"Worldview Warfare" and World War II
By Christopher Simpson, 1994
During the second half of the 1930s, the Rockefeller Foundation underwrote much of the most innovative communication research then under way in the United States. There was virtually no federal support for the social sciences at the time, and corporate backing for the field usually remained limited to proprietary marketing studies. The foundation's administrators believed, however, that mass media constituted a uniquely powerful force in modem society, reports Brett Gary, 28 and financed a new project on content analysis for Harold Lasswell at the Library of Congress, Hadley Cantril's Public Opinion Research Project at Princeton University, the establishment of Public Opinion Quarterly at Princeton, Douglas Waples' newspaper and reading studies at the University of Chicago, Paul Lazarsfeld's Office of Radio Research at Columbia University, and other important programs.
As war approached, the Rockefeller Foundation clearly favored efforts designed to find a "democratic prophylaxis" that could immunize the United States' large immigrant population from the effects of Soviet and Axis propaganda. In 1939, the foundation organized a series of secret seminars with men it regarded as leading communication scholars to enlist them in an effort to consolidate public opinion in the United States in favor of war against Nazi Germany -- a controversial proposition opposed by many conservatives, religious leaders, and liberals at the time -- and to articulate a reasonably clear-cut set of ideological and methodological preconceptions for the emerging field of communication research. 29
Harold Lasswell, who had the ear of foundation administrator John Marshall at these gatherings, over the next two years won support for a theory that seemed to resolve the conflict between the democratic values that are said to guide U.S. society, on the one hand, and the manipulation and deceit that often lay at the heart of projects intended to engineer mass consent, on the other. Briefly, the elite of U.S. society ("those who have money to support research," as Lasswell bluntly put it) should systematically manipulate mass sentiment in order to preserve democracy from threats posed by authoritarian societies such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
One Rockefeller seminar participant, Donald Slesinger (former dean of the social science at the University of Chicago), blasted Lasswell's claims as using a democratic guise to tacitly accept the objectives and methods of a new form of authoritarianism. "We [the Rockefeller seminar] have been willing, without thought, to sacrifice both truth and human individuality in order to bring about given mass responses to war stimuli," Slesinger contended. "We have thought in terms of fighting dictatorships- by-force through the establishment of dictatorship-by-manipulation. 30 Slesinger's view enjoyed some support from other participants and from Rockefeller Foundation officers such as Joseph Willits, who criticized what he described as authoritarian or even fascist aspects of Lasswell's arguments. Despite this resistance, the social polarization created by the approaching war strongly favored Lasswell, and in the end he enjoyed substantial new funding and an expanded staff courtesy of the foundation. Slesinger, on the other hand, drifted away from the Rockefeller seminars and appears to have rapidly lost influence within the community of academic communication specialists.
World War II spurred the emergence of psychological warfare as a particularly promising new form of applied communication research. The personal, social, and scientific networks established in U.S. social sciences during World War II, particularly among communication researchers and social psychologists, later played a central role in the evolution (or "social construction") of U.S. sociology after the war. A detailed discussion of U.S. psychological operations during World War 11 is of course outside the scope of this book. There is a large literature on the subject, which is discussed briefly in the Bibliographic Essay at the end of this text. A few points are worth mentioning, however, to introduce some of the personalities and concepts that would later play a prominent role in psychological operations and communication studies after 1945.
