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The Battle for the Mind

The Battle for the Mind: War and Peace in the Era of Mass Communication

Gary S. Messinger
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Battle for the Mind
    Book Description:

    Most people typically think of armed conflict in physical terms, involving guns and bombs, ships and planes, tanks and missiles. But today, because of mass communication, war and the effort to prevent it are increasingly dependent on nonphysical factorsthe capacity to persuade combatants and citizens to engage in violence or avoid it, and the packaging of the information on which decision making is based. This book explores the many ways that mass communication has revolutionized international relations, whether the aim is to make war effectively or to prevent it. Gary Messinger shows that over the last 150 years a succession of breakthroughs in the realm of media has reshaped the making of war and peace. Along with mass newspapers, magazines, books, motion pictures, radio, television, computer software, and telecommunication satellites comes an array of strategies for exploiting these media to control popular beliefs and emotions. Images of war now arrive in many forms and reach billions of people simultaneously. Political and military leaders must react to crowd impulses that sweep around the globe. Nationstates and nongovernmental groups, including terrorists, use mass communication to spread their portrayals of reality. Drawing on a wide range of media products, from books and articles to films and television programs, as well as his own research in the field of propaganda studies, Messinger offers a fresh and comprehensive overview. He skillfully charts the path that has led us to our current situation and suggests where we might go next.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-030-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: A Change in the Landscape
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-14)

    In January 1815 in southern Louisiana, an army of four thousand Americans defeated a British force of eight thousand at the Battle of New Orleans. This encounter effectively ended the War of 1812. Both sides displayed gallantry and strategic brilliance, and the battle helped to set an American general, Andrew Jackson, on the road to becoming president of his country. But the Battle of New Orleans is perhaps most significant because of its redundancy. Across the Atlantic, on December 24, 1814, British and American diplomats had already agreed on terms of peace. News of the treaty did not arrive in...

    (pp. 15-37)

    In August 1914, when the conflict that we have come to call the First World War broke out, alert observers began to notice its strangeness. Compared to earlier military encounters among nations, the war was shocking in its level and scope of violence. And it was not the quick, limited war of movement that had been predicted, but an inconclusive, wearing struggle between armies dug into ditches, in which hundreds of thousands of lives might be lost in a matter of weeks to conquer a few miles of territory.

    Most of the characteristics that made the war startling were physical:...

    (pp. 38-60)

    For two decades after the Great War, all the democratic nations struggled to re orient their use of mass communication toward peaceful ends. But larger, menacing developments gradually pulled the democracies into the vortex of another world conflict.

    In the years immediately following the war, it did not seem at first that the democracies would be making much official use of mass communication. By mid-1919 Britain had abolished nearly all of its government offices related to propaganda. The United States acted even earlier, closing down George Creel’s Committee on Public Information two weeksbeforethe war ended. The French and...

    (pp. 61-85)

    From the early 1920s on, there was a growing divergence in attitudes toward media manipulation between the democracies and those countries where dictatorships were taking root: in Mussolini’s Italy; in the new Soviet Union; in Germany, where Hitler became chancellor in 1933 and then, in 1934, führer; and in the autocratic regimes of China and Japan. While the democracies were ambivalent about the use of media in foreign affairs, the dictatorships were all too willing to continue exploring the relation between war and mass communication.¹

    As industrialization came slowly to Russia in the late nineteenth century, the apparatus of mass...

    (pp. 86-142)

    In all of the dictatorships, by the outbreak of the Second World War, elaborate governmental structures for the manipulation of media were already in place. When war broke out, the democracies worked hastily to mobilize their informational resources and soon were able to use mass communication as a powerful weapon. In every country, old strategies of persuasion remained and new ones appeared. The intangible aspects of war came to matter almost as much as the physical factors, as combatants developed new, often disturbing ways of penetrating the mind.

    Hitler’s vast propaganda apparatus had been preparing for war since 1933. Certain...

    (pp. 143-206)

    In the years after the Second World War, two power blocs of nation-states gradually formed. One group, led by the Soviet Union, with the People’s Republic of China as its main partner, sought to spread communist forms of government and economic organization. The other group, led by the United States with western European nations as major partners, sought to spread liberal constitutional forms of government and capitalistic economic organization. Mass communication reflected this new bipolar alignment. By this time, all the industrialized nations had extensive media structures, and developing nations were working to gain access to these networks and also...

    (pp. 207-250)

    With the ending of the cold war, tensions dating back to 1945 lessened. Simultaneously, as many observers have noted, the restructuring of international relationships into a multipolar pattern presented new challenges. In the realm of mass communication, the main problem for the United States involved adjusting to the fact that the disappearance of the Soviet Union did not translate into worldwide American hegemony. America’s resources of mass communication were vast. But by the 1990s, many countries had developed their media, others were working energetically to do so, and nongovernmental organizations, both political and economic, were entering the communications picture. In...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 251-276)
  13. Index
    (pp. 277-293)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-295)