The Myth of a Guilty Nation
This was Albert Jay Nock’s first great anti-war book, a cause he backed his entire life as an essential component of a libertarian outlook. The book came out in 1922 and has been in very low circulation ever since.
The narrative has incredible staying power. The burden of the book is to prove American war propaganda to be false. The purpose of the war was not to liberate Europe and the world from German imperialism and threats. Today most everyone knows and understands this, but this was not known in 1922. If there was a conspiracy, it was by the allied powers to broadcast a public message that was completely contradicted by its own diplomatic cables.
Nock’s book reminds us of what most everyone has forgotten, namely, that this was sold as a war for freedom and self-determination over imperial ambition. Along with that came some of the most rabid war propaganda ever fabricated until that point in time, all designed to make Germany into a devil nation. Nock’s brave book took on that idea and demonstrated that there was fault enough to go around on all sides. All through the 1920s, a Nockian-style retelling of the facts behind the war led to a dramatic shift in public opinion against World War I.
As the introduction by Anders Mikkelsen points out, “Nock makes the reader aware of the great extent to which the allied politicians continually lied to blame Germany and justify the war, or at least told stories with no regard for the truth. No wonder Hitler found British propaganda so inspiring. In fact the story at the time made it sound like Germany was trying to overrun Europe the way Hitler temporarily did a few decades later.
“What makes this book worth reading is not whether this is the best explanation for WWI. It is worth seeing how small groups of state officials engaged in secret actions that led to a catastrophic war, and continually lied throughout the whole process to provide themselves ideological cover.”
For lovers of Nock’s work, this book is a fantastic addition. For those who have never encountered his writing, this book shows how he came to be such a powerful force in the world of literature and letters in the years between the wars.
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