The phrase "psychological warfare" is reported to have first entered English in 1941 as a translated mutation of the Nazi term Weltanschauungs- krieg (literally, worldview warfare), meaning the purportedly scientific application of propaganda, terror, and state pressure as a means of securing an ideological victory over one's enemies. 31 William "Wild Bill" Donovan, then director of the newly established U.S. intelligence agency Office of Strategic Services (OSS), viewed an understanding of Nazi psychological tactics as a vital source of ideas for "Americanized" versions of many of the same stratagems. Use of the new term quickly became widespread throughout the U.S. intelligence community. For Donovan psychological warfare was destined to become a full arm of the U.S. military, equal in status to the army, navy, and air force. 32
Donovan was among the first in the United States to articulate a more or less unified theory of psychological warfare. As he saw it, the "engineering of consent" techniques used in peacetime propaganda campaigns could be quite effectively adapted to open warfare. Pro-Allied propaganda was essential to reorganizing the U.S. economy for war and for creating public support at home for intervention in Europe, Donovan believed. Fifth-column movements could be employed abroad as sources of intelligence and as morale-builders for populations under Axis control. He saw "special operations -- meaning sabotage, subversion, commando raids, and guerrilla movements -- as useful for softening up targets prior to conventional military assaults. "Donovan's concept of psychological warfare was all-encompassing," writes Colonel Alfred Paddock, who has specialized in this subject for the U.S. Army War College. "Donovan's visionary dream was to unify these functions in support of conventional (military) unit operations, thereby forging a 'new instrument of war.'" 33
Donovan, a prominent Wall Street lawyer and personal friend of Franklin Roosevelt, convinced FDR to establish a central, civilian intelligence agency that would gather foreign intelligence, coordinate analysis of information relevant to the war, and conduct propaganda and covert operations both at home and abroad. In July 1941 FDR created the aptly named Office of the Coordinator of Information, placing Donovan in charge. 34
But that ambitious plan soon foundered on the rocks of Washington's bureaucratic rivalries. By early 1942 the White House split the "white" (official) propaganda functions into a new agency, which eventually became the Office of War Information (OWI), while Donovan reorganized the intelligence, covert action, and "black" (unacknowledgeable) propaganda functions under deeper secrecy as the OSS. Officially, the new OSS was subordinate to the military leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the relationship between the military and the civilian OSS was never smooth. Donovan frequently used his personal relationship with FDR to sidestep the military's efforts to restrict the OSS's growing influence. 35
Similar innovations soon spread through other military branches, usually initiated by creative outsiders from the worlds of journalism or commerce who saw "psychological" techniques as a means to sidestep entrenched military bureaucracies and enhance military performance. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, a longtime Wall Street colleague of Donovan, established a small, highly secret Psychologic Branch within the War Department General Staff G-2 (Intelligence) organization. (McCloy is probably better known today for his later work as U.S. high commissioner of Germany, chairman of the Chase Bank, member of the Warren Commission, and related posts). 36 McCloy's Psychologic Branch was reorganized several times, briefly folded in the OSS, shifted back to military control, and renamed at least twice. The Joint Chiefs meanwhile established a series of high-level interagency committees intended to coordinate U.S. psychological operations in the field, including those of the relatively small Psychological Warfare Branches attached to the headquarters staffs of U.S. military commanders in each theater of war. If this administrative structure was not confusing enough, the psychological warfare branch attached to Eisenhower's command in Europe soon grew into a Psychological Warfare Division totaling about 460 men and women. 37
These projects helped define U.S. social science and mass communication studies long after the war had drawn to a close. Virtually all of the scientific community that was to emerge during the 1950s as leaders in the field of mass communication research spent the war years performing applied studies on U.S. and foreign propaganda, Allied troop morale, public opinion (both domestically and internationally), clandestine OSS operations, or the then emerging technique of deriving useful intelligence from analysis of newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, and postal censorship intercepts.
The day-to-day war work of U.S. psychological warfare specialists varied considerably. DeWitt Poole -- a State Department expert in anticommunist propaganda who had founded Public Opinion Quarterly while on sabbatical at Princeton before the war-became the chief of the Foreign Nationalities Branch of the OSS. There he led OSS efforts to recruit suitable agents from immigrant communities inside the United States, to monitor civilian morale, and to analyze foreign- language publications for nuggets of intelligence. Sociologists and Anthropologists such as Alexander Leighton and Margaret Mead concentrated on identifying schisms in Japanese culture suitable for exploitation in U.S. radio broadcasts in Asia, while Samuel Stouffer's Research Branch of the U.S. Army specialized in ideological indoctrination of U.S. troops. Hadley Cantril meanwhile adapted survey research techniques to the task of clandestine intelligence collection, including preparations for the U.S. landing in North Africa. 38
There were six main U.S. centers of psychological warfare and related studies during the conflict. Several of these centers went through name changes and reorganizations in the course of the war, but they can be summarized as follows (1) Samuel Stouffer's Research Branch of the U.S. Army's Division of Morale; (2) the Office of War Information (OWI) led by Elmer Davis and its surveys division under Elmo Wilson; (3) the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) of the U.S. Army, commanded by Brigadier General Robert McClure; (4) the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) led by William Donovan; (5) Rensis Likert's Division of Program Surveys at the Department of Agriculture, which provided field research personnel in the United States for the army, OWI, Treasury Department, and other government agencies; and (6) Harold Lasswell's War Communication Division at the Library of Congress.
