In this book, Steven R. Brydon analyzes American war propaganda spanning from the Spanish-American War through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Brydon argues that many of these wars were fought based on false or misleading narratives, beginning with blaming Spain for the sinking of the Maine and continuing, most recently, with charges that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Research has shown that well-told stories can affect the public’s beliefs, attitudes, and actions, and Brydon has identified some of these recurring stories that have been told to support and sustain each war during this time period. Using Fisher’s narrative paradigm, Brydon critically evaluates these “war stories” to determine if they possessed narrative coherence and fidelity that provided good reasons to go to war, rather than simply the appearance of these qualities. The responsibility, Brydon stresses, is on the media and on academics to view future war narratives through a critical lens, in order to best inform the American people. Scholars of media studies, history, military studies, American studies, and international relations will find this book particularly useful.
Steven R. Brydon is professor emeritus at California State University, Chico.
1. Propaganda and Persuasion
2. Narratives of War
3. The Spanish-American War: A Splendid Little War
4. World War I: The War to End All Wars
5. World War II: The Survival War
6. Korea: The Never-Ending War
7. Vietnam: The Domino Theory Falls
8. The Persian Gulf War: Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome
9. The War on Terror: America’s Forever War
10. Conclusion: Recurring War Stories
About the Author
Drawing on a comprehensive survey of major theories of persuasion and propaganda and combining it with detailed recounting of the narrative of American wars since 1898, Brydon offers an easily readable and compelling account of how propaganda succeeds (and sometimes fails) at sustaining U.S. public support for war. The chapter on Vietnam is especially thorough.
Americans tend to believe in the exceptional righteousness of their country's war efforts, and when that fails, in the resistance they exhibit towards government propaganda measures. Steven R. Brydon shows how consistently American administrations pursued pro-war measures, and how and when resistance occurred and mattered. It's an important lesson for Americans today.
This book is a tremendously engaging narrative that brings the historical record of American war propaganda to life and highlights its relevance to contemporary dynamics of politics and persuasion. Readers who remember these events and those just learning about them will be intrigued by the propaganda tactics deployed by governments and the media to construct enemies and sell wars.
Steve Brydon's book makes its timely debut amid heightened anxieties about the roots and troubling reach of propaganda across the world.
Steve Brydon has done something that's been missing from past books on the subject of propaganda in general and wartime propaganda, specifically: A coherent theoretic base backed by sound empirical research. In doing so, Professor Brydon has tied together the rhetorical foundation of Walter Fisher's paradigm with social psychologist Melanie C. Green's Transportation Theory and quantitative research it spurred. As a result, this book is a far richer, more robust, and heuristic explanation of the how and why of the subject.
I highly recommend Steven Brydon’s American Propaganda from the Spanish-American War to Iraq: War Stories. Taking a narrative and historical approach, Brydon first surveys theories about media effects, propaganda, and story-telling, then turns to a series of case studies, from the Spanish-American War to the War on Terror. Brydon shows how the stories told about those wars had recurrent themes and were, in many cases, misleading. The book is well-researched, artfully written, and timely, as we look to history to help us understand our new era of propaganda and disinformation.
In this comprehensive, engagingly written, and carefully researched book, Steven Brydon illuminates the catastrophic danger of false war narratives. A major theme is that how we consume and, more importantly, critically analyze news is crucial in a world that has become more complex, with competing narratives from multi-media sources. While the term “fake news” has become part of the lexicon, Brydon shows the insidious ways that false narratives have existed in the past and persist today with fragmented media sources, including social media, that refuse to admit, or even suggest, that there is another side to issues. This book meticulously recounts misinformation from the Spanish-American War to the ongoing War on Terror and makes an important contribution to media literacy and the rhetoric of war.