The following is an excerpt from COBRAGANDA: Winning Hearts and Minds In America’s Second Cold War by Professor Winston Gambles (Harper-Collins, 2008), reprinted here with permission from the author.
Like all wars, America’s ongoing conflict with Cobra Command was fought on the battlefield as well as in the theater of public opinion, and it was at this that the Armed Forces found themselves at the greatest loss. The enigmatic Cobra Commander, after all, claimed to have risen himself from the ranks of the common man1 and was recruiting not from our traditional enemies2 but from our own disaffected and disenfranchised citizens. When combined with the fact that the Commander claimed to be offering a true alternative to politics-as-usual, complete with subsidized housing and tax-free weather domination, recruitment to the Vipers was steadily gaining a foothold in major urban centers.
To counteract this, the Department of Defense authorized an advertising campaign at incredible expense to refocus the public’s attention on the enemy by reviving an engine of propaganda that hadn’t been seen since World War II. The resulting production provided a generation with some of its most memorable images, beginning with the classic “When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Destro!” poster that graces the cover of this volume and moving on into other areas, though the themes remained the same.
Often, the images preyed on paranoia…
…especially after the discovery that Fred XXIV had infiltrated the National Security Council, when the message was changed, using members of America’s daring highly trained special missions force as examples:
Other members of the team–most notably female soldiers–were used for images that would later be criticized for downplaying their contribution to the war effort:
By contrast, however, Cobra’s female soldiers were portrayed in a significantly more negative light:
In addition to the pieces directed at the public, there were also items designed for the military itself, although many, like the cigarette lighters that were given to soldiers during visits from actor Burt Reynolds3…
…were decidedly less subtle.
1: Cobra Commander also claimed at various times to be a half-snake emissary from another dimension that was ruled by Burgess Meredith and Hawkman, but these are generally dismissed as the ravings of a madman. See Appendix 4.
2: Excepting, of course, the Australians.
3: Reynolds volunteered to aid the war effort after he was forced to outrace the Dreadnoks when they attempted to disrupt the filming of Smokey and the Bandit 2.