Silencing the Opposition: Antinuclear Movements & the Media in the Cold War

By Israel, Bill | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Silencing the Opposition: Antinuclear Movements & the Media in the Cold War


Israel, Bill, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Silencing the Opposition: Antinuclear Movements & the Media in the Cold War. Andrew Rojecki. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999. 195 pp. $37.50 hbk. $16.95 pbk.

Social movements cling to life in mainstream news by slender threads. Whether civil rights, the anti-Vietnam war effort, or the continuing timber struggle in the Northwest-- social movements dodge death by media only by mobilizing constituencies, moving in on policy vacuums, and framing issues in ways officials and media can't ignore.

Silencing the Opposition is a helpful contribution to this literature. Andrew Rojecki confirms that in the anti-nuclear movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, and in the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, mass media mainly reflected the government policy of the moment. Mainstream news gave better reviews to activists only when government policy wavered or was in disarray.

That finding is no surprise, as the author, an assistant professor at Indiana University, makes clear. His work, however, produces an excellent review of public policy on nuclear weapons, media coverage of peace movements' efforts to defuse them, and government and media efforts to pre-empt activists' roles. In the process, Rojecki adds several useful pieces. Four points stand out.

First, unless a news policy is impervious to reason, as in the case of Henry Luce's Time on the Cold War (but for its scientific coverage of bomb and fall-out), moral arguments can dent media and government. At points, the early anti-nuclear movement did well in The New York Times. The coalition-and great peace figures like Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Linus Pauling, and others even bested the cold war rhetoric, until Sen. Thomas Dodd played the communist card and dented the movement.

Second, the argument analysis of Albert Hirschmann that Rojecki employs is a helpful tool. Hirschmann reduces reactionary argument to three lines: (1) perversity-the action will result in an outcome precisely opposite the intended one; (2) jeopardy-the action endangers some important good; (3) futility-the action and effort are pointless because the world is governed by laws only experts can understand. …

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