- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (September 26, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195111508
- ISBN-13: 978-0195111507
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,323,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Selling War: The British Propaganda Campaign against American "Neutrality" in World War II Revised Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
This scholarly analysis supports the theory that propaganda is most effective when accelerating natural developments in public opinion. The isolationism that dominated America in the 1930s was challenged by events, specifically ruthless Nazi aggression. British publicists and political leaders assisted the process by highlighting the bonds of a common language, literature and political heritage, transcending what were made to seem minor policy differences. This approach proved especially effective among the Anglophilic elite that dominated U.S. decision making out of all proportion to its numbers. The American people in 1941 joined and fought a war they knew principally through British eyes-a perception fostering the "special relationship" that continues to influence U.S. policies a half-century later. Yet for all this analysis about British influence, what choice did the U.S. have once Japan attacked and Germany declared war?
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Isolationists blamed Britain for gulling the U.S. into the First World War and stood firmly against Britain's vital need to get America involved in the second. With subtlety a necessity and "No Propaganda" their operational byword, the British set about their task of isolating the isolationists by massaging as many media outlets and film studios as they could. Cull delves into the organizations set up to mold American opinion, which combined overt and covert methods. Using the former method, they simply allowed radio broadcasts of the Blitz, which created the Edward R. Murrow legend as well as confidence that Britain would not be defeated. In secret, they weren't above placing articles favorable to their cause or even foisting a fraud on FDR. In October 1941, Roosevelt claimed to have a Nazi map of German plans for South America, a map likely forged by the man named Intrepid, William Stephenson, the SIS boss in New York. Cull meticulously looked for the source of the map, but its footprints were likely covered up once the purpose of the British information-offensive was attained. Highly detailed, this history elevates this aspect of America's entry into the war above the footnote status, where it has hitherto resided. For larger collections. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
According to Prof Nicholas John Cull of Leicester Univ, American neutrality was contrary to British foreign policy so a British 'Fifth Column' was implemented to suck America back into her Mama's Empire. Winston Churchill, who held American and British citizenships, probably did more to suck America back into the British Empire than any other single British statesman. Churchill boasted that he had "dreamed of, aimed at, and worked for" American brawn to backup British Empire during WWII. Everywhere the Yanks are embroiled today are those quagmires originally created by the British, Iraq is just one good example (See also 'Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq' by C. Catherwood at www.amazon.co.uk).
Prof Nicholas John Cull at Leicester Univ did his PhD in 1991 at Leeds on British propaganda and information warfare aimed at getting America off her libertarian footing and back to providing the brawn to British Empire as was accomplished for the first world war. At the same time that Cull wrote his dissertation, Susan Brewer of Cornell Univ in New York wrote hers - 'Creating the Special Relationship: British Propaganda in America in World War Two', Cornell Univ, PhD 1991. Cull's book 'Selling War' is basically a 1995 rewrite of his PhD disseration, while he was teaching at the Univ of Birmingham in England.
The point to all this is that America, which had fought two wars against Britain and Empire in 1776 and 1812, was sucked back in by a deal between American elites and British elites who saw BIG oil money $$$ if they partnered up to do a snow job on the American public. That's why everywhere Bush goes today you see Blair whispering into his ear. I mean think about it - that dumb cowboy pulling the strings?!! If it isn't his British bosses calling the shots, then who?
Author kept moving around from different events somewhat breaking cohesion of the premise. The British may have found sympathy in America but it did not get America to get into the war.
What was the reason for this remarkable change of heart? Many would say, the atrocities of Nazi Germany. And that is certainly part of the truth. But the fact remains that, when one examines the particulars, it is clear that the USSR caused more mass death, ethnic cleansing and overall suffering than the Nazis ever did, before, during and after World War II. It was widespread knowledge in 1941 that the gallows, execution squads, labor camps and man-made famines of Communism had claimed, at the very least, millions of victims. At this point, the Nazis had barely begun their own equally awful, if smaller, campaign of genocide. If atrocities alone were the explanation, the US would have said, "A plague on both your houses!" and stayed clean out of the dictators' brawl. (In fact, this was what many at the time, such as ex-President Herbert Hoover and future President Harry Truman, actually advocated doing.)
