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The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq (Johns Hopkins Paperback) Paperback – September 13, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0801880308 ISBN-10: 0801880300 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins Paperback
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 3rd edition (September 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801880300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801880308
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Remains the single most perceptive treatment of journalism in times of war and conflict.

(Murray Polner History News Network)

About the Author

Phillip Knightley was an award-winning investigative journalist with the Sunday Times for twenty years. He has written numerous books, including The Master Spy: The Story of Kim Philby, and a memoir, A Hack's Progress. He lives in London and travels widely to write and lecture.


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Greene on August 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The First Casualty" is excellent in that it lays waste to the current myth of the need for neutrality in war reporting. The book documents the history of war reportage from the Crimean War up until the Terror War of today.

Since the Crimean War of one and a half centuries ago there has been no shortage of persons eager to go and report from wherever it is that people are being shot, bombs are being dropped, and battles are being waged. For much of this period war reporters have not been concerned about their neutrality. In fact, according to Knightley, it could be argued that there has yet to be a war covered in which correspondents were neutral.

In the Crimean War, the conflict that gave birth to the war reporter beast, William Howard Russell performed admirably, though not as an objective recorder of history. He was definitely a writer who glamorized war with his "Charge of the Light Brigade" being one of history's greatest examples of a reporter's patriotism bleeding from between the lines. Furthermore, Russell, just about the world's first war correspondent, was not afraid to criticize his government and his critical reportage was eventually partly responsible for the collapse of his nation's government. Russell was anything but neutral.

The American Civil War in many ways represents the nadir of war reporting. No one can claim that journalists followed any journalistic ethics, let alone neutrality, while covering that conflict. Journalists lied, invented stories, and recreated events due to laziness, greed, and to support personally held views. My personal favorite is the journalist that was bought off for cigars and whiskey. Knightley exposes all of this.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Hughes on April 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent account of the history of war journalism. What is most interesting is that, as the title suggests, the author is able to demonstrate that many of the issues concerning this topic have remained the same since the Crimean War.

The accounts of the coverage of specific conflicts is very informative. I just hope that this book is constantly updated with an account of each new conflict as it happens. I would love to know what Knightly has to say about the post 9/11 wars.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Phillip Knightley's book THE FIRST CASUALTY is an informative summary of war correspondents who deliberately distort and lie about war. These correspondents not only lie and report non-events, they also omit crucial information. The tragedy is that these men do so quite willingly

Knightley begins this study with the Crimean War (1854-1856) and the Boer War (1898-1902). Knightley corrects many of the distortions that were reported and informs readers of events ingnored at the time. Knightley also examines deeds of daring which never took place. Knightley's book discusses British and in particularly Australian atrocities during the Boer War which first went unreported but were later blamed on the rank-and-file infantry who were following orders of "superior" officers. The reporting blamed the rand-and-file and exonerated the officers who were actually responsible.

Knightley's study of war correspondents during World War I is thorough. He reports of war journalists who badly distorted the record to the point that events were actually the opposite of what was written. There is on anecdote that bears attention. One journalist was offered huge payments if he could produce photographs and write stories about the atrocities of the "wicked" Germans. In spite of promises of huge payments, he was honest enough to admit he found none. Other war correspondents were not as honorable and wrote considerable bildge which went unexamined for a considerable time.

Knightley's discussion of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks/Communists. This part of the book would have been comical if the events had not been so tragic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S Wood on March 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
"The first casualty when war comes, is truth"
- Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917.

Phillip Knightley is a fine journalist with a long career of first class investigative reporting, as well as a number of fine books under his belt including The Second Oldest Professtion: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century and his biography A Hack's Progress. In "The First Casualty" (originally published in 1975, but updated in 2000 and 2003) he casts his eye upon his own profession and how they have acquitted themselves reporting the many wars of the past century and a half.

The book starts with William Russell Howard the self-declared "miserable parent of a luckless tribe" and his and others record during the Crimean War, followed with the American Civil War, the small imperial wars that punctuated the twentieth century, and on to the Boer War whose reporters included that half child and half man Winston Churchill with his boys own style of writing. Knightley covers the First World War in some depth, the militaries attitude to the press, as well as the other side of the coin, that of the press to the military, for example: "a principal aim of the war policy of [The Times] was to increase the flow of recruits. It was an aim that would get little help from accounts of what happened to recruits once they became soldiers." That little gem of journalistic integrity was from The Times own account of its performance during that war!
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