During the First World War, people started realizing that campaigns and techniques of mass persuasion were working their way into the United States. World War I was not the first instance of the use of propaganda, but it was the period in time where propaganda was relied on heavily for the manipulation of the masses. Propaganda, labeled immediately as evil orchestrated deception, "helped observers and critics understand patriotic hysteria in all countries and the repressive domestic climates those passions provoked." (Gary 1) Gary argues in his book, The Nervous Liberals: Propaganda Anxieties from World War I to the Cold War that propaganda, "influenced the outset of World War II and profoundly shaped liberal U.S. intellectual and political culture for the next several decades." He also argues that "concerns about the subversive effects of propaganda consistently resulted in the triumph of national security liberalism over free speech liberalism." Gary's book follows a very predictable pattern, chronological. In covering the information chronologically, he is able to show the progression of the United States and its position on propaganda quite seamlessly. But, his tangents also lead him to mix the information into an incongruous run-on that leaves the reader questioning when it will end.
In reading his research, I can conclude that Mr. Gary is a very intelligent man that backs up all of his statements with credible sources. I found the book lengthy and tedious because he over analyzes many topics such as "the scientific study of propaganda" (124 pages) and his rants on "national security liberalism (every other sentence)." Gary tries to present his topic with as much information as humanly possible, but ultimately drowns out his thesis by doing so.
Gary starts his book off by explaining the United States' fear of propaganda during the outbreak of World War II in Europe. The chapter explores how Fascist and Communist movements made the U.S. focus their attention on foreign influences rather than the American home front. Although foreign influences were quite dangerous, Gary states in his book if the United States had used more resources in developing their own propaganda, foreign propaganda would not have been such a treat. Gary suggests that "propaganda is dangerous because it is implicitly deceptive and usually foreign." But he also states, "within the U.S. liberal culture, the discussion about propaganda kept returning to the same fundamental question: How can we silence foreign powers present in the United States." He answers this question very bluntly, "We could not have stopped it by any means."
The Scientific Study of Propaganda could put any human to sleep within seconds. Harold D. Lasswell, a gifted scientist, studied the relationship between science and power. "His abundant writings from the mid 1920's through the early 1940's expressed the confidence of an unabashed social engineer making governance more efficient and scientific."...