Media-at-WarThe Media at War

Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan, March 2011, 336pp [2nd edition]

The Media At War: Communication and Conflict in the Twentieth Century (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2000; Chinese language edition, Xinhua Publishing House, Beijing, 2002), 321pp

News media, movies, blogs and video games issue constant invitations to picture war, experience the thrill of combat, and revisit battles past. War, it’s often said, sells. But what does it take to sell a war, and to what extent can news media be viewed as disinterested reporters of truth?

Lively and highly readable, this book explores how wars have been reported, interpreted and perpetuated from the dawn of the media age to the present digital era. Spanning a broad geographical and historical canvas, Susan L. Carruthers provides a compelling analysis of the forces that shape the production of news and images of war – from state censorship to more subtle forms of military manipulation and popular pressure. This fully revised second edition has been updated to cover modern-day conflict in the post 9/11 epoch, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rich in historical detail, The Media at War also provides sharp insights into contemporary experience, prompting critical reflection on western society’s paradoxical attitudes towards war.

“With a fine appreciation of the breadth of her subject, Susan Carruthers has delivered a valuable assessment of the complex synergy between media and conflict. Well written and thoughtful, The Media at War is an essential contribution to the literature of this important field.” Philip Seib

University of Southern California, USA

“Displaying an outstanding command of the area, Susan L. Carruthers provides a well-written and cogently-argued introduction to the terrain between media, popular imagination and war.” Steven Livingston

George Washington University, USA

“Studded with brilliant insight, Susan Carruthers draws on a wide range of disciplines to produce a carefully crafted analysis of the relationship between media and war. The result is a true tour de force that is guaranteed to inspire the reader.” David Welch

University of Kent, UK

"The Media at War" Research

Book Reviews
  • Communication Booknotes Quarterly, 31, 2 (April 2000)
  • Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 7, 2 (Spring 2002)
  • International Affairs, 76, 3 (July 2000)
  • Journal of Peace Research, 50, 2 (2013)
  • Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 2, 2 (May 2001)
  • Journalism History, 26, 1 (Spring 2000)
  • Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 89, 1 (Spring 2012)
  • Journalism Studies, 2, 2 (May 2001)
  • Millennium, 29, 2 (2000)
  • Public Relations Review, 27, 4 (Winter 2001)
  • Times Higher Education Supplement (11/03/2000)
  • World Today (Feb. 2000)
Resources for Research on the Media and War

Internet archive

This site contains the Universal Newsreel collection. Other items of interest: the Prelinger Collection; the 9/11 collection; the Iraq War collection

Library of Congress

War—or, in some cases, something faked to look like war—has been the subject of moving film almost since the moment that movie film first made its debut appearance. The Library of Congress has some footage from the Spanish American War of 1898.

Spanish-American War collection

Museum of the Moving Image

This is an extremely helpful guide to finding cinema and newsreel sources in various online locations (and in different languages).

ABC News Video Source

The Paley Center for Media

A vital repository for TV researchers, the Paley Center collection also contains some radio material as well as television material (including television newscasts as far back as the Korean War; teleplays and documentaries on war-related issues)

The Vanderbilt Television Archive

At least some of the collection (dating back to the 1960s) can be viewed online—free. The collection encompasses TV material of every kind (news, documentary, drama).

The War and Media Network

The War and Representation Network

Other Writing on the media and war
  • “Why Can’t We See Insurgents? Enmity, Invisibility and Counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Photography and Culture, 8, ii (July 2015), pp.191-211
  • “No One’s Looking: The Disappearing Audience for War,” Media, War & Conflict, 1, i (2008), pp.71-77 
  • “Bringing It All Back Home: Hollywood Returns to War,” Small Wars and Insurgencies, 13, iv (2003), pp.167-182; reprinted in Thomas R. Mockaitis and Paul B. Rich, Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism (Frank Cass, 2003), pp.167-82 
  • “Compulsory Viewing: Concentration Camp Film and German Re-education,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 30, iii (Dec. 2001), pp.733-759
  • “Redeeming the Captives: Hollywood and the Brainwashing of America’s Prisoners of War in Korea,” Film History, 8, i, (1998), pp.275-94
  • The Manchurian Candidate and the Cold War Brainwashing Scare,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 18, i (March 1998), pp.75-94
  • “Two Faces of 1950s Terrorism: the Film Presentation of Mau Mau and the Malayan Emergency,” Small Wars and Insurgencies, 6, i, (Spring 1995), pp.17-43; reprinted in J. David Slocum (ed.), Terrorism, Media, Liberation (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005), pp.70-93
  • “‘Manning the Factories’: Propaganda and Policy on the Employment of Women, 1939-47,” History, 75, 244 (June 1990), pp.232-56
  • “Communications Media, the U.S. Military and the War Brought Home” in David Kieran and Edwin A. Martini (eds), At War (Rutgers University Press, forthcoming, 2017)
  • “Casualty Aversion: The Media, Society and Public Opinion,” in Sibylle Scheipers (ed.), Heroism and the Changing Character of War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp.162-87
  • “Limited Engagement: The Iraq War on Film” in Roy Grundmann, Cynthia Lucia and Art Simon (eds) The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film, Vol. 4 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), pp.472-94. Reprinted in American Film History: Selected Readings, 1960 to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), pp.438-53
  • “Propaganda, Communications and Public Opinion” in Patrick Finney (ed.), The Palgrave Guide to International History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp.189-222
  • “Missing in Authenticity? Media War in the Digital Age,” in Mark Connelly and David Welch (eds.), War and the Media: Reportage and Propaganda, 1900-2003 (I.B. Tauris, 2004), pp.236-50
  • “Tribalism and Tribulation: Media Constructions of ‘African Savagery’ and ‘Western Humanitarianism’ in the 1990s,” in Stuart Allen and Barbie Zelizer (eds.), Reporting War: Journalism in Wartime (Routledge, 2004), pp.155-73
  • “Media, Communications and Technology” in Brian White and Richard Little (eds.), Issues in World Politics (Palgrave, 2001), pp.212-231
  • ‘The British State and the Reporting of Terrorism, 1919-94,” in I. Stewart & S. Carruthers (eds.) War, Culture and the Media (Flicks Books, 1996), pp.101-129