SELLING WAR by Nicholas John Cull


The British Propaganda Campaign Against American 'Neutrality' in World War II
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 A valuable study of how British propaganda helped to bring the US into WW II, which shows too why such a study has been so slow to appear. Nobody comes out of such an examination unscathed. Americans can't feel good about an isolationism so profound that it nearly permitted Nazi Germany to conquer Europe--or about the fact that three months before Pearl Harbor the ``Mothers of America'' were pelting the British ambassador with rotten eggs. Jews cannot be happy about the lobbying they had to do, as late as 1940, to compel the American Jewish Congress to endorse the Allied cause. Admirers of FDR must cringe at the irony in Cull's report of the president's being ``infuriated'' in 1939 by British indecision in response to German aggression. The British bungled, too. The Empire's bureaucracy put every obstacle in the way of American reporting of the Blitz, which was largely responsible for turning the tide of American opinion. Yet, as Cull (History/Univ. of Birmingham, England) notes, ``the cumulative achievement of the British effort was tremendous,'' and he shows how the British changed their propaganda themes during the course of the war: from ``Britain Can Take It'' during the Blitz to ``Give Us The Tools And We Will Do The Job'' in 1941. One is still left with the thought that the change in American sentiment was due less to skillful British propaganda than to the fact that the British authorities finally allowed the American public to know what was going on. As Eric Sevareid put it, the secret to good press relations in London was simple: ``We wanted Hitler to lose.'' Cull sometimes goes beyond the evidence--as in saying that without the American lend-lease program, 1941 would have brought a British defeat. But this is a sensible, thoughtful, and--in revealing the foibles of many key actors--an often amusing book. (16 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-508566-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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