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Fear management: Foreign threats in the postwar Polish propaganda - the influence and the reception of the communist media (1944 -1956)

Fear management: Foreign threats in the postwar Polish propaganda - the influence and the reception of the communist media (1944 -1956)
Bruno Kamiński


Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), ITALY.


The idea of this dissertation ascends from the scholarly interest in developing the issue of the history of emotions. Among four basic emotions, this thesis explores the vital historical and social aspects of the emotion of fear. In particular, this thesis offers a complex introduction to the general problem of propaganda fear management in communist Poland. The concept of fear management is examined as a manipulation of the propaganda information, referring to both the real and artificially stimulated fears with a special focus on external dreads. The entire set of figures of foreign threats are investigated as rhetorical tropes of the 'external enemies of Poland', exploited by communist propaganda with the intention of legitimising the power of the postwar authorities and to delegitimise the alliance with the USA and its Western partners. In this thesis, the foreign threats are represented mainly by the 'German threat', 'American dread' and the 'danger provoked by Western spies'.

Along with the examination of the various ways and circumstances in which the above propaganda strategy was applied, this dissertation addresses the crucial problem of the social attitude towards communist media efforts dedicated to manipulation with fear. All six chapters of this thesis offer conclusions dedicated to popular reception of particular propaganda campaigns exploiting a given threat. Analysis of these conclusions allows tracing the dynamic of social moods in relation both to propaganda activity and socio-political circumstances shaping the atmosphere within Polish postwar society.

The parallel discussion of the implementation of, and social reaction towards, the propaganda fear management strategy allows general conclusions to be drawn concerning the effectiveness of communication between the communist authorities and society in the Socialist Bloc. Based on archival research, this thesis shows and interprets the efficiency of communist media attempts to manage the emotion of fear.