The Thought War: Japanese Imperial Propaganda, by Barak Kushner, is now available in paperback.
May 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3208-7 / $18.00 (PAPER)
Here’s what reviewers had to say about the cloth edition.
“Completely individual and very interesting. . . . Kushner’s book is, I think, the first to treat propaganda as a profession in wartime Japan. He follows it through its various stages and is particularly interested in its popular acceptance—wartime comedy, variety shows, how entertainers sought to bolster their careers by adopting the prewar message, which then filtered down into society and took hold. Using almost entirely primary materials, which have not before been translated, Barak re-creates the wartime world in which propaganda was the truth. In so doing, he has given us an eminently readable account of an unknown aspect of the war and has defined our understanding of it.” —Donald Richie, Japan Times (Read full review)
“[The Thought War] reveals a good deal more about Japan at war than has been available heretofore in Western languages. If propaganda is understood in its classic sense of truth or falsehood deliberately spread to promote a cause, [it] detects wide evidence of it in political ideology, public relations, advertising, hortatory admonitions to citizens, and even in the coercive tactics of the thought police. This soundly researched book highlights the multiple, often ill-coordinated sources of Japan’s wartime propaganda. . . . [It] should help considerably in advancing the urgent project of defining and assessing responsibility, not only for Japan but for all combatants, and not only for World War II but for all conflicts and modes of political violence.” —Journal of Japanese Studies
“Kushner discovers that, contrary to what is usually believed, Japan’s wartime propaganda was rational, depicting Japan as a modern state. It was effective because it appealed to reason rather than to mystical nationalism or to the cult of the emperor. It presented Japan as a progressive, scientific, and hygienic country, ‘the harbinger of civilization that Asia should strive to emulate’ (p. 11). As such, Japan shouldered the obligation to liberate and lead its less fortunate neighbors. This message had a great appeal to intellectuals, who supported the war as a campaign to liberate Asia.” —Monumenta Nipponica (Access full review at Project Muse)
“The emperor figured little, Kushner notes, in Japanese propaganda. What did figure, first and foremost, was ‘modernization.’ This was the overall theme, and it was intellectually respectable. Japan was a demonstrably ‘modern’ country, the only one in Asia. It was a ‘civilizing force,’ the natural leader of a pan-Asian modernity drive. Stalinist, Nazi and fascist propaganda depended upon dictatorial force on the one hand and, in the sense that its messages could scarcely withstand intelligent scrutiny, mass intellectual self-suppression on the other. Japanese propaganda was different. It was credible. Japan had modernized; Japan was more advanced than its Asian neighbors.” —International Herald Tribune