Rather, the true cause was another, one that seems startlingly obvious in hindsight and, indeed, was obvious to some of its contemporaries: A brilliantly directed campaign of pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi war propaganda, from sources domestic and foreign alike, expertly tailored to appeal to the American mind. Only through the mother of all PR campaigns could all of America's hereditary hostility to tyranny be redirected at merely one of the two great dictatorships of the age, while the other was, in truly Orwellian fashion, hailed as the beacon of freedom and democracy in Europe. After the war, as soon as that flood of propaganda receded, the public again at once realized that the USSR was no cozy little Euro-Socialist welfare state. But by then, of course, it was much too late.
This, however, is a story for another time; here, we are concerned with the propaganda itself. Nicholas John Cull's brief but very thoroughly researched account examines one particular propaganda lobby, that sponsored by the British government between 1939 and 1941 to bring America into the war on the Allied side. It is a remarkable story, to be sure, telling as it does of a momentous deception that subverted the news media nationwide, deployed a full-fledged foreign-run secret police on US soil, and even produced some of the most enduringly memorable movies of its day.
As Cull meticulously documents, from 1940 at the latest the British Secret Service had a finger in nearly every pie where American opinion-making was concerned. Famous media personalities were recruited for the cause; directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Alexander Korda and Walter Wanger willingly agreed to include "suitable" messages in their films, and fanatically anti-Nazi star reporters like Dorothy Thompson and William Shirer were predictably eager to strike a blow at Hitler, even if this meant betraying the American public's trust in their journalistic integrity by knowingly spreading propaganda provided by a foreign intelligence agency. Even more ominously, powers within the government -- Up to the very top, in the Oval Office itself -- granted the British basically free reins, even where their operations were obviously illegal under US law, since they largely agreed with their goals. Thus, when Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle, in charge of domestic counter-intelligence, tried to counter this large-scale penetration, he was cold-shouldered -- Even when what he had to report was quite alarming. As quoted by Cull (p. 145), he told Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles in March 1941 that:
"...a full size [British] secret police and intelligence service is rapidly evolving. There are, or are about to be, district officers at Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, Portland and probably Seattle. We know that to the existing offices there are now reporting a very considerable number of regularly employed secret agents and a much larger number of informers, etc."
In response to his opposition, the British spooks set about to "scour Washington in search of any 'dirt' on Berle -- dirt black enough to end his troublesome career once and for all" (p. 175) -- Which surely serves to confirm his fears. J. Edgar Hoover and others were also concerned with their activities, which included illegal wire taps and outright strong-arming of recalcitrants. But President Roosevelt and his intelligence czar, William Donovan, approved of all this, and indeed cooperated very closely with the British, to the point where Berle felt forced to complain that:
"...the really active head of the intelligence section in Donovan's group is Mr. Elliott, who is assistant to Mr. Stevenson. In other words, Stevenson's assistant in the British intelligence is running Donovan's intelligence service."
This was probably exaggerating somewhat; but British top agents William Stephenson and Dick Ellis (Berle's memo misspells the names) were certainly on an intimate basis with Donovan, and their agency was closely associated with his, in a way which should indeed concern a patriotically-minded man like Berle. That since available evidence strongly hints that Ellis was also a Soviet double agent would naturally tend further to validate those concerns.
This cloak-and-dagger business is, alas, largely skimmed over in this volume; a much better authority on these aspects of British activity in the wartime US is Thomas Mahl, in his magisterial study "Desperate Deception" (1998) -- Also a volume which is absolutely essential in order to understand the domestic political scene during these fateful years, and which is to be warmly recommended. What Cull does do very well is to chart the minutiae of British influence in the news and entertainment media, which extended down to influencing comic book artists in a suitable direction(!). His careful and conservative evaluation is based both on the extant records (limited as they are; the British destroyed most of their documents after the war) and on interviews with surviving members and associates of the propaganda agencies.
In all, this is a very interesting as well as important account. Interesting, because it shows a rarely seen aspect of the "Good War" and just how dirty the "good guys" could play when they needed to. And important, because in exposing the methods which have historically been used by a foreign power to influence and subvert US politics, it warns us of some of the ways in which others may still be doing so today. (For surely most of us are not so naive as to believe that propaganda died with Doctor Goebbels in Berlin in 1945.) It is therefore to be recommended to all readers -- Ideally along with Mahl's book, which provides more detail on the really dirty side of the dirty business that "Selling War" describes.