Scholars perfect psychological warfare techniques
Excerpt from Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 by Christopher Simpson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996 paperback), pp. 48-51:

Scholars Perfect Psychological Warfare Techniques

by Christopher Simpson

The third expression of psychological warfare themes in Public Opinion Quarterly and similar academic literature during the first years after World War II can be seen in the unusually close liaison that some of the journal's authors and editors maintained with clandestine psychological warfare projects at the CIA, the armed services, and the Department of State. This can be found in both manifest and veiled form in many articles appearing in the journal, and in the composition of POQ's editorial board. Hans Speier's emergence as a prominent "private" advocate of expanded psychological warfare shortly after his work with Frank Wisner at the Occupied Areas Division at the State Department, discussed previously, is one example of an informal link between a prominent POQ author and the government's clandestine warfare programs.

This phenomenon became considerably more widespread, however, though rarely easy to identify. A good example of latent linkages can be seen in Frederick W. Williams' 1945 article "Regional Attitudes on International Cooperation."31 On a manifest level, Williams' study simply reports data gathered by the American Institute of Public Opinion and the Office of Public Opinion Research at Princeton during the winter of 1944-45 concerning popular attitudes on the U.S. role in international affairs, broken out by geographic region of the country. Williams uses the data to strongly advocate "making the United States more international-minded," as POQ described it.32

In the decades since the article first appeared, it has become clear that Williams' data had been collected in an ongoing clandestine intelligence program underwritten by Listerine heir Gerard Lambert on behalf of the Roosevelt administration. The U.S. Congress had in those years barred the expenditure of government funds on most types of attitude surveys of U.S. voters, arguing that it was the Congress' job under the Constitution to represent "public opinion." Congress' concern was in part political, because FDR used rival sources of information on public opinion to advance controversial policies, not least of which was the president's drive toward an "internationalist" foreign policy. Despite the congressional strictures, the White House hired Hadley Cantril and Lloyd Free for "government intelligence work," as Jean Converse puts it, including clandestine intelligence collection abroad and public opinion surveys in the United States. Cantril and Free in turn engaged Frederick Williams and the American Institute of Public Opinion as field staff for research on behalf of the administration.33

Meanwhile, Public Opinion Quarterly's board of editors included a substantial number of men who were deeply involved in U.S. government psychological warfare research or operations, several of whom were largely dependent on government funding for their livelihood. The journal's editorial advisory board during the late 1940s, for example, was made up of twenty-five to thirty individuals noted for their contributions to public opinion studies and mass communication research. Among those on the board with readily identifiable dependencies on government psychological warfare contracting were Hadley Cantril, Harold Lasswell, Paul Lazarsfeld, and Rensis Likert, whose role as government contractors are documented in Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 of this study. They were joined on the POQ board by DeWitt Poole, who later became president of the CIA's largest single propaganda effort of the era, the National Committee for a Free Europe.34 Another prominent board member was CBS executive Frank Stanton, also a longtime director of both Radio Free Europe and the Free Europe Fund, a CIA-financed organization established to conduct political advertising campaigns in the United States and to launder CIA funds destined for Poole's National Committee for a Free Europe.35 The journal's editor during 1946 and 1947 was Lloyd Free, a wartime secret agent on behalf of the Roosevelt administration who some years later was destined to share a million-dollar CIA research grant with Hadley Cantril.36

This pattern appears to have been repeated at several other important academic journals of sociology and social psychology of the era, although quantitative studies of their content remain to be done. The American Sociological Review (ASR), published by the American Sociological Society, overlapped so frequently in its officers and editorial panels with those of Public Opinion Quarterly and its publisher, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, that board members sometimes joked that they were unsure which meetings they were attending.37 While ASR published articles about a considerably broader range of sociological subjects than did POQ, the ASR articles and book reviews concerning communication remained confined to a group of fewer than a dozen authors who were simultaneously the dominant voices in POQ. The range of views concerning communication and its role in society remained similarly circumscribed.

