Axelbank Reports History and Today

#90: Mark Arsenault - "The Imposter's War"

July 05, 2022 Evan Axelbank
Axelbank Reports History and Today
#90: Mark Arsenault - "The Imposter's War"
Show Notes

During the 2016 presidential election, we got an up-close look at how a foreign nation can influence domestic politics. US intelligence has found that Russia worked to spread disinformation, poison social media and steal documents. But that was not the first time America has been manipulated by a foreign power. 

In the run up to World War I, Boston Globe "Spotlight" reporter Mark Arsenault explains how a reporter for a small newspaper broke numerous stories about supposed German efforts to meddle in American affairs. What readers didn't know is that Great Britain intelligence agents had planted the stories with the willing editor of the Providence Journal, John Rathom, to turn the Wilson Administration and the American people against Germany. Arsenault argues it was a critical piece in Wilson deciding to send American troops "to make the world safe for democracy."

Even more shocking though, is that in his book, "The Imposter's War: The Press, Propaganda, and the Newsman who Battled for the Minds of America," Arsenault argues that Rathom himself was a fraud. He shows how Rathom didn't just lie in his stories, that he was little more than a character Rathom himself cultivated to succeed in the newspaper industry. Arsenault also describes how Rathom was brought down by a young rising political master, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Arsenault's biography can be found here:

He can be reached on social media at

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