In 1955, the United States Information Agency published a
lavishly illustrated booklet called My America. Assembled
ostensibly to document "the basic elements of a free dynamic
society," the booklet emphasized cultural diversity, political
freedom, and social mobility and made no mention of McCarthyism or
the Cold War. Though hyperbolic, My America was, as Laura
A. Belmonte shows, merely one of hundreds of pamphlets from this
era written and distributed in an organized attempt to forge a
collective defense of the "American way of life."
Selling the American Way examines the context, content,
and reception of U.S. propaganda during the early Cold War.
Determined to protect democratic capitalism and undercut communism,
U.S. information experts defined the national interest not only in
geopolitical, economic, and military terms. Through radio shows,
films, and publications, they also propagated a carefully
constructed cultural narrative of freedom, progress, and abundance
as a means of protecting national security. Not simply a one-way
look at propaganda as it is produced, the book is a subtle
investigation of how U.S. propaganda was received abroad and at
home and how criticism of it by Congress and successive
presidential administrations contributed to its modification.
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