Barriers Down

How American Power and Free-Flow Policies Shaped Global Media

Diana Lemberg

Columbia University Press

Barriers Down

Pub Date: September 2019

ISBN: 9780231182164

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: September 2019

ISBN: 9780231544030

304 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

Barriers Down

How American Power and Free-Flow Policies Shaped Global Media

Diana Lemberg

Columbia University Press

Freedom of information is a principle commonly associated with the United States’ First Amendment traditions or digital-era technology boosters. Barriers Down reveals its unexpected origins in political, economic, and cultural battles over analog media in the mid-twentieth century. Diana Lemberg traces how the United States shaped media around the world after 1945 under the banner of the “free flow of information,” showing how the push for global media access acted as a vehicle for American power.

Barriers Down considers debates over civil liberties and censorship in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere alongside Americans’ efforts to circumvent foreign regulatory systems in the quest to expand markets and bring their ideas to new publics. Lemberg shows how in the decades following the Second World War American free-flow policies reshaped the world’s information landscape, though not always as intended. Through burgeoning information diplomacy and development aid, Washington diffused new media ranging from television and satellite broadcasting to global English. But these actions also spurred overseas actors to articulate alternative understandings of information freedom and of how information flows might be regulated. Bridging the historiographies of the United States in the world, human rights, decolonization and development, and media and technology, Barriers Down excavates the analog roots of digital-age debates over the politics and ethics of transnational information flows.
Barriers Down refutes the cliché that "information wants to be free." Instead, Lemberg details how the notion of barrier-free flow of information was contested in the late twentieth century and how a group of predominantly American diplomats, business leaders, and scholars secured its freedom. It is both timely and historically wise. David Engerman, author of The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India
Historians of U.S. global power have been curiously disinterested in the history of the media. In this wide-ranging and thought-provoking book, Diana Lemberg steps into the breach, reminding us just how many intellectuals, politicians, and diplomats spent the Cold War arguing about the future of global communications. Sam Lebovic, author of Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America
Lemberg offers us an innovative discussion of how the United States actively sought to remove obstacles to global media after 1945. Barriers Down ties the deeply political question of media openness to key issues during the postwar period: international development, the Cold War, national sovereignty, decolonization, and the collapse of empire. It provides a valuable and fresh perspective on central topics in international affairs. David Ekbladh, author of The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order
In the 1940s and 1950s, the “free flow of information” became an American watchword. But this “flow” was neither free nor flowing nor even necessarily informational. Historian Diana Lemberg presents a critical biography of the famous phrase, whose leading advocates assumed information would move from the United States to the rest of the world and not the other way around. Barriers Down recovers long forgotten debates that are more relevant than ever. Michael Schudson, author of The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency, 1945–1975
Introduction: Liberalizing Missions
1. Freedom for Every Medium, Everywhere: Information Politics in the 1940s United States
2. Quantifying and Qualifying Freedom of Information During the Early Cold War
3. Information Flows and the Conundrum of Multilingualism
4. Capacity as Freedom During the Development Decade
5. Satellites and the End of Sovereignty
6. Cultural Turns in the International Arena
7. “A Global First Amendment War”: Freedom of Information on the Verge of the Neoliberal Era
Epilogue: Free Flow Bytes Back?
Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Diana Lemberg is assistant professor of history at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.