In This Review

The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler
The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler
By Kathryn S. Olmsted
Yale University Press, 2022, 328 pp

Western democracies ignored the threat from Adolf Hitler and appeased him in the 1930s for many reasons. In this timely book, Olmsted focuses on the role played by the six most powerful media moguls in the United Kingdom and the United States, whose newspapers together reached a majority of their countries’ readers every day. All dismissed the fascist threat and called for appeasement, and some unashamedly embraced fascism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. Moreover, they spread a polemic, sensationalistic, and personalist style of news writing that often crossed the line into outright untruth—a power in which they reveled. In the United Kingdom, Lord Beaverbrook, who boasted that he ran newspapers “purely for the purpose of making propaganda,” called for isolation and appeasement. Lord Rothermere, who founded several British tabloids, praised Nazi Germany and fascist Italy as the “best run” countries in Europe, while secretly writing Hitler to encourage him to invade more countries. In the United States, William Randolph Hearst whitewashed Hitler’s actions, except when he criticized Nazi Germany for allying “with the yellow peril,” a racist way of describing Japan. Other leading U.S. publishers accused President Franklin Roosevelt of imperiling the U.S. Constitution and his Jewish advisers of running a foreign-directed conspiracy. This book reminds readers that nationalist press outlets that disseminate fake news, praise foreign autocrats, and practice dog-whistle politics are nothing new.