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The Battle for the Mind

War and Peace in the Era of Mass Communication

Gary Messinger

Publication Year: 2011

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 non-physical factors-the 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. Nation-states 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.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page

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pp. v- v

Copyright Page

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pp. vi-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. viii-viii

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Preface: A Change in the Landscape

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pp. ix-xi

Imagine a war that involves no physical violence. The stakes are the ones typically addressed: territory, economic resources, control over an enemy population, defense of one’s own population, and intangibles like honor, glory, freedom, adventure, fear, greed, revenge, and justice. There is pain. There are serious injuries. But not a single drop of blood is spilled. No one ...

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pp. 1-4

This book began as an article, “Truth Under Fire: War and the Media,” in the Winter 2005 issue of The New England Journal of Public Policy (19, no. 2). I would like to thank the editor of the Journal, Padraig O’Malley, for inviting me to write the article, and Patricia Peterson, the managing editor, for her very helpful guidance...

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Chapter 1: War Encounters Mass Communication:1850– 1914

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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...

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Chapter 2: Mass Communication Enlists: 1914–1918

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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...

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Chapter 3: The Democracies Try to Demobilize: 1919–1939

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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 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...

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Chapter 4: Dictators Conquer Their Media: 1919–1939

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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...

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Chapter 5: The Battle for the Mind Deepens: 1939–1945

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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..

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Chapter 6: Symbolic War Takes Precedence: 1945–1991

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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...

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Chapter 7: Mass Communication Becomes Multipolar: 1991 and After

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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 inter-national 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 ...


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pp. 251-276


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pp. 277-293

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760307
E-ISBN-10: 1613760302
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558498525
Print-ISBN-10: 1558498524

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794700507
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Battle for the Mind

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • War and society -- History.
  • Peace-building -- History.
  • Communication -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Communication -- Political aspects -- History.
  • Mass media and propaganda -- History.
  • Mass media and war -- History.
  • United States -- History, Military.
  • Europe -- History, Military.
  • International relations -- History.
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