The Suez Canal Crisis, which occurred in 1956, was a “humiliating end” to the imperial influence of France and Great Britain (The Suez Crisis: An Affair to Remember). The Crisis began when Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt in 1956, decided to build the Aswan Dam. He felt that building a dam would help his country irrigate during drought. Nasser approached the United States, the Soviet Union, and the World Bank to find funding for the dam. The United States intended to help fund the dam until it found out that Nasser had also asked the Soviet Union. The United States then rescinded their offer to help financially. This resulted in Nasser needing to make up for lost funds, which he did by nationalizing the Suez Canal. The canal connected the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and made the trip considerably shorter and cheaper for ships. The canal had been both Britain and France’s main source of oil at the time. When Nasser nationalized the canal, Israel, France and, Britain joined together to attack Egypt in an attempt to make Egypt allow ships from all countries to travel through the canal. In response, Egypt sank the 40 ships that had been in the canal. The media in Egypt, Great Britain, and the United States reported stories about the Suez Canal Crisis that were not completely true. These stories were exaggerated and contained inaccuracies about the event.
The British media portrayed strewed stories of the Suez Canal Crisis to the people of Britain. The press, newsreels, radio, and the D-Notice System was used to push the media’s viewpoint on the Canal Crisis. D-Notices were “official [requests] to news editors” that asked them not to broadcast or publish particular pieces of a news story for reasons of national security (D-Notice). Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Canal Crisis, used D-Notices to control what was being presented by the media. Newsreels were also regulated by D-Notices. Newsreels were short clips, played in cinemas, that presented the important news of the time. At the time of the Suez Crisis, people went to the cinema to see a movie very often, so newsreels had a large audience. They were considered part of the entertainment industry, so the newsreels tended to be non-controversial, pro-government clips. The British Pathe newsreel, Israel Invades Egypt – Britain Acts, shows the view on the Suez Crisis that was portrayed by the media. The newsreel shows shots of Egypt, along with shots of British soldiers boarding warships. It said that the “world [waited] tensely” to find out if Britain would gain control of the canal again (Israel Invades Egypt – Britain Acts 1956). This made it seem like Britain was not the only country that wanted to see the British flag over the canal and that everyone was on their side. This newsreel and many others contributed to the skewed message portrayed by the British media during the Suez Canal Crisis.
British newspapers and radio broadcasts also manipulated its stories to spread its conservative, pro-Britain, anti-Nasser message. The use of the radio propaganda against Nasser “increased sharply” during the time of the Canal Crisis (Calhoun). The BBC, or the British Broadcasting Corporation, was responsible for many of these anti-Nasser broadcasts. Newspapers in Britain wrote against Nasser’s decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. Many of the leading British newspapers, such as The Guardian, The Express, The Mail, and the Times of London, were influential in what the American press reported during the Suez Crisis. The Guardian refers to the event of British troops leaving Egypt as an “unhappy story” (Guardian). By using an adjective such as “unhappy” the paper told the reader how to feel about the event. The major papers often "compared Nasser to Hitler" (Calhoun). The British and the American public would have had the atrocities committed by Hitler in their recent memory when reading these papers, causing it to have much meaning to them and much of the public to be influenced to dislike Nasser. The use of newspapers and radio broadcasts would have greatly influenced the opinion of the British public during the time of the Suez Canal Crisis.
The American media used its influence to turn the American public opinion against Nasser. The media started a “disinformation campaign” in which they gave the public limited information and portrayed Nasser in a negative light (Calhoun). America was not the only country that had started a disinformation campaign, though. Israel also started one, which directly influenced the American media. Of all of the American reporters in the Middle East-North Africa region, "forty percent" were reporting from Israel (Calhoun). Because of this, much of the information reported from Israel was influenced by the disinformation campaign, and therefore altered based off of what the Israel government was willing to release and how they wanted the story to be portrayed to the public. At times, this caused the information that was being reported to be opposite to the information that was confidentially being collected by the Central Intelligence Agency. The American media was influenced by the Israeli and the British media, causing it to many times be inaccurate during the Suez Canal Crisis.
Time Magazine wrote many articles on the Suez Canal Crisis that condemned Nasser and supported the decisions made by the United States government on the situation. Time Magazine was read by many people during the Suez Canal Crisis and had a large audience, causing it to have much influence on public opinion. One of the articles written by Time during the Crisis reluctantly admitted that Nasser had won the Suez Canal from Britain, but concluded by stating that there would still be a “price that Nasser [would] have to pay” (Through and Around Suez). The article refused to admit that Nasser winning the canal would be beneficial to him and argued that there would be such a loss in revenue that it was almost not worth winning. Another article states that Nasser’s actions would cause him to “end by willing his own downfall” (Nasser’s Revenge). This article opened with a quote in which Nasser tells the United States that he hoped that they would “choke to death on your fury” (Nasser’s Revenge). This quote along with the title, “Nasser’s Revenge”, would have immediately caused the American public to have a feeling of dislike towards Nasser. Yet another Time article described Nasser as a “brash young dictator” whose control of Egypt lead to the loss of allies and profits (Nasser Reacts). Time Magazine’s articles on the Suez Canal Crisis helped shape the public opinion of Americans and caused a general dislike towards Nasser.
