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Scholarly research in recent years has emphasized the elements of ideology and propaganda in the understanding of the nature and the features of the Cold War. As far as the US was concerned, the importance of cultural diplomacy and propaganda mechanisms grew as the Cold War began to consolidate. The Eisenhower administration elevated government propaganda mechanisms into an indispensable branch of US foreign policy. It is in this context that the present article examines a US government research project on the decline of US “prestige” abroad designed and implemented in 1953. Our aim is to explore the conceptual structure of the research project and its implications based on archival material of the Eisenhower administration. Our assumption is that the development of propaganda techniques was a gradual and evolutionary process associated with the acknowledgement that perceptions of policies may be as important as the policies themselves. Though in an embryonic form, the reports that are examined in the present article try to address complex issues relating to US image in the world and the appeal of Americanism incorporating working assumptions and methodological principles from the rapidly developing at the time social sciences.
September 11 and the rise of global anti-Americanism since the Iraq War have raised concerns in American society about the US's image in the world and led to the contestation of the concept of the enemy as had been elaborated by the Bush administration. This concern has had a profound impact in American cultural production, and particularly on American cinema, and has shaped the demand for a change of policy that would restore the moral status of the US. Barack Obama, using various elements, managed to incorporate this demand in his electoral campaign and raised the issue of anti-Americanism as a means of criticism of the Bush administration. The discourse on anti-Americanism contested the national narration formed during the Bush presidency and functioned as an asset in the Obama campaign. Barack Obama, with his charismatic political personality, the symbolic power of his personal story and through a personalized presidential campaign, tried to combine the revival of American idealism with moderate conservatism.
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