Radio Free Europe began transmitting in the early 1950s to liberate the peoples of East Central Europe. Logically, these foreign broadcasts were intercepted by various regimes with backing from the Soviets. RFE staff implemented and failed to surmount communication models other than those formulated by the likes of Laswell, Lowenthal, and notable others in early communications research funded by the United States military after World War II. However, at the fulcrum of this century's fascination with technology and its coupling with media, in particular television networks, RFE embarked on a highly
unreliable balloon campaign--resembling the 19th century balloon fantasy of Jules Verne--to surmount the interception of its broadcasts byskywave and groundwave jamming.The purpose of this lecture is to discuss the properties of noise as a psychological device that thwarted the reception by audiences in East Central Europe of the transmissions of RFE and other foreign broadcasters.The as yet unanswered question is: Who exactly was the audience? How were they, whether apparatchiks or kulakhs, conceptualized by communication researchers in the United States contributing to the Cold War's mobilization of information warriors? And finally, what was radio jamming's effect on the local populations? I intend to
speculate about all these questions and perhaps provide some answers using metaphorical tools perhaps not originally designed for media's history but appropriate in this particular case.
Propaganda of Noise and Psychological Warfare
tom bass is an independent media researcher living in budapest and the USA.