Postwar period

we have seen how new communications technologies in turn have both liberated the common person; and served as a tool of the state or other authorities for controlling the common person. For example, writing, on the one hand, offered access to knowledge for people who were literate; on the other hand, it was used by government functionaries to impose taxes and record debt. Early broadcasting in the U.S. spread news, information and culture that audience members felt improved their lives, but it was also used to stir anti-Semitism and division.
Over the last several weeks, posts on the discussion boards have broadly supported the idea that allowing the free flow of information will have positive effects on society, despite its dangers. As well, most students have been confident that media is safest from manipulation when out of the hands of the government. It makes sense that this is the most common viewpoint, as this has generally been the American approach to these problems for the past several decades.

(These assumptions are being tested by the failure of companies today to deal with fake news. For more on this, see this recent article by Emily Bazelon in the New York Times Magazine: https://nyti.ms/34YZQjQ Trigger warning: Bazelon says unkind words about President Trump, but he is not the focus of the article.)

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there has been less agreement about whether the advantages of free-flowing information extended to the use of broadcasting to influence affairs in other nations. Assessing international broadcasting begins with situational factors about the nations involved, as well as the broadcasts themselves. Is information true or false, biased or orchestrated for an unknown, even malicious, purpose?

The readings this week presents us with two 20th century histories in which known parties used the media to willfully mislead the public, either for domestic political power (in the case of Sen. Joseph McCarthy) or to undermine hostile or competitive nations (as with the KGB). For the discussion board post this week, I would like to you to address one interesting aspect of the problem of disinformation that emerges from this week’s readings. Why was broadcast media so subject to manipulation, by Joseph McCarthy or the KGB? What were the means that they used? Are we any more or less subject to these kinds of manipulation today?

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