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Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 Paperback – March 14, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0195102925 ISBN-10: 0195102924 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (March 14, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195102924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195102925
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #955,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"An intriguing picture of the relations between state power and the intellectual community...."--Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


"An original and important contribution...."--Science


About the Author


Christopher Simpson is Associate Professor of Communication at American University. His other books include Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis & its Effect on the Cold War (1987), The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law & Genocide in the 20th Century (1993), and National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations 1981-1991 (1995). He is the recipient of six national and international awards for historical writing, literature, and investigative reporting. His work has appeared in the Journal of Communication, Intelligence and National Security, and many other magazines and journals.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
Science of Coercion is an excellent study of how ideas can be shaped by powerful groups. Most revealing is the way in which the researchers themselves allowed this to happen. Many of them were mildly progressive politically, yet they seemed to have no reservations about being involved in military-sponsored projects. Simpson argues that the most important factor in helping the academic researchers to accept the military connection was insulation from the effects of psychological warfare, especially the use of violence.
Simpson provides extensive documentation for his argument: there are only 115 pages of text and more than 60 pages of notes. Given that it is strictly about the US experience, it would be nice to have a comparison with experiences in other countries. His study provides a worrying reminder about the extent to which standard ideas in many fields of research may be shaped to serve the interests of powerful interest groups and elite academics.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book will be of great interest to communications majors and social historians with muckraking tendencies. In an intriguing display of investigative research, Christopher Simpson uncovers the darker side of early communications studies. The field was defined as an academic discipline during and after World War II, and much of the early research that built the foundation of modern communications studies was actually a part of American (and occasionally German) war efforts. Government-funded social scientists built the communications knowledge base while researching and developing the tools of propaganda and psychological warfare, and occasionally disinformation techniques that were used on the American people by their own government. Even some of the highly respected founders of communications were involved, including Harold Lasswell and Wilbur Schramm, and many of their influential studies did not have purely academic motives. Simpson compiles valuable insights into how communications and other social sciences have been co-opted by government for nefarious ends, and some fields may have never gotten off the ground were it not for wartime funding. The only problem with this book is that Simpson occasionally ruminates on the darker philosophical ramifications of these trends, but only rarely, so the deeper insights that can be gained by the reader are often held back by research minutiae and occasionally tiresome historical coverage. [~doomsdayer520~]
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By Boyce Hart on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is something no longer permitted: a historical approach to the development of Communications Research. In our day, this topic is off limits. You can tell because there are no longer ANY middle brow books being published on communications research these days.

There used to be some.

Reading this book will immediately tell you why that curiosity has been smothered. It is a crucial book for all students of Cold War history and anyone curious about how power works in the 21st century.
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25 of 41 people found the following review helpful By terrythompsonjr on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is primarily a documentation of the extensive influence of government and corporate agendas on the development of communications science. The title is misleading in two ways: the actual book is neither about the science itself nor is it about coercion, which generally involves the use of force. A more accurate title would have been "Propaganda and the Development of Communication Science" or something like that.
Buy this book if you really want to know the details of every government grant that supported the foundation of communication science.
Do not buy this book if you want to understand what those grants--or those foundations--actually were all about.
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3 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Frank Stech on April 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a bad book. It is full of sly innuendo, tabloid reporting, and blatant propaganda: scholasticism posing as scholarship. A quotation and some facts suffice to indicate the degree of its bias. The quotation is the book's conclusion: "The role of the United States in world affairs during our lifetimes [circa 1994] has often been rapacious, destructive, tolerant of genocide, and willing to sacrifice countless people in the pursuit of a chimera of security that has grown ever more remote" (116--117). That is it. Simpson offers no balance, no counterpoint. He states that the people of the "principal battlegrounds" of the Cold War (he lists the Philippines, Turkey, Indonesia, Panama, and the former Soviet Union) are "poorer today both materially and spiritually, less democratic, less free, and often living in worse health and greater terror" than before the superpower confrontation (116). Ironically, Simpson's conclusion in 1994 is, in my view false, but it is also largely true when applied to current US world affairs.

Simpson's book presents no data anywhere to support even one of those claims. On the other hand, UN, World Bank, and Amnesty International data showed those claims false. People in these countries in 1994 were richer, more democratic, freer, and in better health than they were from 1945--1960. As for the charge of "rapacious, destructive, tolerant of genocide," Simpson's bald assessment of the United States in 1994 was not balanced by even a single negative word about the counterpart Cold War roles of the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, or North Vietnam.
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