American Propaganda during the Cold War

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Propaganda and children
  3. Education for children


During the years of World War 2, the relationship between the Soviet Union and USA was tense, nonetheless, they were both fighting together against the Axis powers. USA had however been long wary of Soviet Communism and their leader, Stalin. After the war this long dispute began to unravel. Both America and Britain were anxious of the Soviet Union because of the potential threat of them occupying the whole of eastern Europe, and furthermore removing the democratic governments and replacing them with Communism. The Cold War was primarily a geopolitical conflict between these powers, along with political and economic issues with only minimal fighting in the Middle East and Eastern Asia, that lasted from 1947, however some sources say 1945, and ended in 1991. Most of the countries involved were allied with NATO (who of most powerful was USA) and on the opposing side was Russia, allied in the Warsaw Pact. This pact allied all of the central and eastern European Communist countries.

In addition, propaganda was a hugely significant part of the Cold War. The role of propaganda was to promote the ideas of one political party, while downgrading the other. Political propaganda was widespread throughout the Cold War but it was mostly at its heights in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, the Americans produced different ways to brainwash their society by the help of television, film, music, literature and art, which were mainly produced by the government. Hollywood Motion Pictures were said to be “an excellent medium to use to expound foreign policy without the audience knowing it”, whilst the radio-television company Nexus presented an opportunity to implement “five minutes of propaganda with two hours of sugar coating”. The propaganda films promoted conservative family life and taught children and adults alike the importance of working hard, being educated and respecting your parents. These were crucial parts of propaganda teachings because this meant that the new generations would be easier to control by the government.

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Propaganda and children

Cartoons were a huge part of propaganda in the Cold War. It was important for the American government to raise kids according to American politics, and cartoons were a simple and straightforward way of doing so. Children could watch their favourite cartoons from the television and learn about the ‘correct’ politics unknowingly.

A cartoon such as ‘ Meet King Joe’ was a capitalist propaganda film that educated children on the US economy. The cartoon begins with a message saying, “This is one of a series of films produced by the Extension Department of Harding College to create a deeper understanding of what has made America the finest place in the world to live.” Harding University This cartoon had been made in 1949 in the uprising of Communism to remind American citizens of how well off they had it there. In the cartoon, ‘Joe’ is continuously referred to as ‘Joe, King of the workers of the world’. This pro-business cartoon the role of capital investing and how it affects the working hours and wages of workers. The cartoon continues by saying that far-sighted investment is the reason why Joe has higher wages and lower working hours than people working the same jobs abroad. The cartoon frequently mentions the ‘American way of working’, and how well it works and it being the reason that America is ‘the finest place in the world to live.’

Education for children

During the Cold War, the education children got would be carefully chosen in order to give them the correct idea about the society. It was a good idea to start teaching children what they should believe and whose side they should be on. Education systems in America, as well as in the USSR, were changed and adapted to best fit the situation. Particularly in the maths and sciences. Subjects like History and English were changed, so that they would focus more on politics. In 1952 the school children would be chanting the American Pledge of Allegiance, which included the phrase “under God”. Many American students also saw films in high school, such as ‘social hygiene’ or ‘mental health’. These short movies mainly focused on their ‘personal development’. This included hygiene, manners, how you should treat and behave around others, and sexual conduct.

There are some who say that we must teach each subject “objectively”, avoiding propaganda and the kind of mental conditioning which the communists themselves provide in their education. If they mean by this that those who teach about communism must strive to maintain a neutral and dispassionate posture and must avoid condemning it, then I cannot agree with them.

This was said by Thomas J. Dodd, then-Connecticut Senator at the Conference on Cold War Education in 1963.

Propaganda was more broadly used in schools where educational videos produced by the American federal government’s Civil Defense department where shown in the event of a nuclear attack. An example of this is an educational film called Duck and Cover, which was released in January 1952. It is a short cartoon which teaches children to stay safe. It shows what you should do in case there was a nuclear attack. This film is not really negative towards the children, but is actually a really good way to let them know how to act in the case of a nuclear bomb/attack. However, there was a lot of educational propaganda which mainly focused on the American ideologies of freedom and democracy, and presented the USSR as the great enemy who held unacceptable and opposing viewpoints, such as communism. Teaching children things like this would help the American government be able to have more control on the viewpoints of the children and how they will think and process in the future.

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American Propaganda during the Cold War. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from
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