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American Culture
Deception and Dominance

The Rocky and Bullwinkle show that aired from 1959 to 1964 was entertaining

and witty, but also had a deep rooted connection to the Cold War and President

Eisenhower’s foreign policy. Rocky and Bullwinkle depicted and satirized a number of

anxieties that were prevalent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The show would use

particular diction to poke fun at American’s knowledge regarding the occurrences in the

Cold War. This paper will illustrate the elusive nature of the Eisenhower administration in

their regards to a coup in Iran. Furthermore, the show made explicit Cold War references

such as Rocket J. Squirrel and Upsidasium. While these two references broach the arms

race and race for resources, it is important to remember the race for culture and the

insidious nature in which the United States and Russia would sneakily try to inculcate the

other culture with their own. Ultimately, The Rocky and Bullwinkle show introduce ideas

about the Cold War that can further be explained by the Eisenhower Administration’s

actions.

In the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, Bullwinkle starts out one of the episodes by

saying hello to his viewers by uttering, “Hello low IQers!” This is a comical element, but

at the same time it is a critique of American culture and its understanding and conception

of the Cold War. The introduction that Bullwinkle makes calls out to the American public

and says that they are unaware of their government’s actions. In regards to Eisenhower’s

foreign policy and his methods this critique is partly true. Eisenhower’s Administration

performed covert operations in Congo, Indonesia, Syria, Tibet, and Cuba while also

coordinating coups in Guatemala and Iran. While Eisenhower worked to put these coups

into motion using his newly formed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the rest of the
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American Culture
country was left in the dark and even more so, led astray as to what really occurred.

In Iran, Eisenhower created a CIA led coup that was meant to overthrow the

current democratically elected Prime Minister, Muhammad Mussadiq. The conflict arose

due to the “nationalization of oil,” and how Mussadiq and Iran were “unable to export oil

due to Western support for British claims” (Foran, 159). However, even more so than

that, Mussadiq “sought to break with a history of dependency and Western influence in

his country’s economy and political affairs” (Foran, 181). Mussadiq’s want for Iran to be

autonomous and break itself free on its Western ties was his demise as prime minister.

Orchestrating the coup was a process. The CIA had worked on the Tudeh, a

communist party in Iran, and the Soviet influence in that region since the late 1940s

(Foran, 177). “The CIA used propaganda, organized anti-Tudeh fighters, and paid people

to attack with the Tudeh in sermons” (Foran, 178). All of this was in an effort to grow

dissent and force the coup. On the day of the coup, there was absolute chaos in the streets

of Tehran that was orchestrated by the CIA, and finally “a nine-hour battle was fought at

Mussadiq’s home in which three hundred people were killed,” but ultimately Zahidi

became the prime minister just as the United States wanted.

Clearly, this coup was just a motion set in place by the United States and

Eisenhower’s Administration, but the American public, echoing Bullwinkle’s earlier

critique, knew a far different story. “The mainstream media saw the coup as ‘a wholly

internal matter brought about by widespread dissatisfaction with the ineptitude of

Mosaddeq’” (Foran, 178). This was the image that all of the media portrayed, including

Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York

Times. These are all very reputable publications and they all depicted a story that was far
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American Culture
from the truth. The Cold War was definitely a time of covert operations, but it was also a

time in which there was a distinct race and heated pursuit of excellence from the

American and Soviet side.

Rocky and Bullwinkle made references to the arms race and the race for resources

with Rocket J. Squirrel and Upsidasium, respectively, but it is also important to the

mention the attempts at infusing culture between the United States and the Soviets. “As

Cold War hostilities raged, cultural exchange had become cultural competition and both

sides jockeyed for control over what would be deemed appealing and ideologically

correct” (Von Eschen, 98) In a bold move, America’s State Department sent Benny

Goodman to the Soviet Union as the first representative of American jazz. He was

originally not well received (Von Eschen, 94). During this cultural exchange, both sides

lobbied for equal representation: “The New York Times reported that the State Department

‘refused to sanction the appearance of the Soviet Army’s chorus and ensemble. The

Soviet Union has not accepted any leading jazz band’” (Von Eschen, 95). Obviously,

America did not want to take in any Soviet culture unless the act was reciprocated.

Although the race for cultural dominance is a little harder to measure than the arms race

or the race for resources, it is just as much a part of the Cold War culture.

Eisenhower’s Administration during the Cold War links heavily to some of the

ideas and concepts that are brought up in The Rocky and Bullwinkle show. One would

definitely notice how hard the discrepancy between right and wrong must have been

unclear during Eisenhower’s Administration due to his work with the CIA and his coup in

Iran. Furthermore, Eisenhower’s term in office bolstered the Cold War, because it added

a new element to the “race” that was on between the Soviets and the US. Eisenhower
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American Culture
competed with his arms and resources, but when he couldn’t, he conjured up a race for

cultural dominance. This was seen with the trade of jazz for distinctly Soviet cultural

aspects. The Rocky and Bullwinkle show, while being very creative and comical also

provides an assessment of the time and helps one understand the anxieties and culture of

the Cold War era under Eisenhower.