Perpetuating Patriotic Perceptions: The Cognitive Funtion of the Cold War

By Matthew S. Hirshberg | Go to book overview

sentially American, and knowledge of it serves to reinforce the stereotype of a benevolent America.

Americans tend to view their country as a generous, helpful nation. In this context, acts of giving need no further explanation. Thus there is a tendency to overlook situational pressures that motivate U.S. "giving" behavior. Aid has been an important part of U.S. foreign policy, an effective policy tool which has allowed a rich nation to control the lives of others. As Edelman ( 1974) points out, "helping" language and behavior often functions to disguise and justify domination.

The line between helping and hurting often becomes blurred: not only are situational motives for helpful acts ignored, but harmful acts by what is assumed to be a benevolent nation are interpreted as ultimately helpful. Thus the United States destroyed villages in Vietnam in order to "save" them, and "helped" the Nicaraguan people by sending "humanitarian aid" to counterrevolutionary guerrillas. The public image of the United States as a generous (perhaps even too generous) helper serves to facilitate public support for interventions that can be framed as helping missions. Most interventions, even violent attacks on villages, can be framed in this manner. Ironically, then, harmful acts are often justified as helpful. Alternatively, aggression can be attributed to an outside force and justified as a necessary response to danger or provocation. Ultimately, the self-image of the attacking nation is not sullied by the blood that may flow in the wake of its bombs.

As was shown in Chapter 3, there were fluctuations both in U.S.-Soviet relations and public perceptions of the Soviet Union during the post-World War II period. The Soviet Union's enemy status varied with U.S.-Soviet relations, but this did not happen in a uniform manner throughout the American populace. Easing of anti-Soviet feelings began among liberals and spread right, while renewed anti-Sovietism began among conservatives and spread left.

Anti-Soviet attribution biases were dependent on the anti-Soviet stereotypes they perpetuated. In the late 1980s, increasingly positive attitudes toward the Soviet Union were accompanied by a decreased tendency to discount helpful Soviet behavior or use harmful Soviet behavior as a basis for dispositional attributions. Attribution biases no doubt continued to bolster anti-Soviet sentiments for some, but for others pro-American attribution biases remained strong in the absence of an anti-Soviet counterpart.


NOTE
1.
Analyses using Kendall's tau on the uncollapsed ordinal response data were also done, and they yielded the same results as the dichotomous chi-square analyses presented in this chapter.

-180-

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Perpetuating Patriotic Perceptions: The Cognitive Funtion of the Cold War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - "America Won the Cold War!": an Introduction 1
  • Note 14
  • Part I - The Cold War Schema in America 15
  • 2 - Cognition, Culture, and the Cold War Schema 17
  • 3 - Cold War Opinion in America 50
  • Notes 95
  • 4 - Cold War Themes in American Culture 97
  • 5 - Central American Elections on Network News: Cases of Cold War Framing 107
  • Note 123
  • Part II - Cognitive Effects of the Cold War Schema 125
  • 6 - Common Meanings for Cold War Concepts 127
  • Notes 142
  • 7 - Balance, Stability, and Change in the Cold War Schema 144
  • Notes 162
  • 8 - Attributions for Superpower Interventions 163
  • Note 180
  • 9 - Cold War Goals in American Foreign Policy: Nicaragua and the World 181
  • Note 187
  • 10 - Choosing Sides with the Cold War Schema 188
  • 11 - Recalling Information Consistent with the Cold War Schema 197
  • 12 - Conclusion 209
  • References 213
  • Index 223
  • About the Author *
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