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Wars Are Easily Sold to Americans When Presidents Push the Right Marketing Buttons, New NYU Book Concludes

October 16, 2007
N-111, 2007-08

Americans are always in a buying mood when U.S. presidents sell them a war using the latest marketing and media manipulation techniques, according to a new book by two New York University professors. In Selling War to America: From the Sinking of the Maine to the Global War on Terror (Praeger), co-authors Eugene Secunda and Terence P. Moran conclude that while the U.S. public may sometimes experience buyer remorse after a war has begun, American presidents have had little difficulty in persuading the public to engage in the wars they chose to fight for the past ten decades.

Secunda and Moran’s historical analysis of how wars are sold by U.S. administrations and bought by the American people reveals that a majority of Americans are more than willing to buy a war, if it is properly packaged and skillfully marketed, and whenever they can be persuaded that their national honor or security is being challenged. The authors note that Americans were eager to go to war with Spain in 1898 to fulfill Manifest Destiny-an American Empire in North and South America and across the Pacific Ocean. They also contend that the U.S. invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989 were largely endorsed by the American public when the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush spoke of a national security threat.

“Winston Churchill said that for war to be waged, it must be done behind a ‘bodyguard of lies,’ ” said Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor Ph.D. Programs in History and Sociology, The CUNY Graduate Center Dept. of Film & Media Studies at Hunter College, CUNY. “Selling War to America provides a detailed look at the way this premise has been adhered to by American leaders for more than a century. Today, with our nation mired in a war that was spawned by a remarkably cynical campaign of toxic salesmanship, this book is of particular importance.”

Secunda, an adjunct professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, is an Army veteran and was a senior executive at J. Walter Thompson and other advertising and public relations agencies. Terence P. Moran, a retired U.S. marine who still recruits for the Marine Corps., is a professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School.

Reporters wishing to speak with Secunda or Moran should contact James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808. Request for review copies should be directed to Laura Mullen, Greenwood Publications, at or 203.226.3571, x3356.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Type: Press Release

Selling War to America: From the Sinking of the Maine to the Global War on Terror (Praeger, Sept. 2007)

Selling War to America: From the Sinking of the Maine to the Global War on Terror (Praeger, Sept. 2007)

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