DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Competing Narrative


The concept of competing narratives is the basis for the Cold War. The US and USSR couldn't understand each other's point of view and as a result demonized the other and glorified itself through propaganda.

As Marc Howard Ross of Bryn Mawr College states " a psychocultural narrative is and how this concept can help us understand and manage conflict. Narratives are explanations for events (large and small) in the form of short, common sense accounts (stories) that often seem simple. However, the powerful images they contain and the judgments they make about the motivations and actions of their own group, and others, are emotionally significant for groups and individuals. Narratives are not always internally consistent. For example, they often alternate between portraying one's own group, as well as an opponent, as strong and portraying them as vulnerable. Narratives meet a number of different needs people have. They are especially relevant in times of high uncertainty and high stress." Using his definition it is easy to see not only why the Cold War began as two nations were coming from such different places that they couldn't even comprehend finding a middle ground, but also why it spiraled out of control into such a panicked arms race.

Propaganda plays on emotions, especially during a time of high stress, like that created by the Cold War, including a threat(or perceived threat) to one's identity. The situation forces conformity within a society so one is not associated with the enemy. In America, the perceived threat was that Soviet communists would infiltrate the nation through espionage. This was shown to be a real threat and the fear drastically increased leading to the McCarthyism witch hunt. The nation feared that anyone who did not conform was a communist, here to overthrow our democratic nation. The US government took full advantage of and promoted these fears through propaganda. The government portrayed the communists as sneaky evil people while promoting and even glorifying capitalism and all it has to offer Americans.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union also stressed conformity of their people. In Russia the propaganda warned against the greed and corruption of the capitalists. The Soviet propaganda supported the ideals of communism encouraging people to work hard for the common good demonizing the individualism of capitalism. Both sides feared that the other was striving for world domination and that their opponent would only respond to brute force because that is all it was capable of understanding. each country encouraged their people to be patriotic and vigilant against the evil coming to get them. Doing one's duties, without speaking out, was the only way to succeed against the looming threat of war.

The fundamental difference between the two nations is who owns the means of production. In a communist state, the people own the machines, capital and labor and wealth is divided among the people according to his or her needs. Until perfect communism is achieved the nation is overseen by a one party system. Capitalism, on the other hand, leaves the means of production to the individual where wealth and capital is earned not distributed. This system is governed by a democracy where business is largely left to its own devices. Each side failed to recognize the benefits possible by the other society. Instead fear was fostered in the hearts of the citizens to a point where they saw the other as an evil foreign entity that could not and should not be tolerated.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.