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FTR #78 Interview with Christopher Simpson

[1]Lis­ten now: Side 1 [2] | Side 2 [3]

In 1994, Christo­pher Simp­son pub­lished a for­mi­da­ble lit­tle book enti­tled Sci­ence of Coer­cion: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Research and Psy­cho­log­i­cal War­fare 1945–1960 [4] (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press.) This work sets forth the pro­found and vital­ly impor­tant rela­tion­ship between the U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­men­t’s psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare machin­ery and the struc­ture and devel­op­ment of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion research as an aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­pline in this coun­try. The two are so inex­tri­ca­bly linked that, as Simp­son points out, it is alto­geth­er pos­si­ble that mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion research as an aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­pline might not have crys­tal­lized in the 1950s had it not been for mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence input. This two part inter­view high­lights some of the cen­tral points of the book includ­ing: the piv­otal influ­ence of Amer­i­ca’s World War II psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare insti­tu­tions on the devel­op­ment of both the media and com­mu­ni­ca­tion research; the effect of sev­er­al Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Direc­tives (NSC 4, NSC 4‑A and NSC 10/2) on U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy and psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare devel­op­ment; the impor­tance of mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty fund­ing of lead­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion research cen­ters; the sig­nif­i­cance of Pub­lic Opin­ion Quar­ter­ly as an exem­plar of the mar­riage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion research and psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare; the role of com­mu­ni­ca­tion research in U.S. covert actions; the evo­lu­tion of “devel­op­ment the­o­ry” (a social sci­ence con­cept that is known as “low-inten­si­ty war­fare” when applied to nation­al secu­ri­ty mat­ters) and the pro­gres­sion of, as Simp­son puts it, “one gen­er­a­tion’s psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare” into “the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the next.”