Further, an informal comparison of articles published during the 1950s concerning mass communication and public opinion in POQ and the prestigious American Journal of Sociology (AJS) shows that its articles in this field were just as rooted in psychological warfare contracts as were those appearing in POQ. The 1949-50 volume of AJS, for example, featured eight articles on various aspects of mass communication and public opinion. At least four of these stemmed directly or indirectly from ongoing psychological warfare projects, including work by Hans Speier and Herbert Goldhamer (both of RAND Corp.), Samuel Stouffer (from the American Soldier project), and Leo Lowenthal (then the director of research for the Voice of America, whose political odyssey is discussed in Chapter 6).38

In sum, the data show that Public Opinion Quarterly -- and perhaps other contemporary academic journals as well -- exhibited at least three important characteristics that linked the publication with the U.S. government's psychological warfare effort during the first decade after World War II. First, POQ became an important advocate for U.S. propaganda and psychological warfare projects of the period, frequently publishing case studies, research reports, and polemics in favor of expanded psychological operations. Second and more subtly, many POQ articles articulated U.S. propaganda themes on topics other than psychological warfare itself. Examples include the magazine's editorial line on U.S.-Soviet relations and on the Italian election of 1948.

Finally, data suggest that some members of the journal's editorial board and certain of the authors maintained an unusually close liaison with the clandestine propaganda and intelligence operations of the day. The traces of these relationships can be found in several articles mentioned in this chapter and in the composition of POQ's editorial board, at least one member of which -- POQ's founder DeWitt Poole -- was a full-time executive of a major propaganda project organized and financed by the CIA.

This influence over the editorial board and editorial content of the field's most prestigious academic journal was only a symptom of a deeper and more organic bond that is discussed in the next chapter. Money became one of the most important links between the emerging field of mass communication studies and U.S. military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies. Precise economic figures cannot be determined because of the lack of consistent reporting from the government, the continued classification of some projects, and the loss of data over the years. Even so, the overall trend is clear.

"The primary nexus between government and social science is an economic one," write Albert Biderman and Elisabeth Crawford of the Bureau of Social Science Research. It is "so pervasive as to make any crisis of relations with the government a crisis for social science as a whole."39

31.   Frederick W. Williams, "Regional Attitudes on International Cooperation," 9, no.1 (Spring 1945): 38-50.

32.   Ibid., p. 38.

33.   Jean Converse, Survey Research in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 152-54, 165. Converse also notes an earlier example of the role of these confidential surveys in shaping the president's highly controversial strategy for promoting U.S. support for England in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor.

34.   For background on Poole, see Who Was Who, Vol. 3, p. 692; Sig Mickelson, America's Other Voice: The Story of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (New York: Praeger, 1983), pp. 24, 41, 60; and Christopher Simpson, Blowback (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), pp. 134, 217-34 passim. See also Harwood Childs, "The First Editor Looks Back," 21, no.1 (Spring 1957): 7, for Child's recollections on Poole's role in the founding of Public Opinion Quarterly.

35.   For source material on Stanton's role with Radio Free Europe, see Mickelson, America's Other Voice, p. 124; and U.S. General Accounting Office, U.S. Government Monies Provided to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, report no.173239, May 25, 1972, p. 79.

36.   On Free's wartime career, see Converse, Survey Research in the United States, pp. 152-54; on his Central Intelligence Agency grant, see John Crewdson and Joseph Treaster, "Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by CIA," New York Times, December 26, 1977.

37.   Association officers or editorial panel members who served with both groups included Samuel Stouffer, John W. Riley, and Leonard Cottrell.

38.   Herbert Goldhamer, "Public Opinion and Personality" (p. 346), Hans Speier, "Historical Development of Public Opinion" (p. 376), Samuel Stouffer, "Some Observations on Study Design" (p. 355), and Leo Lowenthal, "Historical Perspectives of Popular Culture" (p. 323); each in American Journal of Sociology 56, no.1 (January 1950). Lowenthal specifically cites his Voice of America work in support of his thesis; see p. 324.

39.   Albert Biderman and Elisabeth Crawford, Political Economics of Social Research: The Case of Sociology (Springfield VA: Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technological Information, 1968), p. 5.


Christopher Simpson is an assistant professor at the School of Communication at American University.

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