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Received:  by CIOS Mailer; Tuesday 25 Oct 1994 21:34:24
Date:         Tue, 25 Oct 1994 18:36:03 -0700
Reply-To: Communication & international development 
Sender: Communication & international development 
From: "Arthur R. McGee" 
Subject:      [GL] HOW IDEAS ARE SHAPED (fwd)
To: Multiple recipients of list COMDEV 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 1994 14:26:54 CDT
From: Brian Wright 
Subject: [GL] HOW IDEAS ARE SHAPED

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/* Written by greenleft@peg.UUCP in igc:greenleft.news */
Title: How ideas are shaped

Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare
1945-1960
By Christopher Simpson
Oxford University Press, 1994. 204 pp.
Reviewed by Brian Martin

Before reading this book, I thought that psychological warfare was basically
strong propaganda. No longer. This was the idea promoted by early United
States academic researchers into mass communication. Much of their work was
funded by and carried out for the US military.

The military had its own definition of psychological warfare. A 1948 US Army
document stated: ``Psychological warfare employs any weapon to influence the
mind of the enemy. The weapons are psychological only in the effect they
produce and not because of the nature of the weapons themselves. In this
light, overt (white), covert (black) and gray propaganda; subversion;
sabotage; special operations; guerrilla warfare; espionage; political,
cultural, economic, and racial pressures are all effective weapons.''
So-called ``special operations'' include sabotage and assassination.

Christopher Simpson's book is about the way US government and military
priorities influenced the development of US academic research into mass
communication. He provides a wealth of detail on the connections.

The military funded the majority of early academic research in the field.
For example, the US Air Force provided at least half of the budget of the
Bureau of Social Science Research in the 1950s. Military contracts supported
studies at this bureau such as that into the vulnerability of Eastern
European peoples for the purposes of psychological warfare and comparisons
of the effectiveness of ``drugs, electroshock, violence, and other coercive
techniques during interrogation of prisoners''.

Communication researchers did classified studies for the military but also
published sanitised versions in academic forums, with seldom a mention of
their military sponsorship. Almost all of the key figures in the field, such
as Wilbur Schramm, Hadley Cantril and Harold Lasswell, did substantial work
on psychological warfare for the military in the years after World War II.

One result of the massive military sponsorship of US communication research
was to ensure that the main perspectives in the field were in tune with
military priorities. Specifically, both the content and method of
communication research were oriented to the goals of domination and
manipulation of mass audiences.

Science of Coercion is an excellent study of how ideas can be shaped by
powerful groups. Most revealing is the way in which the researchers
themselves allowed this to happen. Many of them were mildly progressive
politically, yet they seemed to have no reservations about being involved in
military-sponsored projects. Simpson argues that the most important factor
in helping the academic researchers to accept the military connection was
insulation from the effects of psychological warfare, especially the use of
violence.

Simpson provides extensive documentation for his argument: there are only
115 pages of text and more than 60 pages of notes. Given that it is strictly
about the US experience, it would be nice to have a comparison with
experiences in other countries. His study provides a worrying reminder about
the extent to which standard ideas in many fields of research may be shaped
to serve the interests of powerful interest groups and elite academics.

[Originally posted in the Pegasus conference greenleft.news by Green Left
Weekly.]

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