Monday, July 13, 2009

Two great shows on New Books In History

Just when I was about to write a raving review about Marshal Poe's interview with Mark Bradley about the Vietnamese perspective at the Vietnam War, up along came the interview with Susan Brewer about American war propaganda since the end of the nineteenth century when President McKinley had to sell to the public the war with Spain and on the Philippines. Both are very interesting especially for those who are interested in a new perspective on US foreign policy.

Mark Bradley's book is obviously most needed; after all that has been said and written about the Vietnam War, what was sorely missing was an insight in how this war is perceived among the Vietnamese. After Bradley's book, maybe more should follow. Though Marshall Poe has high praise for the book and based on the interview one certainly gets a really good impression about Bradley as an historian, there still is room left for discovery. The most pronounced reason for this is that Vietnam is still not the open society with accessible archives and an established discourse among historians to allow for a definitive Vietnamese version. But certainly Bradly has paved the way.

Brewer's book raises first of all the question of propaganda. What is propaganda? Is it necessarily a bundle of lies to manipulate the public? Can any government live without it? Since the answer to the last question seems to be no, the government will always need some explanatory policy. Even if propaganda is not be a set of outright lies, it certainly is an information initiative to influence the public. Brewer's book (and the podcast) give some insight into the workings of propaganda, from times when media, probably, could be controlled, to the modern age when there is always plenty room for opposing voices. The bottom line is that propaganda never seems to have lost its efficacy.

More NBIH:
Two old and one New Books In History,
The latest in New Books in History,
Three recommendations,
American Exceptionalism,
The Great War in short.