The New Republic was another popular magazine that shaped a negative public opinion about Nasser. One article stated that Nasser played “the same role” as Senator McCarthy during the McCarthy trials (Halle). The article claims that Nasser is willing to do anything to extend his power and is therefore a threat to the international order. Comparing Nasser to McCarthy in this way would have the same effect on the public opinion as comparing him to Hitler did. Simply by reading that Nasser was similar to McCarthy in any way would cause Americans to dislike him. “As Nasser Sees Himself”, also published in The New Republic, states that one of Nasser’s “warmest admirers” had disclosed Nasser’s plan to build an empire. America felt that if Egypt became an empire the Soviet Union and Communism would grow. For this reason, Americans would have wanted to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening, and therefore would not have supported Nasser. Another article referenced a previous article published in The New Republic that had referred to Nasser as a “dangerous fellow” (If Nasser Wins). The article is now saying that the previous article had “[underestimated] just how dangerous” Nasser actually was. The article continues to explain that if Nasser won the fight over the Suez Canal, he would help the Soviet Union and supply them with oil. At the time America was extremely against the Soviet Union, so this immediately would have caused Americans to side against Nasser. The New Republic used a multitude of articles to push the American public opinion to be against Nasser.
Unlike the media of Great Britain and the United States, the Egyptian media manipulated the events of the Suez Canal Crisis in a way that made Nasser seem heroic. The Egyptian Gazette told the story of the entrance of a train filled with the Egyptian police force into Point Said. It describes massive celebration and the train being decorated with “flowers and photographs of President Abdul Nasser” (The Egyptian Gazette). The Egyptian public saw Nasser as a hero that got them the Canal that they felt that they deserved and rid them of the British presence in Egypt. Before Nasser took office, Egyptians had felt like “second class citizens in their own country” because of the British (Trueman). The Egyptians had felt that Nasser had given Egypt back to the Egyptians. After being under the control of Britain for many years, the it is not surprising that with the help of the media, the Egyptians would be looking for a way to have freedom and independence. Nasser gave them this freedom, and in return they gave him their support. The media showed Egypt that Nasser was the savior that they had been looking for, which would have caused the Egyptian public to support Nasser’s actions and the nationalization of the Suez Canal.
When the British left the country and the Canal was won by Egypt, the media made Nasser seem like the country’s savior, a stark contrast to the picture of him presented in the American and the British media. Great Britain’s media portrayed Nasser as a dictator, while American media portrayed him as a communist. The media of each country used its influence to get its image of Nasser and the events of the Suez Canal Crisis to its population. By doing this, very different pictures of Nasser were painted to the public of different countries. The media was able to use its resources and its audience to influence the people to think the way that it wanted them to think. In the cases of Great Britain and America, the image that it wanted to show was a very negative one. However, in the case of Egypt, Nasser was shown as a hero that was helping their country find its way to freedom. These feelings created in the public are in direct response to the media.
The Suez Canal Crisis was a time of much conflict for Great Britain, the United States, and Egypt. Egypt’s President Abdul Nasser’s decision to nationalize the Suez Canal was not taken lightly by Great Britain, who had, up until that point, held control of the canal and received the profits. The United States became involved when Egypt received financial aid towards the building of the Aswan Dam from the Soviet Union. The media in the three countries greatly influenced the public opinion during these events. The media in Great Britain, for example, used D-Notices, newsreels, radio broadcasts, and newspapers to influence its public. The British media made Nasser seem like a dictator that had taken away “their” canal. The American media also portrayed Nasser in a negative light. They used major magazines such as Time Magazine and The New Republic as well as newspapers to influence the American public. These publications made Nasser seem like a communist that was against America and would do anything for his own profit. The American people reacted according and had a strong dislike of Nasser during the Suez Canal Crisis. The Egyptian media, on the other hand, made Nasser seem like a hero. Egyptian newspapers told stories of the Egyptian people celebrating Nasser. The media portrayed Nasser as a savior that brought Egypt its freedom and gained back the canal that was rightfully theirs. The Egyptian public loved Nasser and revered him as their President. The public opinion in these countries were influenced by the media. The media had specific images of Nasser that they wanted to portray to the people, and published their stories accordingly. The public was strongly influenced by these stories, which is shown in the way that the events were the same all over the world, but three countries had very different views of these events and the people involved in them.
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