You are here

Sage online ordering services are currently unavailable due to network disruption. We are working to restore service as soon as possible. In the meantime, our books are still available widely via retailers and online. Inspection copies can be requested direct from Vitalsource.
If you need further assistance please visit our Contact us page for further information. Thank you for your patience and we apologise for the inconvenience.
The Pen and the Sword

The Pen and the Sword
Press, War, and Terror in the 21st Century

December 2009 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

An eye-opening case study of the news at war, introducing a critical perspective on our mass media

The Pen and the Sword is the only comprehensive examination of how the media have covered the 21st Century's #1 news story: terrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the full story—from 9/11 to the Obama doctrine, and including:

  • The war in Afghanistan. There were two sides to this story, but the press told only one, and the untold story would return to haunt us.
  • The campaign for war in Iraq. What did the press know and when did they know it about the web of lies that led us into war?
  • Iraq, from invasion to "Mission Accomplished." When the story of war is told as patriotic hymn, Playstation game, or melodrama of macho heroes and bad guys dressed in black, important things are left out.
  • Aftermath, from "Mission Accomplished" to the present. Something has changed since the Vietnam War, when the press finally found its critical voice. However, the 21st Century media continue to cling to an untenable, pro-war story, even after the public has abandoned it.

The Pen and the Sword uses this tragic and eye-opening case study of the news at war to ask, "Why?" and to offer a critical perspective on our mass media, including the latest information on the underpinnings of the news business—corporate ownership, the power of elites to define the news—and adds three important new features of the media landscape:

  • The media profit crisis of the late '00s and how it is affecting the news.
  • The creation and mainstreaming of a new right-wing media surround-sound system.
  • The increasing importance of entertainment media and soft news in shaping our views.

Intended Audience

Providing a critical perspective on our mass media, this text is ideal for undergraduate courses such as Media & Politics, International Journalism, Political Communication, Crime and Media, and Sociology of Mass Media.

Praise for this book

"I am very enthusiastic about the book's clear and forthright vision of systemic crisis, involving the social institutions of media and government. Prof. Exoo takes a very strong structural approach in his explanation; this is the most detailed analysis of media representations of the current war that I have seen. The chronological development of the journalistic narrative of the war is engaging and persuasive…This work is a good example of how responsible academics can contribute to the public dialogue."

—Harry W. Haines, Department of Communication, Trinity University

"The writing is fantastic: Very easy to read, to understand, and to synthesize. The arguments are well crafted and well documented. This is the most up to date analysis of the media coverage of the Iraq War I have read, and it would put news coverage of the run-up to the War into context. …It's a fun read, it's accessible for students, and it's timely. What more could a professor ask for?"

—Alison D. Dagnes, Department of Political Science, Shippensburg University

"The news media pay a lot of lip service to the importance of objective reporting and to their role in maintaining a healthy democracy. This book successfully challenges both assertions. … Exoo's book provides an exhaustive illustration of what's wrong with the news media, using a very relevant and timely example."

—Robert Heiner, Department of Social Science, Plymouth State University

"This text will challenge students to reexamine their beliefs about the news media, helping them to become more critical citizens. In doing this, the text would engage students' attention in crucial developments in the media, in politics, and in the intersection of the two."

—Paul R. Brewer, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

1. Media, Democracy, Hegemony
Democracy and the Press

The Theory of Cultural Hegemony

America’s Place in the World: The Hegemonic Story

Another Story: American Empire

Our Manichean Media

Americans and American Empire

2. Night Falls: 9/11 and the Afghan War
“All Changed, Changed Utterly”

From Multilogue to Monologue

The Entertainment Media Enlist

The Bombing Begins

Happy Days Are Here Again: Burkhas Off, Music On!

Return of the Taliban

3. Iraq: War Comes to the “City of Peace”

War Drums: Fall 2002

Final Stretch

You Don’t Say

The Entertainment Media Reenlist


4. “And the Lord Did Shock and Awe Them That Blasphemed Him”
Power and Glory

The Official Story

Embedding: A Pre–History


The Unembedded: At Risk and At Sea

Kodak Moments

More Inconvenient Facts, More Obfuscation

“Mission Accomplished”

5. Aftermath: “What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come Round at Last . . . "
Pictures from “The Dark Side”

A Casualty Story Becomes a Casualty

The Blood– Dimmed Tide

Obama and Beyond

6. Why?
The Commercial Imperative

Establishment Sources

Mainstreaming the Right


"This is one of the best books on media and politics in print and is strongly recommended to all audiences."

R.E. Dewhirst
Northwest Missouri State University

"Exoo has written an exceptionally thoughtful contribution to the politics and media literature.  This is one of the best books on media and politics in print and is strongly recommended to all audiences."

R.E. Dewhirst
Northwest Missouri State University

An indepth analysis of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq from the media's viewpoint and its impact on society.

Miss Frances Jackson
Public Services, Peterborough Regional College
October 25, 2011

A well written and laid out text that gives the insight into how the media/journalists report terrorism. This is important as it is through imedia reporting people get their understanding of terrorism.

Dr David Lowe
School of Law, Liverpool John Moores University
June 2, 2011

book lacked objectivity; it seemed impossible to use this in a course unless you agreed with the author or constantly had to explain why you disagreed. Possibly it could be used as a supplemental text, but it was too single-issue to be used that way for my course.

Dr Dorothy Schulz
Law Police Science Dept, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
May 27, 2010

The language of conflict: The War on Terror, counter-insurgency, WMDs, embedded correspondents,
IEDs. Anyone who has tuned in to broadcast news or read newspapers in the past 10 years will be familiar with the terms which help shape our opinions. But what is the truth? In a shade over 200 pages Exoo's The Pen and the Sword helps shed a little light on our understanding of war reporting in the 21st century.

Mr David Penman
Journalism , De Montfort University
May 18, 2010

This book offers a good insight into the role of the media during an era of heightened awareness of terrorism. The way it combines the reporting of war and its political undercurrents is a strength.

Mr Malcolm Bradbrook
Journalism , Gloucestershire University
May 6, 2010