Dozens of prominent social scientists participated in the war through these organizations, in some cases serving in two or more groups in the course of the conflict. The OWI, for example, employed Elmo Roper (of the Roper survey organization), Leonard Doob (Yale), Wilbur Schramm (University of Illinois and Stanford), Alexander Leighton (Cornell), Leo Lowenthal (Institut fur Sozialforschung and University of California), Hans Speier (RAND Corp.), Nathan Leites (RAND), Edward Barrett (Columbia), and Clyde Kluckhohn (Harvard), among others. 39
(The institutions in parentheses simply indicate the affiliations for which these scholars may be best known.) OWI simultaneously extended contracts for communications research and consulting to Paul Lazarsfeld, Hadley Cantril, Frank Stanton, George Gallup, and to Rensis Likert's team at the Agriculture Department. 40 OWI contracting also provided much of the financial backbone for the then newly founded National Opinion Research Center. 41
In addition to his OWI work, Nathan Leites also served as Lasswell's senior research assistant at the Library of Congress project, as did Heinz Eulau (Stanford). 42 Other prominent contributors to the Lasswell project included Irving Janis (Yale) and the young Ithiel de Sola Pool (MIT), who, with Leites, had already begun systematic content analysis of communist publications long before the war was over. 43 Lasswell's Library of Congress project is widely remembered today as the foundation of genuinely systematic content analysis in the United States. 44
At the Army's Psychological Warfare Division, some prominent staffers were William S. Paley (CBS), C. D. Jackson (Time/Life), W. Phillips Davison (RAND and Columbia), Saul Padover (New School for Social Research), John W. Riley (Rutgers), Morris Janowitz (Institut fur Sozialforschung and University of Michigan), Daniel Lerner (MIT and Stanford), Edward Shils (University of Chicago), and New York attorney Murray Gurfein (later co-author with Janowitz), among others. 45 Of these, Davison, Padover, Janowitz, and Gurfein were OSS officers assigned to the Psychological Warfare Division to make use of their expertise in communication and German social psychology. 46 Other prominent OSS officers who later contributed to the social sciences include Howard Becker (University of Wisconsin), Alex Inkeles (Harvard), Walter Langer (University of Wisconsin), Douglas Cater (Aspen Institute), and of course Herbert Marcuse (Institut fur Sozialforschung and New School). 47 0SS wartime contracting outside the government included arrangements for paid social science research by Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia, Princeton, Yale's Institute of Human Relations, and the National Opinion Research Center, which was then at the University of Denver. 48 Roughly similar lists of social scientists and scholarly contractors can be discovered at each of the government's centers of wartime communications and public opinion research. 49
The practical significance of these social linkages has been explored by social psychologist John A. Clausen, who is a veteran of Samuel Stouffer's Research Branch. Clausen made a systematic study during the early 1980s of the postwar careers of his former colleagues who had gone into the fields of public opinion research, sociology, and psychology. 50 Some twenty-five of twenty-seven veterans who could be located responded to his questionnaire; of these, twenty-four reported that their wartime work had had "lasting implications" and "a major influence on [their] subsequent career." Clausen quotes the reply of psychologist Nathan Maccoby (Stanford) "The Research Branch not only established one of the best old-boy (or girl) networks ever, but an alumnus of the Branch had an open door to most relevant jobs and career lines. We were a lucky bunch." Nearly three-fifths of the respondents indicated that the Research Branch experience "had a major influence on the direction or character of their work in the decade after the war," Clausen continues, "and all but three of the remainder indicated a substantial influence.... [F]ully three-fourths reported the Branch experience to have been a very important influence on their careers as a whole." 51
Respondents stressed two reasons for this enduring impact. First, the wartime experience permitted young scholars to closely work with recognized leaders in the field -- Samuel Stouffer, Leonard Cottrell, Carl Hovland, and others-as well as with civilian consultants such as Paul Lazarsfeld, Louis Guttman, and Robert Merton. In effect, the Army's Research Branch created an extraordinary postgraduate school with obvious scholarly benefits for both "students" and the seasoned "professors."
