Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century

Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century

Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century

Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century

Synopsis

George W. Bush's campaign for war in Iraq in 2003 drew attention to the ways in which an American president may try to sell a war. Of course, Bush was not the first to use his position and propaganda in this way, as the essays in this standout volume detail. Preeminent scholars in the field share their insight in this impressive collection. Chapters by Paul S. Boyer, Lloyd Gardner, George C. Herring, Robert J. McMahon, Chester Pach, Emily S. Rosenberg, Robert D. Schulzinger, Mark A. Stoler, and Marilyn B. Young enrich this comprehensive and enlightening work. From the Spanish-American War to the War on Terror, each chapter in Selling War in a Media Age explains how modern presidents have influenced, coerced, directed, and led public opinion over matters of war and peace since 1898.

Excerpt

History represents a conversation with the past, one that is often inspired by the problems of the present. So it should come as no surprise to discover that the presidency of George W. Bush prompted historians to take a hard look at how modern American presidents have “sold” episodes of war and international conflict to the public. After all, the Bush administration was both brazen and open about its campaign to sell the Iraq War in 2003, publicly describing its efforts to garner support for the invasion as a “product launch.” a 2008 memoir by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan provoked a media frenzy merely for confirming what many observers had suspected all along: that the administration had deliberately manipulated public opinion to secure its support for the invasion of Iraq. in a chapter titled “Selling the War,” McClellan revealed how Bush and his advisors created “enormous momentum for war” through a “carefully orchestrated campaign” of political propaganda. Shading the truth and manipulating the press, the Bush administration “managed the crisis [with Iraq] in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option.”

George W. Bush may have drawn attention to the ways in which a president sells a war, but the essays in this volume reveal that he was hardly the first to do so. Throughout U.S. history, America’s chief executives have worked to shape public opinion on issues of war and peace, efforts that have become more systematic in the past century. the communication and information revolutions of the twentieth century made influencing mass public opinion a prominent feature of presidential leadership—so much so, in fact, that political science and communication scholars have characterized the modern presidency as “the rhetorical presidency”—in which public persuasion is the president’s primary task. As President Bush confessed to a group of schoolchildren in an unscripted remark in 2005, “See, in my line . . .

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