras, jazz bands
and solo musicians to tour the USSR, in an attempt to
demonstrate the artistic advantages of capitalism. The
superpowers also engaged in chess competitions to prove
whose strategies were more effective.
Cold War rivalry was also reflected in sporting events.
The 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne were held just days after Soviet forces had
crushed a pro-democratic uprising in Hungary, prompting the withdrawal of Holland
(Netherlands), Spain and Switzerland from the games. These tensions spilled over
into a water polo match between Hungary and the USSR, where players
exchanged punches and one left the pool bleeding. The game was called off after
the pro-Hungarian crowd threatened to riot.
The 1972 Olympic gold medal basketball match between the US and USSR also
ended in controversy, with the defeated Americans refusing to accept the silver
The 1980 Olympics were held in Moscow and were boycotted by the US, West
Germany, Japan and several other nations. The Soviets reciprocated by refusing to
attend the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
• In both hemispheres, education was harnessed for Cold War
purposes and to instil the political values of each system.
• Education systems in both the US and USSR received dramatic
boots in funding, particularly in the maths and sciences.
Humanities subjects like History and English became steeped
in patriotism and political values.
• In 1952 the American Pledge of Allegiance, widely chanted
by school children, was altered to include the words “under
God”. Many American students were also subject to ‘social
hygiene’ or ‘mental health’ films in high school. These 10-20
minute single-reel movies focused on what might now be
called ‘personal development’: hygiene manners, respect for
others, appropriate behaviour and sexual conduct.
• Many examples contained an obvious political message or
subtext, such as one titled How to Spot a Communist. There
were also ubiquitous instructions and ‘duck and cover’ drills to
show what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.
5 Key Points
• Cold War propaganda was widely used in all major
nations, in an attempt to gain and consolidate public
• Early forms of propaganda contained explicit political
messages and themes and lacked any subtlety.
• In time the messages of Cold War propaganda were
integrated into popular culture, such as film, books and
• In America, Cold War propaganda celebrated the
prosperity of capitalism, while reinforcing conservative
social values.
• Cold War culture was also keenly focused on the
continued activities of spies and secret agents, who
were well represented in film, television and literature.
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