Second, the common experience created a network of professional contacts that almost all respondents to the survey found to be very valuable in their subsequent careers. They tapped these contacts later for professional opportunities and for project funding, according to Clausen. "Perhaps most intriguing" in this regard, Clausen writes,
was the number of our members who became foundation executives. Charles Dollard became president of Carnegie. Donald Young shifted from the presidency of SSRC [Social Science Research Council] to that of Russell Sage, where he ultimately recruited Leonard Cottrell. Leland DeVinney went from Harvard to the Rockefeller Foundation. William McPeak ... helped set up the Ford Foundation and became its vice president. W. Parker Mauldin became vice president of the Population Council. The late Lyle Spencer [of Science Research Associates] . . . endowed a foundation that currently supports a substantial body of social science research. 52
There was a somewhat similar sociometric effect among veterans of OWI propaganda projects. OWI's overseas director Edward Barrett points out that old-boy networks rooted in common wartime experiences in psychological warfare extended well beyond the social sciences. "Among OWI alumni," he wrote in 1953, are
the publishers of Time, Look, Fortune, and several dailies; editors of such magazines as Holiday, Coronet, Parade, and the Saturday Review, editors of the Denver Post. New Orleans Times-Picayune, and others; the heads of the Viking Press, Harper & Brothers, and Farrar, Straus and Young; two Hollywood Oscar winners; a two-time Pulitzer prizewinner; the board chairman of CBS and a dozen key network executives; President Eisenhower's chief speech writer; the editor of Reader's Digest international editions; at least six partners of large advertising agencies; and a dozen noted social scientists. 53
Barrett himself went on to become chief of the U.S. government's overt psychological warfare effort from 1950 to 1952 and later dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and founder of the Columbia Journalism Review. 54
It is wise to be cautious in evaluating the political significance of these networks, of course. Obviously Herbert Marcuse drew quite different political conclusions from his experience than did, say, Harold Lasswell, and it is well known that even some of the once closely knit staff of the Institut fur Sozialforschung who emigrated to the United States eventually clashed bitterly over political issues during the cold war. 55 Nevertheless, the common experience of wartime psychological warfare work became one step in a process through which various leaders in the social sciences engaged one another in tacit alliances to promote their particular interpretations of society. Their wartime experiences contributed substantially to the construction of a remarkably tight circle of men and women who shared several important conceptions about mass communication research. They regarded mass communication as a tool for social management and as a weapon in social conflict, and they expressed common assumptions concerning the usefulness of quantitative research-particularly experimental and quasi- experimental effects research, opinion surveys, and quantitative content analysisas a means of illuminating what communication "is" and improving its application to social management. They also demonstrated common attitudes toward at least some of the ethical questions intrinsic to performing applied social research on behalf of a government. The Clausen study strongly suggests that at Stouffer's Research Branch, at least, World War II psychological warfare work established social networks that opened doors to crucial postwar contacts inside the government, funding agencies, and professional circles. Barrett's comments concerning the Psychological Warfare Division suggest a similar pattern there. As will be discussed in more depth in the next chapter, the various studies prepared by these scientists during the war -- always at government expense and frequently involving unprecedented access to human research subjects -- also created vast new data bases of social information that would become the raw material from which a number of influential postwar social science careers would be built.
Excerpt from The Science of Coercion Communication Research and Psychological Warfare 1945-1960, by Christopher Simpson, pp. 22-30. (Oxford University Press, 1994)
28. Brett Gary, "Mass Communications Research, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Imperatives of War 1939-1945," Research Reports from the Rockefeller Archive Center (North Tarrytown, NY, Spring 1991), p. 3; and Brett Gary, "American Liberalism and the Problem of Propaganda," Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1992. Gary's work is the first thorough study, so far as I am aware, of the important role of the Rockefeller Foundation in crystallizing paradigms for communication studies.
29. John Marshall (ed.), "Needed Research in Communication" (1940), folder 2677, box 224, Rockefeller Archives, Pocantico Hills, NY, cited in Gary, American Liberalism.
30. Gary, "American Liberalism and the Problem of Propaganda."
31. Ladislas Farago, German Psychological Warfare (New York Putnam, 1941). For a history of the origin of the term, see William Daugherty, "Changing Concepts," in Daugherty and Janowitz, Psychological Warfare Casebook, p. 12.
32. Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare, pp. 5-8, 23-37.
33. Ibid., p. 6.
34. Anthony Cave Brown (ed.), The Secret War Report of the OSS (New York Berkeley, 1976), pp. 42-63. There is a large literature on the OSS. For a reliable overview of the agency's activities, including basic data on its establishment and leadership, see Richard Harris Smith, OSS (Berkeley University of California Press, 1972).
35. Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare, pp. 7-14; and Edward Lilly, "The Psychological Strategy Board and Its Predecessors Foreign Policy Coordination 1938-1953," in Gaetano Vincitorio (ed.), Studies in Modern History (New York St. Johns University Press, 1968), p. 346.
36. Kai Bird, The Chairman John J. McCloy (New York Simon & Schuster, 1992).
37. Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare, pp. 8-18; for an extended discussion, see Daniel Lerner, Sykewar Psychological Warfare Against Germany, D-Day to VE-Day (New York George Stewart, 1948).
