The History of the Culture of War
8. Control of information
9. Enemy images
5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve?

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-guns trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war


Continued from previous page

To some extent media propaganda is directed by secret government infiltration of the media. Only once has the U.S. Congress held substantial hearings into government infiltration and manipulation of the media. This was the 1975 hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the Church Committee after its chairman, Senator Frank Church. Few people would know about the Church Committee hearings were it not for an article by the reporter Carl Bernstein, although Bernstein's report was not accepted for publication by "main-line" media and he was only able to publish it in the alternative press, the Rolling Stone Magazine (see Bernstein 1977). The Bernstein article reveals that the Church Committee found extensive secret CIA infiltration of the mass media, including the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The data revealed by Bernstein and the Church Committee were only the tip of the iceberg, however. As Bernstein says, the Committee was blocked from going further with its investigation:

"Despite the evidence of widespread CIA use of journalists, the Senate Intelligence Committee and its staff decided against questioning any of the reporters, editors, publishers or broadcast executives whose relationships with the Agency are detailed in CIA files.

According to sources in the Senate and the Agency, the use of journalists was one of two areas of inquiry which the CIA went to extraordinary lengths to curtail. The other was the Agency's continuing and extensive use of academics for recruitment and information gathering purposes.

In both instances, the sources said, former directors Colby and Bush and CIA special counsel Mitchell Rogovin were able to convince key members of the committee that full inquiry or even limited public disclosure of the dimensions of the activities would do irreparable damage to the nation's intelligence gathering apparatus, as well as to the reputations of hundreds of individuals."

The mass media, in recent times, has been increasingly used as an important weapon of choice in what is called "psychological warfare." A particularly detailed description is provided by the article CIA Psychological Warfare Operations: Case Studies in Chile, Jamaica, and Nicaragua published by the psychologist Fred Landis in Science for the People Magazine, January/February 1982. Unfortunately, the article is not available on the Internet. It is rich in detail, and the following quotation gives only an overview:

"In the last decade, four American nations have chosen a socialist road to development. -- Chile, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Grenada. In the first three cases the CIA responded, among other actions by virtually taking over the major newspaper in that country and using it as an instrument of destabilization . . "

"The appropriation of newspapers by the CIA proceeds through certain discrete, identifiable stages. These include: using an international press association, firing many of the staff, modernizing the physical plant, changing the format of the front page, using subliminal propaganda, assassinating the character of government ministers, promoting a counter-elite to replace the socialist government, spreading disinformation, using divisive propaganda to create artificial conflicts within the society, dusting off stock CIA stories and themes, coordinating the propaganda effort with an economic, diplomatic, and paramilitary offensive, and generally following the blueprint for psychological warfare as outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual of Psychological Operations."

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Landis article are the illustrations from the front pages of newspapers after they are taken over for psychological warfare. They headline stories of atrocities and violence that can only strike fear into the viewer. What is so remarkable is the extent to which these types of themes may be now be found the front pages of major "tabloid" newspapers and the screens of right wing television networks, not only in countries under attack, but in the countries of the North including North America and Europe. In these cases the media has become an agent of psychological warfare that instills a climate of fear in the average citizen, and as it has been said, "fear is the language of empire."

One particular way that the mass media supports the culture of war is to perpetuate the myth that warfare is inevitable because it is part of human nature. For some detail on this, see Adams (1989).

9. Identification of an "enemy"

Enemy images have been promoted throughout history. After World War II, the main enemy images were those of the Cold War: the enemy of "godless communism" in the West, and the enemy of "capitalist imperialists" in the East. Those of us who opposed the Cold War found ourselves in opposition to an enormously complex propaganda machine that needed an enemy in order to justify national policies.

There was a remarkable moment at the end of the Cold War when, at a summit meeting, the Soviet premier Gorbachev told the American President Reagan that "I am going to deprive you of your enemy." At that point it became urgent for the West that a new enemy had to be found in order to justify the war machine.

The new enemy was found: the Islamic world. In an influential article in the journal Foreign Affairs, the Harvard professor Samuel Huntington came up with the phrase "clash of civilizations" that had been developed in his association with CIA think-tanks. And, after a few years, the new enemy image was reinforced by the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

Under the umbrella of these two sets of over-arching enemy images, there are dozens of other sets of enemy images related to local wars and histories of wars, ranging from Tutsi versus Hutu to Cuba versus the United States.

Enemy images are propagated by the mass media and educational systems, as described in other sections of this book, and they are so pervasive that we come to take them for granted, forgetting how they may have changed from one generation to another and how yesterdays' enemy has become today's ally.

End of section

To take part in a discussion about this page, click below on the Culture of Peace Dialogues:

discussion board

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?