Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960

Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960

Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960

Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960

Synopsis

Science of Coercion provides the first thorough examination of the role of the CIA, the Pentagon, and other U.S. security agencies in the evolution of modern communication research, a field in the social sciences which crystallized into a distinct discipline in the early 1950s. Government-funded psychological warfare programs underwrote the academic triumph of preconceptions about communication that persist today in communication studies, advertising research, and in counterinsurgency operations. Christopher Simpson contends that it is unlikely that communication research could have emerged into its present form without regular transfusions of money from U.S military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies during the Cold War. These agencies saw mass communication as an instrument for persuading or dominating targeted groups in the United States and abroad; as a tool for improving military operations; and perhaps most fundamentally, as a means to extend the U.S. influence more widely than ever before at a relatively modest cost. Communication research, in turn, became for a time the preferred method for testing and developing such techniques. Science of Coercion uses long-classified documents to probe the contributions made by prominent mass communication researchers such as Wilbur Schramm, Ithiel de Sola Pool, and others, then details the impact of psychological warfare projects on widely held preconceptions about social science and the nature of communication itself. A fascinating case study in the history of science and the sociology of knowledge, Science of Coercion offers valuable insights into the dynamics of ideology and the social psychology of communication.

Excerpt

Communication research is a small but intriguing field in the social sciences. This relatively new specialty crystallized into a distinct discipline within sociology -- complete with colleges, curricula, the authority to grant doctorates, and so forth -- between about 1950 and 1955. Today it underlies most college- and graduate-level training for print and broadcast journalists, public relations and advertising personnel, and the related craftspeople who might be called the "ideological workers" of contemporary U.S. society.

Government psychological warfare programs helped shape mass communication research into a distinct scholarly field, strongly influencing the choice of leaders and determining which of the competing scientific paradigms of communication would be funded, elaborated, and encouraged to prosper. The state usually did not directly determine what scientists could or could not say, but it did significantly influence the selection of who would do the "authoritative" talking in the field.

This book takes up three tasks. First, it outlines the history of U.S. psychological warfare between 1945 and 1960, discussing the basic theories, activities, and administrative structure of this type of communication enterprise. Second, it looks at the contributions made by prominent mass communication researchers and institutions to that enterprise. Third, it examines the impact of psychological warfare programs on widely held preconceptions about communication and science within the field of communication research itself.

Since World War II, the U.S. government's national security campaigns have usually overlapped with the commercial ambitions of major . . .

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