In February 1952, Congressman O. K. Armstrong of Missouri was invited to give a keynote speech at a convention called the Conference on Psychological Strategy in the Cold War, where he declared a maxim that, by that time, likely did not raise many eyebrows: “Our primary weapons will not be guns, but ideas . . . and truth itself.” Rep. Armstrong spoke from experience—a few months before, he had made national headlines at a peace treaty signing in San Francisco by blindsiding Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko with a map locating every secret Gulag prison camp. Calling the Soviet Union a slave state through international media was certainly one provocative way to wage a war of informational weaponry. For Armstrong, the Cold War was not simply about instrumental goals, it also was essentially performative, steeped in aesthetics and judged in the arena of public opinion, not just State Department conference rooms. That performance, though, also was self-directed, as such practices oriented strategists and their audiences toward accepting a particular postwar American identity. The Cold War, in short, involved specifıc ways of being and acting in the world, an important claim that forms the basis of Ned O’Gorman’s excellent Spirits of the Cold War.

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Copyright © 2013 Michigan State University Press. This article first appeared in Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16:1 (2013), 202-206.