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Journal Article

Information, Education, and Indoctrination: The Federation of American Scientists and Public Communication Strategies in the Atomic Age

Megan Barnhart Sethi
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Vol. 42, No. 1 (February 2012), pp. 1-29
DOI: 10.1525/hsns.2012.42.1.1
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/hsns.2012.42.1.1
Page Count: 29
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Information, Education, and Indoctrination: The Federation of American Scientists and Public Communication Strategies in the Atomic Age
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Abstract

Immediately following World War II, atomic scientists and their colleagues in other disciplines formed the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and dedicated themselves to increasing public knowledge about atomic energy and the need for international control. FAS scientists began their campaign with faith in the role a well-informed public could play in a democracy. Recognizing their inexperience in public relations, scientists sought the assistance of social scientists and PR experts to help them communicate their message effectively. Confronting in their advisors’ recommendations a radically different conception of how to reach the public, FAS scientists faced a choice: relinquish their cherished self-image as objective experts and embrace techniques of indoctrination, or maintain their focus on informing or educating the public. Examining the Federation’s dilemma sheds new light upon the changing motivations and public communication strategies of scientists in post-World War II America.

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