The First Casualty
Viking, $35 pb, 348 pp, 9780670079261
It’s a provocative title. Forty-two years ago, Phillip Knightley’s The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The war correspondent as hero, propagandist, and myth-maker (1975) kick-started a new field of media history. Knightley’s rollicking account of journalistic connivance with political and military power from the Crimean to the Gulf Wars spared his industry nothing. The fourth estate’s serial pursuit of national self-interest, its abandonment of objectivity, truth, and morality, revealed many of our most storied war reporters as grovelling servants of the powers that be, monsters of avarice and deception whose first duty was to their own wealth and preferment. If truth was the first casualty of war, principle was prominent among the collateral damage.