Public Relations of the Cold War

Public Relations of the Cold War

1-3 December 2011




Update, january 2012: a report of the conference as been published on H-Soz-u-Kult (

The conference seeks to examine the ‘selling’ of Cold War-motivated policies to national audiences during the second half of the twentieth century. At its core, the Cold War was a global ideological conflict, pitting two uncompromising and often messianic systems against one another, systems which both rejected traditional European imperialism and which claimed to provide the ultimate solution to problems of global instability and human inequality.

However, stemming from dual foundations of ‘making the world safe for democracy’ on one hand and the Marxist theory of false consciousness on the other, ideological diversions appeared on both sides of the Cold War divide in order to confront changing international climates and maintain the respective ‘Grand Strategies’ of global transformation in line with each side’s chosen systems of government and society.

When faced with complicated issues, such as internment, foreign intervention or more general limits to human rights, the decisions were often inconsistent with previous proclamations and in stark contrast to the guiding principles of the system. In these instances (for example, the support for a dictator like Pinochet or the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia) justifications for questionable actions were created and corresponding discussions held to decide which decisions could be made public and which must remain classified. By examining these controversial issues, one can not only understand how official policy was transmitted through the mass media, but also dissect the relationship between political ideology and the larger issue of Grand Strategy.

While growing attention is paid to the public diplomacy of the Cold War, less attention is paid specifically to how governments sold policies to their own domestic public.  This conference aims to stimulate innovative and interdisciplinary thinking and dialogue on this topic and to reach out to new networks of interest and new publics.

1 December (Mill Lane Lecture Room 9)


9.30-10.00 – Registration

10.00-10.30 – Opening address

10.30-12.00 – Panel 1: Sports and Culture

  • Umberto Tulli (University of Bologna): Selling the Olympic Boycott.  The Carter Administration, the American Public and the Decision to Boycott the Moscow Olympic Games
  • Tim Crook (Goldsmiths, University of London): George Orwell-Cold War Radio Warrior?
  • Christos Lynteris (CRASSH): ‘Revolutionary scalpels’: Sino-Soviet conflict and the battle over socialist medicine in the People’s Republic of China

12.00-13.00 – Lunch (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)

13.00-14.30 – Panel 2:  PR  under Communism

  • Yi Guolin (Wayne State University): Turning the Enemy into Your Friend: the Chinese Preparation for Rapprochement with the United States
  • Václav Smidrkal (Prague University): Sealed off from the West: Public Relations of the Czechoslovak Border Policy (1948-1989)
  • Ned Richardson-Little (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): Making Human Rights Socialist: The GDR Committee for Human Rights, 1959-1990

14.30-15.00 – Coffee/Tea (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)

15.00-16.30 – Panel 3: selling extra-European intervention

  • Simon Toner (LSE): ‘What is it that we have to sell?’: Sir Robert Thompson, Richard Nixon and Vietnamization, 1969-1973
  • Rouven Kunstmann (University of Oxford): Cold War Images and the Imperial Press-British Journalism in the Colonies
  • Martin Deuerlein (University of Tübingen): ‘On the Events in Afghanistan’: Strategies to justify the invasion of Afghanistan to the Soviet public, 1979-1989


2 December (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)


10.00-12.00 – Panel 4: Taking sides: CW PR in Western Europe

  • Sören Philipps (University of Hanover): ‘Reptile Fund’ and ‘Working Committee of Democratic Circles’ (AdK)1. How Adenauer ‘sold’ West German Rearmament to pacifist German public
  • Marianne Rostgaard (Aalborg University): David against Goliath and other stories of how Denmark disciplined the US and outsmarted the USSR during the early years of the cold war
  • Sandra Bott and Jannick Schaufenbuehl (University of Lausanne): Taking sides while claiming neutrality: The Swiss Government’s Cold War discourse
  • Scott Anthony (University of Cambridge): ‘Tate not state’: The Aims of Industry and ‘British’ public relations in the cold war

12.00-13.00 – Lunch

13.00-15.00 – Panel 5: Military and Intelligence and the use of PR

  • Silvia Berger (University of Zurich): Civil defense propaganda in Switzerland
  • Steven Casey (LSE): The U.S. Military & Cold War Public Relations: The Reporting of Combat Casualties during the Korean and Vietnam Wars
  • Giles Scott-Smith (Leiden University): The Challenge of Coexistence: The West European Intelligence Services, Anti-Communism, and Interdoc
  • Jerry Lembcke (College of the Holy Cross): ‘Spat-on Veterans and “Hanoi Jane”‘: Lost-war Betrayal Themes from Vietnam in American Political Culture Today

15.00-15.30 – Coffee/Tea

15.30-16.30 – Keynote: Christopher Andrew (University of Cambridge)

3 December CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane


10.30-12.00 – Panel 6: TBD (Defining the state-media relationship)

  • Tony Shaw (University of Hertfordshire): tbc
  • Martin Dimitrov (Dartmouth and Harvard [Davis Center]): State Security and the Production of Regime Support in the Eastern Bloc (tbc)
  • Nicholas Cull (University of Southern California): tbc

12.00-13.00 – Lunch

13.00-14.00 – Keynote: Arne Westad (LSE)

14.00-16.00 – Panel 7:  Cold War and the search for an American identity

  • Tim Borstelmann (University of Nebraska-Lincoln): From Hierarchical Conservatism to Egalitarian Liberalism: The Cold War and the Struggle for American Identity
  • Kenneth Osgood (Colorado School of Mines): The Crusade for Freedom and the Selling of the Cold War: Advertising, Intelligence, and the Making of the Cold War Consensus in the United States
  • David Greenberg (Rutgers University): The Propaganda Myth: American Anxieties about Political Persuasion During the Cold War
  • Richard H. Cummings: Selling the Cold War in the United States: Crusade for Freedom, Advertising Council, and Media Public Service Announcements

16.00-16.30 – Coffee/Tea

16.30 – Closing remarks


Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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