Roderick sent me a link to a story at Common Dreams: Killing the Political Animal: CIA Psychological Operations and Us, by Heather Wokusch.
A CIA instruction manual entitled “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare” provides some clues. Written in the early 1980s (coincidentally, soon after Bush Sr. headed the Agency) the document was part of the US government’s crusade to bring down Nicaragua’s leftist government, by providing training and weapons to the Contra rebels. Detailing how to gain a community’s support through propaganda and selective violence, the manual begins “In effect, the human being should be considered the priority objective in a political war … Once his mind has been reached, the ‘political animal’ has been defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets.”
Wokusch’s story mixes quotes from the manual with news from the past year and wonders aloud how we’ve been manipulated.
In answer to Roderick’s email I gave:
Science of Coercion: communication research and psychological warfare 1945 — 1960 by Christopher Simpson
Science of Coercion provides the first thorough examination of the role of the CIA, the Pentagon, and other US security agencies in the evolution of modern communication research, a field in the social sciences which crystallized into a distinct discipline in the early 1950s. Government-funded psychological warfare programs underwrote the academic triumph of preconceptions about communication that persist today in communication studies, advertising research, and in counterinsurgency operations. Christopher Simpson contends that it is unlikely that communication research could have emerged into its present form without regular transfusions of money from U.S military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies during the Cold War. A fascinating case study in the history of science and the sociology of knowledge, Science of Coercion offers valuable insights into the dynamics of ideology and the social psychology of communication.
Communications research grew up in service of government and military leaders. It adds a sinister, conspiratorial tone to Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.