Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University and a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she writes about politics,…
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During World War II, Nazi radio broadcast the voice of an American woman who came to be known as Axis Sally. She spoke, via shortwave radio, to American women, attempting to turn them against their country and the American war effort. She was waging a battle on what came to be called the Inner Front, the war of public opinion. Propaganda-by-radio was new then; so was psychological warfare. Writers, poets, psychologists, propagandists, and broadcasters all took to the airwaves in the 1930s and 1940s in a pitched battle of words and sound. After the war, two American women who had broadcast for Axis powers, Germany and Japan, were prosecuted for treason. How did the courts measure the power of words, over radio, to change minds?