Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, & Prime-Time TV

Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, & Prime-Time TV

Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, & Prime-Time TV

Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, & Prime-Time TV

Synopsis

Dwight D. Eisenhower presided over an unusual era of peace and prosperity during the 1950s, a period also known as television's 'Golden Age.' In this first comprehensive study of Eisenhower's mass communication practices, Craig Allen maintains that Ike's tremendous popularity was partly a result of his skillful use of the new medium of television to broadcast his achievements to the American public.

Excerpt

When Dwight Eisenhower was stricken by a heart attack on September 24, 1955, what began as a serious crisis wound up as a revealing episode in White House mass communication. The news traveled fast and left many unsure whether Eisenhower would survive, others fearing he might be too weak to continue effectively as president. Instantly endangered was an almost seamless public picture of Eisenhower, whose reputation for stability and trust had given not just scenery but also foundation to major presidential undertakings, including foreign policy initiatives, legislative pursuits, and programs for rebuilding the Republican party. This image of Eisenhower also contained an explanation for a national nirvana that existed, paradoxically, within the darkest moments of the Cold War. Millions around the world were uneasy. Yet few could have guessed that they, too, had been diagnosed as "patients." At precisely the hour that doctors were giving Eisenhower medical treatment, White House communications specialists were at work on a prescription for the general public. Like doctors, these communications experts knew what to do when the goal was making people feel better.

The heart attack had occurred in Denver on a Saturday; many top officials could not be reached. Chief of Staff Sherman Adams, like Eisenhower, had been vacationing. With no wince or pause, the first executive decisions after the heart attack came from these White House communications coordinators. That media advisers ran the government for a short time was not an odd state of affairs in the Eisenhower administration; these aides did more than write news re-

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