Thermonuclear propaganda: presentations of nuclear strategy in the early atomic age
Harrington, Brian M.
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As the image of the thermonuclear apocalypse loomed over the early years of the Cold War and technological advancements brought the possibility of such a fate closer to reality, the U.S.-Soviet conflict became increasingly a battle for hearts and minds—on the home front as well as among allied populations. However, public diplomacy in a democracy is more complicated than a public relations campaign, for actions often trump words, particularly in the case of nuclear strategy. This thesis examines the aims of policy, strategy, and mass persuasion and its civil-military character as manifested in the atomic public diplomacy in the Cold War until the 1980s, but especially of the classical period, 1940s–1960s. Specifically, it studies public presentation of nuclear issues through three media: U.S. television, the Soviet peace offensive, and official communiqués of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In each example, leaders sought to shape citizens’ views on warfare in order to garner the support necessary to carry out an expensive strategy that required tremendous faith from the political public. These three examples shed light on the importance of mass politics in the creation and implementation of strategy in an era of high tension and rapid technological innovation.
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