Propaganda, publicity and political violence : the presentation of terrorism in Britain, 1944-60
Through a series of case studies, this thesis examines British attitudes to 'terrorism' as practised during various post-war colonial insurgencies. What did British governments and colonial officials understand by this term, as applied to the Jewish insurgents in Palestine at the end of the Mandate, the Malayan Communists, Mau Mau, and EOKA in Cyprus? The thesis focuses particularly on the way in which propaganda has been seen as a crucial component of the terrorist strategy. Consequently, in the attempt to deny insurgents publicity, and to mediate the perception of politically motivated violence held by various domestic and international audiences, British governments have used a wide variety of propaganda and news-management techniques. The thesis thus assesses the role of government propaganda in counter-insurgency. While some attention is paid to the employment of propaganda within the affected colonies themselves (as part of the 'hearts and minds' strategy), the focus is largely on government attempts to influence wider international audiences and, especially, domestic public opinion in Britain. The need to maintain public support at home for campaigns fought against 'terrorism' in the colonies has been a neglected aspect of most writings on counterinsurgency. However, a detailed examination of the files of the Colonial Office and Foreign Office information departments reveals that in each of the selected case studies, particular attention was paid to keeping domestic opinion 'on side'. Not only have various Whitehall departments and the Central Office of Information produced official publicity material on these insurgencies, but the Foreign Office's anti-communist Information Research Department has disseminated more covert material through the Trade Union movement and other channels. In addition, successive governments have sought to influence the press, newsreel and television coverage of events in the disputed territories. How successful was the effort which went into official publicity work and newsmanagement? Gauging the effectiveness of any propaganda campaign is notoriously difficult. However, by looking at the contemporary press, the output of the major newsreel companies and the files of the BBC, I have attempted to assess how far the mass communications media presented a view of terrorism which accorded with the governmental interpretation. What becomes apparent is that while it may have been fairly easy to ensure that 'terrorists' were duly condemned, and labelled as such - language forming an important part of the battle for legitimacy - government publicists have often struggled due to an absence of policy in Whitehall over the future of the colonies concerned, and on account of the behaviour of the Security Forces. Creating favourable publicity for counter-terrorist measures has been a much harder task than the denigration of terrorism itself.