A useful exhumation of an almost forgotten piece of American history and a timely meditation on the conflict between free...




The little-known story of George Creel and the Committee on Public Information, “America’s first and only ministry of propaganda.”

In 1916, Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan, “He kept us out of war!” Within months after his reelection he sought congressional authority for a war to make the “world…safe for democracy.” To marshal his determinedly isolationist countrymen, Wilson turned to Creel, whose background in political journalism and progressive politics ideally suited him for the job of promoting the president’s lofty war aims. Although he invokes influential ad- and public-relations men Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays, historian Axelrod (Profiles in Folly: History’s Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong, 2008, etc.) demonstrates that Creel accomplished something far more sophisticated than simply “selling” the Great War. Thanks to the Espionage and Sedition Acts and a “friendly understanding” with newspaper editors, Creel had a monopoly on war information. Aided by his recruitment of leading figures in all walks of American life, his careful selection of helpful facts and his saturation of the public through press, pictures, movies, public meetings and rallies, Creel sought to transform the public mind and make it receptive to Wilson’s message. With especially fine passages about the Four-Minute Men, community members recruited to address movie audiences while projectionists switched reels, and the Division of Pictorial Publicity, whose members included Charles Dana Gibson, George Bellows and N.C. Wyeth, Axelrod shows Creel’s propaganda machine in action. He marvels at Creel’s efficiency and credits him with honorable, if occasionally disingenuous intentions. He also observes that what Wilson and Creel saw as a morally neutral program, necessitated by war, could easily have become—as Hitler and Goebbels, who carefully studied the Creel’s techniques, later proved—a monster.

A useful exhumation of an almost forgotten piece of American history and a timely meditation on the conflict between free speech and security.

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-230-60503-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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