A war that was started by journalists?

Just got back from playing pinochle. One of the players posed a question.

He said that he remembered something about a war being started by journalists, sitting around and making up stories. His memory is that it was the Crimean War, Boer War, or something of that time frame. I’m too tired to search.

Anything to this?

Remember the Maine?
Spanish American War.

Could he have been talking about the Spanish-American War, largely instigated by the yellow jounalism of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer?

Hearst and Pulitzer

I’m sure that’s what he had in mind, but even the first sentence in the link you posted (“The press played a tremendous part in leading the charge toward America’s involvement in Cuba” - which is absolutely true) isn’t quite the same as samclem’s friend’s assessment that ‘journalists made up stories and started the war.’

…that’s not to nitpick too much, because there is truth behind what he says.

I’d vote for Spanish American War, although there might be some conflation with The First Casualty : The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq (originally published as The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam : The War Correspondent As Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker with an interim edition that ended at Kosovo).

Wag the Dog :smiley: Not a real war, not even in the movie, but that was the premise.

Except those were political operative, and not journalists, IIRC.

Orson Welles addressed this in Citizen Kane.

Both in reference to the situation in Cuba immediately preceding the Spanish American War.

Also an episode of The Day Today (and why is the Google ad for this thread about buying sweets online?)

Let me be the first to say The Spanish-American War. Oh wait…never mind.
But I’ve heard the Boxer Rebellion was also atributable to newsmen on a slow day.

betenoir beat me to it. According to one of those Paradox Press “graphic novel-type” Big Book of ____ (I can’t recall which one) the Boxer Rebellion ultimately is traceable to a group of bored and worried-about-their-jobs-if-they-didn’t-get-a-scoop newspaper reporters in Denver, Colorado. They made up a story about a group of engineers passing through Denver en route to China to see about dismantling he Great Wall (to encourage trade). As it was a comopletely uncheckable story, they agreed to write it up. San Francisco newspapers, unable to verify but unwilling to look uninformed, passed the story along and added to it. The eports filtered through and were reprinted in Chinese newspapers, where they inflamed the nationalist groupsd with names like “Legion of Harmonious Fists”, who protested about foreigners trying to tinker with sacred Chinese structures and Chinese politics, and revolted against the government. Hence the “Boxer Rebellion”

The newspapermen in Denver, seeing what they wrought, wisely kept silent about it, agreeing that the last one alive should tell the story, years later.

Sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true stories, which I strongly suspect it is. I never looked into it further.

And it wasn’t:


You’re right, my memory isn’t what it once was.

Yup. That’s exactly where I heard it. But…but…if it’s not true, then what? Does that mean the folks in the Big Book of Weirdos are not that strange after all :eek: ?

But of course the friend obviously was not remembering the situation with any precision. Beyond that, it’s quite likely that in the lead up to the Spanish American War the yellow press either made up some stories or else exaggerated real events to such an extent that they might as well have been fabricated.

Glad to hear it. I learned a little about the Boxer Rebellion in ninth grade, and never heard anyone say it was the result of a phony story about dismantling the wall.

I just dug out my old copy of this and found that the only true war that the author, Phillip Knightley, attributes to journalists is as has been stated, the Spanish-American War. He also mentions that Stanley of “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” fame had started a number of wars in Africa while he was there supposedly looking for Livingston.

He definitely does not attribute the Boxer Rebellion to journalists nor the Crimean. However he does suggest that (English) journalists played a key role in keeping support for the Boer War early and then helping make the Boer War unpopular in its later stages.

He also states that perhaps that American “Indian Wars” of the West might not have been so enthusiastically pursued if it weren’t for the newspapers of the East. He mentions that Custer had a correspondant traveling with the 7th Cavalry as part of the on-going coverage of the “wars”.

Heck, I’m sure they’re every bit as normal as I am.