August 29

This Day in History

Cold War

Aug 29, 1950:

State Department official discusses "captive populations"

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Edward W. Barrett declares that most of the "captive populations" in Soviet satellite nations oppose the Russians. Barrett called for an accelerated program of U.S. propaganda designed to capitalize on this weakness in the communist bloc.

Speaking before a luncheon for the Overseas Writers Organization, Barrett said, "Stalin has completely failed to win over the satellite populations even though he has them under his complete control." The citizens of these "satellites"--the nations of Eastern Europe occupied by Soviet forces after World War II--hated their Russian masters. "Despite four years of intensive Soviet propaganda, any informed visitor will tell you that between 60 and 90 percent of the captive populations are today anti-Soviet." Barrett reassured his audience that despite the recent massive Soviet propaganda efforts around the world, the United States was winning the war of words. It was "high time for Americans to stop being defeatist about the so-called propaganda war. We have not lost it; we are not losing it. We can win it." Despite the fact that the Soviets seemed to be scoring some propaganda successes (such as attacks against America's racism and treatment of its African-American population), Barrett believed that the Russians "have increasingly proved that they are blunderers in this field." Most notably, the Soviets had wasted "hundreds of millions of dollars" trying to unsuccessfully portray the United States as the aggressor in the Korean War.

Barrett's comments indicated that the United States was prepared to engage more actively and aggressively in the propaganda war with Russia. In the years that followed Barrett's speech, the Department of State committed more and more resources to the "war of words" with the Soviet Union. Accordingly, the United States Information Agency was established in 1953 to serve as America's worldwide publicist. In the Cold War, the battle for the "hearts and minds" of people was often as important as the military confrontations.

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