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What is Psychological Warfare? Part 4

By Anthony Fox - No Agenda News

Psychological warfare from it's inception has also targeted the people of the United States.

The illusion that psychological warfare does not necessarily produce bloodshed, or is not necessarily bloody, appears to have contributed to the rationalizations that some of the people who bridge the gap between psychological warfare and mass communication research. They rationalize their utilization of psychological warfare by saying that this would result in a reduction of bloodshed.

There are circumstances in which that is true. For example, if you have a battalion of surrounded troops and you use leaflets and loudspeakers to convince them that their better off surrendering than fighting to the death; then in that type of circumstance psychological warfare can in fact reduce bloodshed.

The main use of psychological warfare has been the suppression of rebellious pro-democratic movements in countries that the United States government felt that it wanted to dominate. Most generally, because of the natural resources of the country; sometimes because of the strategic location of the country. That's what psychological warfare has actually been used for; and sometimes that's meant beating up union organizers. Sometimes it's meant death squads. Sometimes it's meant systematic training of police organizations.

Sophisticated new techniques have emerged to both intensify the violence; and to divorce or to separate the sponsoring country or organization from responsibility for the violence. This was one of the big lessons of Vietnam, from the standpoint of American security planners, is that you kept American troops out of the line of fire to the maximum degree possible. There was a political price to pay if too many kids came home in body bags.

So what do you do? You send down the Green Berets to train and equip the foreign governments police force, or their treasury police, which then becomes an organized form of death squad to carry out a quite bloody civil war. In El Salvador that lasted for a decade in the 1980's. As horrifying as that war was, it's just one name on the list. There are many other examples like that, that have unfolded over the last thirty or forty years.

Virtually all of the scientific community that was to emerge during the 1950's. As leaders in the field of mass communication research spent the war years performing applied studies on US and foreign propaganda, allied troop morale, public opinion both domestically and internationally, clandestine OSS operations, or the then emerging technique of deriving useful intelligence from analysis of newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, and postal censorship intercepts.

This old boy network had much to do with shaping the immediate post-World War II academic discipline of mass communication research, as well as psychological warfare.

One of the things that came out of that type of World War II era cooperation was a particular type of war. During the war, networks of psychological operations specialists were created. Moving into the Cold War period the networks persisted. People who were quite influential during the war time period moved on to be the directors and senior scientists at the main foundations: The Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Social Science Research Council, and so forth. These are major sources of money for sociological research. Some of the others went into publishing, broadcasting, and so on.

Edward Barrett ended up as the dean of the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University, founder of the Columbia Journalism Review and so forth. Barrett, talking about where his colleagues from the Office of War Information were as of 1953, said they were the publishers of Time, Look, Fortune, and several daily newspapers. Editors of magazines such as Holiday, Coronet, Parade, and Saturday Review. Editors of the Denver Post, the New Orleans Time-Picayune. Heads of Viking Press, Harper Brothers, Krauss, Strauss and Young, two Hollywood Oscar winners, a two time Pulitzer Prize winner, the board chairman of CBS, and a dozen key network executives, President Eisenhower's chief speech writer, the editor of Reader's Digest international edition, and at least 6 partners of large advertising agencies. The point being here, not that these people all thought alike or that they were engaged in some big conspiracy, but that they had a common war time experience and a set of common preconceptions about what communication is and how it was supposed to be used and how it could be studied and so on. It has had enormous impact on what we today take to be communication.

This is the fourth installment of an original series from No Agenda NewsRead part five here.

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