Perpetuating Patriotic Perceptions: The Cognitive Funtion of the Cold War

By Matthew S. Hirshberg | Go to book overview

tensions, or to fuel sentiments that would quash their diplomatic policy initiatives.

The mixed nature of U.S.-Soviet relations and the dual policy of aggression and accommodation became reflected in wavering but increasingly positive public attitudes toward the Soviet Union. Substantial fluctuations in attitudes accompanied changes in the mood of U.S.-Soviet relations, and as the mood gradually got friendlier, so did American attitudes. While some Americans maintained strong anti-Soviet sentiments, others came to view the Soviet Union in a more positive light.

Although the cold war schema predominated in the United States after World War II, its anti-Soviet component was waning by the late 1980s. Attitudes toward the Soviet Union and its leader were relatively positive (residual mistrust notwithstanding), U.S.-Soviet relations were perceived as relatively friendly, and there was substantial support for the notion that the cold war was ending.

Had events been different a revival of the cold war schema would have been possible. As it was, the dissolution of the Soviet Union made the anti-Soviet component of the schema irrelevant. The ever-present American patriotic schema remains, as does its schematic opposition to communism and oppression.

As was argued in Chapter 2, the anti-Soviet component of the cold war schema was not as deeply rooted, pervasive, or stable as the pro-American part (the patriotic schema). Pro-Americanism is primary, based firmly in the patriotic and ideological biases that have helped maintain the legitimacy and stability of the U.S. government over two centuries. Anti-Sovietism was secondary, based in traditional anti-Russian and anticommunist sentiments and fueled by cold war conflict and antagonism. Anti-Sovietism served pro-Americanism, but pro- Americanism can survive without anti-Sovietism.

We can only speculate about what future internationally oriented schema or schemata will elaborate the patriotic schema and gain prominence in American culture. Rebellious nations or movements in the third world may be the great enemies of the future. Alternatively, new and powerful competitors for world hegemony may replace the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviets' shoes may be too big to fill with a unified enemy -- a few smaller enemies may yield several schemata to take the place of the cold war schema. Because of the important role such international schemata play in bolstering and perpetuating the patriotic schema, the United States should feel fortunate that it has so many enemies in the world to choose from.


NOTES
1
Most of the public opinion data cited in this chapter are from Gallup surveys ( Gallup Polls, 1972, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991). Findings from polls not conducted by Gallup are identified as such in the text; unattributed findings can be assumed to be from Gallup.

-95-

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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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