The Cold War

For the American people in the 1960’s, the fear of a Communist takeover was very real and was validated by the actions of the government and the information disseminated by the media.  The vision most commonly associated with the Cold War era portrays American families huddled around their radios and TVs listening for the latest developments in the numerous global crises transpiring worldwide.  Americans were dependent upon these news outlets (as well as newspapers and magazines, however, these medias did not satisfy the new need for instant gratification) as their sole source of information and were ignorant to the fact that these medias were still being controlled by the government and only disseminated the intelligence government officials authorized, as Farber (1994) emphasizes, “Nor had mass-media executives and their employees become secure enough in their newly developing power to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounded the country’s political and economic leaders.” (pg. 31)  As television was emerging in the 60’s, news outlets and reporters did not have the all access passes and uninterrupted satellite updates from across the world that are currently used to fill the 24/7 news outlets of modern television.  International media was also limited, there was no BBC news station giving another country’s perspective or information otherwise withheld by the American government.  The people’s knowledge of world events rested solely in the hands of their political leaders; and as was the case with Fidel Castro’s take-over of Cuba at the time of President Kennedy’s inauguration, even the nation’s leaders were not fully informed on the international political affairs surrounding them (Farber, pg. 35).
The Cold War, having immediately succeeded World War II, had been waging for almost 15 years; Americans had been in a state of conflict and war for most of the first half of the 20th century and the fears instilled in the American people during this time ran deep.  International relationships all over the world were still unstable and the possibility of another world war loomed through the 1950’s.  Aggressive Communist nations presented several threats to global civilization post WWII.  The Soviet Union did in fact have nuclear weapons at its disposal; China was eager to join to race for supremacy against the US; much of Europe was under the control of the Soviet Union, whether by choice or force; and most frightening to Americans, due to its proximity to our own soil, Cuba was siding with the Communists and was implying the threat of nuclear action against America (Farber, pg. 33).
While Americans’ fears of an attack by Communist nations held valid precedents in the years immediately following WWII through the 1950’s, the Soviet Union’s claims to be a more prosperous post-war superpower than America in the beginning of the 1960’s threatened the very essence that politicians had begun to define as American culture: prosperity and power.  This governmental fear of competition from the Communists and the potential to be economically defeated by a country deemed lower class than the United States, perpetuated the cycle of fear throughout America in the 1960’s as the government used propaganda and the media to incite the American people and maintain control through the careful instillation of fear.
The 1960’s was a decade of change around the globe.  While the United States and the Soviet Union battled for global supremacy, numerous small countries fought for and won their independence from imperialized nations.  Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Madagascar, Zaire, Kenya, Jamaica, Uganda, and Trinidad are only a handful of the countries that attained their freedom during the 1960’s (’60-’69 World History, 2007).
1960-1969 World History (2007)
Retrieved January 23, 2012
Farber, D., (1994) The Age of Great Dreams America in the 1960’s New York, NY: Hill and Wang.


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