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Hearts and minds

Posted by ESC on April 12, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of the phase "win the hearts and minds of the people" posted by James Briggs on April 12, 2003

: : I see this phrase popping-up all over I remember it's usage as pure propaganda used on the American people. I don't think they dared trying it on the worn torn seen and heard it all Veitnamese. I am just curious if its been around in one insidious form or another for alot longer than century.

: There was an account in the Times within the past week or so of the start of the use of this phrase in its current context. Sadly, my newspaper is now in the recycling process! However, I think I recall that the first use in this context was by a British politician (?Harold MacMillan) in relation to the Communist insurgency was of the 1950s in Malaya, as it was then. There was a great deal of guerilla type activity in which many villagers helped the Communists. In order to stop this it was stated that 'we have to win their hearts and minds'. This, to the best of my memory, is the essence of the background.

I found a quote or two in Bartlett's that included "hearts and minds" but none used it this manner. I did find something in a political dictionary and, yes, we did try it on the Vietnamese:

HEARTS AND MINDS - "The knack of turning a phrase was explained by Theodore Roosevelt to his young aide, Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur, in 1906. MacArthur had asked the President to what he attributed his popularity, and Roosevelt replied, 'To put into words what is in their hearts and minds but not in their mouths.' ('Hearts and minds' later became a slogan of sorts, as what had to be won in Vietnam." From a section on slogans in Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

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