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Cold War rhetoric

strategy, metaphor, and ideology

Martin J. Medhurst

Publication Year: 1997

Cold War Rhetoric is the first book in over twenty years to bring a sustained rhetorical critique to bear on central texts of the Cold War. The rhetorical texts that are the subject of this book include speeches by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, the Murrow- McCarthy confrontation on CBS, the speeches and writings of peace advocates, and the recurring theme of unAmericanism as it has been expressed in various media throughout the Cold War years. Each of the authors brings to his texts a particular approach to rhetorical criticism—strategic, metaphorical, or ideological. Each provides an introductory chapter on methodology that explains the assumptions and strengths of their particular approach.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

In 1970, two books appeared that have special significance for the present study. One was The Origins of the Cold War by Lloyd C. Gardner, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Hans J. Morgenthau. The other was Moments in the Rhetoric of the Cold War by Wayne Brockriede and Robert L. Scott.1 The significance of the first work is structural in nature. Three scholars, each representing a different philosophical ...

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1. Cold War and Rhetoric: Conceptually and Critically

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pp. 1-16

On February 1, 1980, President Jimmy Carter addressed the National Conference on Physical Fitness and Sports for All. After a brief introduction in which he quipped about his well-known penchant for jogging being no threat to marathon runners Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter, the president said: ...

Part I: Strategy

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2. Rhetoric and Cold War: A Strategic Approach

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pp. 19-27

A strategic approach to Cold War rhetoric is predicated upon a realist view of the world; not the world as it ought to be or as we might wish it to be, but the world as it currently exists with its varying political systems, governmental philosophies, economic assumptions, power relationships, and dominant personalities. By adopting a realist position, one also embraces an accompanying axiom: ...

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3. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” Speech: A Case Study in the Strategic Use of Language

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pp. 29-50

Dwight Eisenhower was not the first president to speak of the peaceful uses of atomic energy, yet it was his "Atoms for Peace" speech, delivered in front of the United Nations's General Assembly on December 8, 1953, that marked the public commencement of a persuasive campaign the dimensions of which stagger the imagination. Planned at the highest levels of government, shrouded in secrecy, aided by the military-industrial ...

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4. Rhetorical Portraiture: John F. Kennedy’s March 2, 1962, Speech on the Resumption of Atmospheric Tests

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pp. 51-68

No single topic occupied more of John F. Kennedy's time as president than the effort to bring nuclear weapons under some semblance of control. From his first presidential news conference in January, 1961, in which he announced the formation of a special group charged with the task of drafting a complete arms control treaty, to the actual signing of a limited nuclear test ban treaty in October, 1963, Kennedy put arms control at the top of his presidential agenda.

Part II: Metaphor

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5. Cold War Motives and the Rhetorical Metaphor: A Framework of Criticism

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pp. 71-79

A critique of Cold War rhetoric can serve many useful purposes, but none is more important than improving our understanding of the motives perpetuating America's rivalry with the Soviet Union. Rhetorical motives for Soviet-American rivalry are as compelling and durable as any other source of sustained tension or potential conflict. They have evolved over four decades into powerful conventions of public discourse that diminish ...

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6. Diffusing Cold War Demagoguery: Murrow versus McCarthy on “See It Now”

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pp. 81-101

Edward R. Murrow's celebrated confrontation with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy on "See It Now" introduced network television to the ancient rhetorical genre of accusation and defense. Murrow's half-hour "report" on March 9, 1954, condemning McCarthy's indiscriminate campaign against so-called "Fifth-Amendment Communists," was the first instance of national television being used to attack an individual.1

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7. Metaphor and the Rhetorical Invention of Cold War “Idealists”

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pp. 103-127

Since the beginning of the Cold War, those who have spoken out against Soviet-American confrontation have appealed foremost to the fear of nuclear holocaust, replete with visions of civilization destroyed. Their principal argument has been that the two sides must learn to cooperate in the abolition of nuclear weapons or risk extinction of the species.1 E. P. Thompson's metaphor of "exterminism" captured for many the essence of ...

Part III: Ideology

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8. Critical and Classical Theory: An Introduction to Ideology Criticism

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pp. 131-151

Ideology criticism does not represent another technique, a new approach to criticism embedded in some mysterious European intellectual tradition. First introduced by French revolutionaries, the term "ideology" referred to the critical study of ideas. Napoleon, annoyed by attacks on his policies and the myths used to justify them, contrasted ideology with knowledge of the heart and the lessons of history.

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9. The Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy

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pp. 153-183

Like any other body of stock phrases or standardized code of expression, the rhetoric of American foreign policy protects us against reality, that is, against the claim on our attention that any event or fact makes by virtue of its existence. If one were always responsive to such claims, writes Hannah Arendt, one would soon be exhausted, and yet such claims must be kept firmly in mind if one is to remain alert to matters too important ...

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10. Political Rhetoric and the Un-American Tradition

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pp. 185-200

In the foundation myth of this nation, there is a story about the rights of humanity or, as it was then known, the rights of "Man." It tells of freedom from domination, individual joy, life itself. These rights were to be secured by a nation to come, but they did not depend, for their existence, on a new state. Rather they lived in the human breast. When government interfered with these rights, people had a God-given obligation ...

Part IV: Conclusion

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11. The Prospects of Cold War Criticism

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pp. 203-208

Even after the demise of the Soviet Union and the declared end of the Cold War, the legacy of more than four decades of rhetorical hostility demands a continuing critical response. The Cold War is embedded in America's political culture.1 The way we remember this era impacts upon our current sense of purpose and well being.2 If it is represented as a final victory for the United States amounting to the end of a long ideological struggle between the ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 209-222


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pp. 223-230

About the Authors

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pp. 231

E-ISBN-13: 9780870139376
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870134425

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 1997