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

By Brown, Pamela A. | Journalism History, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

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


Brown, Pamela A., Journalism History


Rojecki, Andrew. Silencing the Opposition: Antinuclear Movements and the Media in the Cold War. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1999. 195 pp. $16.95.

This volume in The History of Communication series edited by Robert W. McChesney and John C. Nerone offers a well-documented and carefully crafted study of the pivotal role that the news media play in the success or failure of popular political movements.

Andrew Rojecki set out to assess the degree to which the news media provide access to citizen movements as opposed to the ready access received by government officials. He focuses on citizen-led movements to either limit or end the development of nuclear weapons. This is a good choice because the highly technical nature of these weapons creates the dual challenge for the involved public of understanding the issue and establishing credibility on a complex topic. With such an issue, the presentation the media give to the movement is crucial to its ability to influence public opinion and, in turn, official policy.

Rojecki studied the antinuclear movement through three periods and its evolution from a campaign for a nuclear test ban during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations to a campaign for a nuclear freeze during the first Reagan administration. The antinuclear movement during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years occurred against the backdrop of the Cold War and the ongoing fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. During the Reagan years the freeze movement coincided with the rebirth of the Cold War brought about mainly by the highly charged, anti-Communist rhetoric of the president.

He followed the ebb and flow of movement coverage in the New York Times, Time magazine, and, during the Reagan years, CBS News. While he found differences among these media, his overall conclusions were consistent: The media framed coverage of the antinuclear movement in terms that were dictated both by official viewpoints and by the news organization's own assessment of the movement's meaning. …

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