British Propaganda and News Media in the Cold War

British Propaganda and News Media in the Cold War

John Jenks
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    British Propaganda and News Media in the Cold War
    Book Description:

    This is a study of the British state’s generation, suppression and manipulation of news to further foreign policy goals during the early Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2675-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Knowledge and power are closely linked, a truism that just about everyone from Francis Bacon to Edward Said has recognised. In this book I examine knowledge as news and the news media. News is not synonymous with information, but is rather ‘new information about a subject of some public interest that is shared with some portion of the public’.¹ News obviously fills a basic human need, and is essential for the functioning of global business and democratic government. At the same time the control, suppression, dissemination and manipulation of news can be important for gaining and maintaining hegemony, both domestic...

  6. 1 Propaganda, Media and Hegemony: The British Heritage
    (pp. 11-26)

    British power, prestige and media reach had been obvious and self-evident in the mid-nineteenth century. Reuters and the British journalism model followed the cables and the flag and both circled the world. At home ferocious battles to suppress radical ‘unstamped’ newspapers had given way to a laissez-faire system that favoured ‘responsible’ highly capitalised newspapers. But war, economic decline, foreign competition, and the growth at home of a complex state and a mass reading and listening public would shake that comparatively cosy world by 1945. Britain’s leaders responded by subsidising Reuters, establishing quasi-official BBC overseas services, and developing sophisticated overt and...

  7. 2 Media, Propaganda, Consensus and the Soviet Union, 1941–8
    (pp. 27-42)

    As world war segued into an uneasy peace in 1945 the Soviet Union was the wild card in international politics. The outside world had tremendous difficulties in establishing even the most basic facts about life in the USSR. Yet this country had become a military titan and political superpower whose nature and intentions concerned much of the world, especially the victorious, precarious British Empire.

    The British diplomatic elite initially believed they could peacefully coexist with the Stalinist state, despite serious doubts among the chiefs of staff. But British tactics designed to maintain status and to secure American support, coupled with...

  8. 3 Discipline and Consensus: The British News Media
    (pp. 43-61)

    Maintaining consensus in the twilight Cold War – not a time of war but not one of peace – was not an easy thing for British democracy. The government could use international tensions as a rationale to keep some troubling or sensitive facts out of the public eye, but not all. Communist publications could be disruptive and embarrassing, but the need to maintain political legitimacy meant that the government could not easily move to suppress them. The mainstream media had already shaped and adopted the consensus view about the iniquities of the Soviet Union and the necessity of Cold War...

  9. 4 The IRD: Inside the Knowledge Factory
    (pp. 62-79)

    The Information Research Department had overlapping functions. At its most basic it was an information factory, bringing in facts from around the world with which to create a variety of anti-Communist news and information products, products that would compete with those produced by the Soviets and their allies. The lack of reliable hard facts about the Communist world made the IRD’s output potentially valuable to journalists, academics and other opinion leaders, especially since the Stalin-era Communists’ own products were so blatantly propagandistic. As the engine of Britain’s Cold War propaganda, the IRD drew upon the expertise of wartime propaganda and...

  10. 5 IRD Distribution Patterns and Media Operations
    (pp. 80-97)

    The IRD depended on networks of information officers, information bureaucrats, clients, literary agents, feature syndicates, broadcasters and scoop-hungry journalists to discreetly get its propaganda to the desired markets. Almost nothing went to the reading and listening public directly from the IRD. It all filtered through something. At the most straightforward level the IRD material went through the other channels of the government information machinery. This preserved the IRD’s anonymity while allowing it to operate with relatively low overhead costs. The IRD also developed contacts with journalists, news services, feature syndicates, book publishers and, of course, the BBC. In many ways...

  11. 6 Friends and Allies
    (pp. 98-113)

    The IRD was not a unilateral organisation. Everywhere they sought like-minded partners, allies and collaborators. This cooperative approach carried several benefits. British propaganda could influence the allied organisations or countries’ own propaganda, which boosted the power and reach of the British point of view while making it appear pervasive and widely accepted. The British allies frequently provided information otherwise unavailable to the IRD. Finally, these allies supplied a cover in areas and with audiences where even covert British propaganda would be suspect and distrusted.

    From almost the beginning the IRD began to develop a relationship with the new hegemon on...

  12. 7 Making Peace a Fighting Word
    (pp. 114-131)

    Peace became a fighting word in the late 1940s. Pro-Soviet partisans fought for peace and built peace fronts, while anti-Soviet forces accused them of peace mongering and tried to counter-attack against the Soviet-backed peace offensive. Behind these verbal contortions there was a real political and propaganda struggle over the nature of East-West relations and the very meaning of the word peace in a polarised and militarised Cold War Europe.

    The struggle had some meaning within Britain, but the government saw it primarily as a diplomatic problem, not a domestic one. The British saw the Partisans of Peace as threatening NATO...

  13. 8 From the Inside Out: Defectors and the Gulag
    (pp. 132-148)

    Inside information on the Soviet Union’s brutal and sordid side did not come easy during the late 1940s and 1950s. The IRD had built an industry out of finding and discreetly publicising the facts that they could find, and spent a great deal of effort on two types of stories that reflected especially badly on the USSR. Soviet defectors gave inside stories of incompetence, despotism and oppression, but the biggest blemish marring the USSR’s international image was the vast system of internal forced labour known as the Gulag Archipelago. These offered the ultimate inside information and the ultimate betrayal of...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 149-150)

    The early Cold War is an instructive period, showing how media consensus and government manipulation operate in a democracy during an open-ended undeclared struggle, in this case against the Soviet Union and its Communist allies. There was government manipulation and occasional strong-arming, but much of the consensus came about through a gradual, negotiated revision of the media’s common sense view of the world situation. Journalists, publishers, producers, politicians and government officials contributed in this informal process by which gallant allies became deceitful enemies – for the media changing acceptable sources, playing up or down information and choosing different questions to...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-162)
  16. Index
    (pp. 163-168)