38. On Poole's role in the establishment of Public Opinion Quarterly, see Harwood Childs, "The First Editor Looks Back," POQ, 21, no. I (Spring 1957) 7-13. On Poole's work at the Foreign Nationalities Branch of the OSS, see (Anthony Cave Brown (ed.), Secret War Report of the OSS (New York Berkley, 1976), chapter 2. On Leighton, see Alexander Leighton, Human Relations in a Changing World (New York Dutton, 1949). On Mead, see Carleton Mabee, "Margaret Mead and Behavioral Scientists in World War II Problems of Responsibility, Truth and Effectiveness," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 23 (January 1987Y On Stouffer, see now 49 Mom On Cantril, see Hadley Cantril, "Evaluating the Probable Reactions to the Landing in North Africa in 1942 A Case Study," POQ, 29, no. 3 (Fall 1965) 400-410.
39. On Roper and on Elmo Wilson, also of the Roper organization, see Jean Converse, Survey Research in the United States (Berkeley University of Califomia Press, 1987), pp. 171-72. On Doob and Leites, see Daniel Lerner (ed.), Propaganda in War and Crisis (New York George Stewart, 1951), pp. vii-viii. On Kluckhohn, Leighton, Lowenthal, and Schramm, see Daugherty and Janowitz, Psychological Warfare Casebook, pp. xiii-xiv. On Speier, Contemporary Authors, Vol. 21-24, p. 829. On Barrett, Edward Barrett, Truth Is Our Weapon (New York Funk & Wagnalls, 1953), pp. 31-32. After his death, the Associated Press identified Barrett as a former member of the OSS, though Barrett omitted that information from biographical statements published during his lifetime; see "Edward W. Barrett Dies; Started Columbia Journalism Review," Washington Post, October 26, 1989. For more on the OWI, see also Allan Winkler, The Politics of Propaganda The Office of War Information 1942-1945 (New Haven Yale University Press, 1978); and Leonard Doob, "Utilization of Social Scientists in the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information," American Political Science Review, 41, no. 4 (August 1947) 49-67.
40. Converse, Survey Research in the United States, pp. 163, 172.
41. Ibid., p. 309.
42. On Leites and Eulau, see Wilbur Schramm, "The Beginnings of Communication Study in the United States," in Everett Rogers and Francis Balle (eds.), The Media Revolution in America and Western Europe (Norwood, NJ Ablex, 1985), p. 205; and Harold Lasswell and Nathan Leites, Language of Politics (New York George Stewart, 1949), p. 298.
43. Nathan Leites and Ithiel de Sola Pool, "The Response of Communist Propaganda," in Lasswell and Leites, Language of Politics, pp. 153, 334.
44. Roger Wimmer and Joseph Dominick, Mass Media Research (Belmont, CA Wadsworth, 1987Y p. 165.
45. On Paley, Jackson, Padover, Riley, Janowitz, Lerner, and Gurfein, see Lerner, Sykewar, pp. 439-43. On Davison, see Daugherty and Janowitz, Psychological Warfare Casebook, p. xii. On Shils, see Lerner, Propaganda in War, p. viii.
46. On Davison and Padover, see Daugherty and Janowitz, Psychological Warfare Casebook, pp. xii-xiii. On Gurfein and Janowitz, see Smith, OSS, pp. 86, 217.
47. On Langer, Cater, and Marcuse, see Smith, OSS, pp. 17, 23, 25, 217. On Barrett, see -Edward I Barren Dies; Started Columbia Journalism Review." On Becker and Inkeles, see Daugherty and Janowitz, Psychological Warfare Casebook, pp. xi-xii. For a fascinating early memoir of the role of psychology and social psychology in OSS training and operations, see William Morgan, The OSS and I (New York Norton, 1957).
48. Robin Winks, Cloak and Gown Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961 (New York Morrow, 1987), pp. 43-44, 79.
49. On Samuel Stouffer's Morale Branch, see Samuel Stouffer, Arthur Lumsdaine, Marion Lumsdaine, Robin Williams, M. Brewster Smith, Irving Janis, Shirley Star, and Leonard Cottrell, The American Soldier (Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press, 149Y pp. 3-53; and John Clausen, "Research on the American Soldier as a Career Contingency," Social Psychology Quarterly 47, no. 2 (1984) 207-13. On the OSS, see Barry Katz, Foreign Intelligence Research and Analysis in the Office of Strategic Services, 1952-1945 (Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press, 1989) and Bernard David Rifkind, "OSS and Franco-American Relations 1942-1945" Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1983, pp. 318-36. On psychological operations in the Pacific theater, see Leighton, Human Relations in a Changing World.
50. Clausen, "Research on the American Soldier."
51. Ibid., p. 210.
52. Ibid., p. 212.
53. Barrett, Truth, p. 31fn.
54. "Edward W. Barrett Dies; Started Columbia Journalism Review."
55. Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research, 1923-1950 (Boston Little, Brown, 1973); and Katz, Foreign Intelligence, pp. 29ff.