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The Philippines and Ireland as addtional examples of early press influence

Reader comment on item: Op Eds Now More Central in War than Bullets

Submitted by John Broom (United States), Oct 19, 2006 at 09:58


In reply to your #717, you are absolutely correct about the changing center of gravity.

I'm a military historian with a military background and have observed this phenomena developing for quite a while. Your comments about it beginning in the period of the Boer War are also right on target, though you could also have pointed to oppostion to the U.S. suppression of the Philippine insurrection as well.

What's rather bizarre about that episode was the American involvement in the Philippines came about as a result of a jingoistic attitude on the part of the "yellow" press, principally the Pulitizer and Hearst papers which fabricated and exaggerated the Spanish actions in Cuba and among other factors resulted in America's acquisition of the Philippines. Those same papers then attacked the McKinley and Roosevelt administrations for their policies in the Islands.

Despite the growing tide of opposition the U.S Was able to quell the Philippine Insurrection by 1902. The book to read is The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars Which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic 1890–1920 by Walter Karp (New York: Franklin Square Press)(New York: Franklin Square Press, 2003, 1979).

An even more dramatic early harbinger press influence in war was during the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921. The British press which was much more balanced than the modern day American press between Conservative, Liberal and Labour views became generally hostile to the British attempts to quell the growing Irish independence movement. This resulted in increasing pressure on Lloyd-George's coalition government including defections by members of his majority in the House of Commons.

The Irish Sinn Fein government played on this publishing its own propaganda newspaper which was heavily drawn on by newspapers around the world, granting interviews to foreign correspondents, and even creating what was known as the Sinn Fein "Scenic Railway" among member of the British Security forces. The Irish would escort members of the press and other influential persons on a tour of various sites and interviews with pre-selected individuals to give a pro-Irish slant to their visitors. In this instance the rising tide of opposition, including opposition from the Church of England hierarchy resulted in the Truce of 1921 and the resulting Treaty which created the Irish Free State and effectively created an independent Ireland. By 1939, Ireland had disentangled itself sufficiently from Britain to maintain neutrality in the Second World War. For further reading on the Irish War of Independence see: "The Anglo-Irish of 1919-192: England's Troubles-Ireland's Opportunities" by John T. Broom in Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot. Ed Dr. Tom Huber, CGSC Press, Fort Leavenworth Press, 2002 or The Anglo-Irish War 1916-1921: A People's War, Willaim H. Kautt, Praeger Press, Westport CT, 1999.

In both of the cases above the nature of the war was essentially a local one, with few if any long term strategic implications. Neither the Filipinos nor the Irish wanted to fundamentally alter the nature of The United States or Great Britain, they were simply struggling for their own independent status as ostensibly democratic states. Neither the Filipinos or the Irish had a global geo-political/ideological agenda which wass inimical to the very essence of democracy, a liberal society and a free press.

Whether the current effort in Iraq and Afghanistan can long be maintained amidst the rising tide of press censure is debeatable. What is not debateable is that in the long run, the Western press must recognize that in this instance our Islamo-fascist opponents have a global geo-political/ideological agenda which is diametrically opposed to democracy, a liberal society and a free press. The question arises whether the press in the free world will recognize it in time? If not then they will have contributed to the destruction of the very institution they prize so highly. An odd irony lies in there.

John T. Broom, Ph.D.


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