People Who Lived Through The Cold War Describe What The Propaganda Was Really Like
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

2020 is a prime time to think about how the media affects us all.


There's fake news on social media, internet silos and hive minds, disinformation everywhere you look, and, speaking more generally, just a higher volume of information flying in our faces than ever before.

To contextualize the current chaos, historical examples may be helpful. And when media and propaganda are the focus of our curiosity, the Cold War immediately comes to mind.

Lucky for us, Reddit boasts plenty of users of all ages, Cold War babies included. A recent post asked those who were there to share just what the propaganda felt like during the global conflict.

Alpha_Scatterrer asked, "People who lived during the cold war, how was the propaganda like?"

Even in the Songs

"So much media was about dying in nuclear war."

"The Smiths and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) and Alphaville were popular alternative bands in the 80's and they sung about nuclear annihilation ALL THE TIME."

-- other_brother_daryl

Sudden Enlightenment

"Convincing. You thought that every Soviet was out to kill and destroy you. Wasn't until I was in the navy and we had a Russian carrier pull alongside us for a photo op."

"It was then I realized how insignificant I was In the grand scheme of things. It was then I could see myself as a sailor on that ship."

"It was then that I flushed nationalism down the toilet and recognized humanity as my true countrymen and women. The propaganda still lives on today - most just don't see it."

-- stayathomepop7

Belated Humanizing

"My dad (boomer born 1953) recently watched one of my 5 year old daughters favourite cartoons, Masha and The Bear."

"He was fascinated by the fact he found it funny. He was in awe that Russian people could produce a cartoon that was warm and lighthearted."

"He genuinely said to me that when he grew up he was told that Russian children were not allowed to watch anything like that, and that cartoons were either propaganda or extremely dated and poor quality."

-- Naughtyspider

Prioritizing Defense

"In the UK there were lots of ads promoting Trident (a very expensive Nuclear Weapons System)."

"Meanwhile the infrastructure decayed as we trudged to our school chock full of abusive 3rd rate teachers and unemployment was the norm."

"Think 1984. Dreary poverty."

-- Touristupdatenola

Not Fear, But Pity 

"We had the idea that everyone behind the Iron Curtain was living a miserable and drab life. Standing in line for hours to get poor quality goods, living in grey concrete buildings. Never smiling, living in fear or reprisals should they speak up."

"We didn't hate the people living in communist countries but we hated their system and felt kind of sorry for them."

"Meanwhile we were scared that they would attack at any moment and try to subjugate the rest of us."

-- Oberon777

Basically Aliens

"We thought the Russians drank tank fuel when they ran out of vodka. And also that Russian women were 10 feet tall and had beards." -- UncleGIJoe

"Russians, as described by JRR Tolkien" -- all_doges_go_to_heck

Kofola

"I'm too young, but the anti-American propaganda was enormous in socialist Czechoslovakia."

"For example, American music was banned as well as Coca-Cola, which is why we created our version called Kofola (which is much better in my opinion)."

"We also laugh at the Soviet lie that the USA brought potato bugs to central and east Europe so that they would destroy our potatoes."

-- Ostruzina

Still Reeling 

"If you want to get your head around just how successful the propaganda machine in the US was, just look at politics today. Socialism is a dirty word among many who were adults in the 80's, even when discussing democratic socialism."

"Back then, socialist and communist were basically the same word and would be frequently swapped when discussing the USSR. My parents think Bernie Sanders and AOC are leaders of an underground communist movement looking to secretly overthrow the republic."

-- Nemo1ner

Hollywood's Part 

"Us good, them bad. Watch Rocky IV. It's the ultimate Cold War propaganda movie." -- 93195

"5'11" Sylvester Stallone outboxed 6"4" Dolph Lundgren and then the Russian crowd cheered."

"I don't know what was more implausible- the plot, or that people bought it, to the tune of $300m. That's how much the US believed it's own bullsh!t in the 80s."

"That's what 'making America great again' means." -- sugarfoot00

Get Em While Their Young 

"American here. They really wanted us to love our government, no matter what they were doing. When I was a kid in the early 80s, I had a book called 'Kid's Letters to President Reagan'..."

"and it was full of cute questions like 'What's your favorite pet?' so we could humanize the people who run the country."

"At the same time, once in a while they snuck in one meant to dehumanize the Soviets, like 'Do Russians go to heaven when they die?'"

"I still remember that page from the book because it had a picture of Nikita Khrushchev with a halo and angel wings banging his shoe on a podium."

-- rristuccia

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