How sex, jazz and ‘fake news’ were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute of Historical Research about the secret history of British “black propaganda”.
However, I’ve got quite a number of books in my to-be-read stack at the moment, so Hear My Voice lay in wait on my bookshelf until this past Sunday, when I decided to read the first chapter––just to get a taste of it.
Although I had a very busy day in store––working on a home renovation and making several trips into town––nevertheless I struggled to pull it from the stack, and having rapidly consumed the first chapters, had a hard time putting the book down. By the day’s end, I found I had read the entire book.
While those who know me know I’m a bit of a WWII history buff, I only knew that Hitler’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland was but a hint of what was to come. The history I’d read previously had provided a bit of insight into this crucial lead-up to the war, but not as Vaughan’s book does: in what feels like a first hand account, through the eyes of an interpreter and broadcaster. I was hooked.
Hear My Voice clearly indicates how transformative the medium of radio was in this era, and how deliberate and insidious Nazi propaganda became in the Sudetenland years before Czechoslovakia ever took notice.
All in all, it’s a great read. I think you’ll find Hear My Voiceas intriguing as I did.
Czechoslovak Radio in the mid-1930s, photo: Czech Radio
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Palmer (KC8RZM), who writes:
Was listening to Radio Prague yesterday evening, there was a very interesting item where author, David Vaughan, was interviewed and talked about his most recent book “Hear My Voice” a novel which deals with the lead-up to WWII and in which Czech Radio plays a part:
The play, on which the novel is based, was commissioned by Czech Radio and was awarded the Czech Book readers’ award for 2015. In the interview the importance of this then new technology called radio was discussed and its influence, for good or bad, in the world at large, an interesting parallel to today’s discussion on the role of the internet and social media. From the capsule bio on the book cover his background is in languages and radio (BBC and Czech Radio).
“1938 was a turning point in the histories of Europe and the media. When Hitler annexed Austria and then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, radio was at the heart of events. Battle for the Airwaves looks at the Munich crisis as it was played out on the radio stations of Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain and the United States, and reveals just how central a role radio played in the run-up to the Munich Agreement and beyond. It is a story of propaganda and counter-propaganda, censorship and self-censorship. It is also a story of courage and innovation. Munich was a fateful step in the road to World War Two; it also marked the beginning of the age of the electronic media. Published in English and Czech in a single, illustrated, hardback volume, Battle for the Airwaves is accompanied by a CD recording of key British, Czechoslovak, German and American radio broadcasts from 1938.”
Anyway, just thought the above might be of interest to others at the SWLing Post. I’d like to learn more from him on the role of radio in those early days on the events leading up to WWII. I’m probably going to check out his novel.
Thank you so much for sharing this John! I received an Amazon gift card and have already put Hear My Voice in the cart. I look forward to reading it!
Earlier this year the Czech Republic marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, signed in September 1938 by the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, resulting in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. Radio Prague’s David Vaughan recently published a book in the UK titled “Hear My Voice”, most of which is set in Czechoslovakia in the months preceding the Munich agreement. Its narrator is an interpreter for the international press corps in Prague and he watches the events of 1938 unfold in Central Europe as the atmosphere is getting tenser ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War. Pavla Horáková spoke to David Vaughan and their conversation begins with a few paragraphs from the book.
The proposed sale of an AM station along the Mexico-U.S. border to a group of Chinese investors has stoked fears that the 50,000-watt station will be used to infiltrate the U.S. with Chinese propaganda. Spanish news-talk “W-Radio 690” XEWW (690), which blankets Southern California from Tijuana, is being sold by Mexican broadcaster GLR to Chinese investment group H&H Group USA, owned by Vivian Huo, a U.S. citizen who runs the investment firm H&H Capital Partners.[…]
Front page of the North Korean newspaper “Rodong” on April 28, 2018. (Source: Mark Fahey)
With North Korea in the global spotlight, I’ve been making every effort to listen to the Voice of Korea on shortwave. Unfortunately, from here on the east coast of North America, conditions have simply not been in my favor.
Fortunately, a couple of SWLing Post and SRAA contributors have had my back.
This morning, North Korean propaganda specialist Mark Fahey uploaded the following VOK recording to the archive and included notes and insight:
[The recording is] off 9,730 kHz so a mint shortwave file.
Recorded at the “Behind The Curtain” remote satellite and HF receiving site near Taipei, Taiwan (the site is remotely operated from Freemans Reach in Australia and was specifically established to monitor North Korean radio & television 24×7).
[I] also have long domestic recordings (which is what I have been focusing on rather than VOK).
[…]Of course domestic in Korean – but that has been my main interest/monitoring – what does the regime say to the domestic audience–?
They seem quite serious (I mean genuine) even acknowledging South Korea as a separate place and Moon being the president of this place. The domestic propaganda now not hiding the fact that South Korea is a separate sovereign nation, which is very un-North Korean propaganda!
The news is still kind of breaking in North Korea and the radio reflects that – the reports sound like Friday was yesterday. It takes a long time for North Korean media to report anything, so news from 3 days ago is presented as if it only happened 3 hours ago.
Also since it’s all topical I will include a YouTube link to a Voice Of Korea Documentary (propaganda to our ears of course–!) that has recently been posted to the Arabia Chapter of The Korean Friendship Association:
I wrote to them at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and asked why they didn’t mention the U.S. Government’s considerable state media broadcast resources in their article.
Apparently they never heard of international broadcasting.
Maybe you could link to this article in the SWLing Post and encourage readers to write to the Washington Post’s Editorial Board to enlighten them.
It amazes me that people who work at high levels in a major U.S.-based news media outlet seem so ignorant about international broadcasting.
Thanks, Ed. It is interesting that while the article notes RFE and VOA’s TV program, Current Time (which is only available online), they fail to mention the substantial resources backing RFE/Radio Liberty and VOA’s on-air audio broadcasts that are also available to stream online.
This week, SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, was featured in the NK News for his research in North Korea. While Mark has made a wide array of his work available through a media-rich (free) iBook, this particular article focuses on the “Morning Chorus” heard throughout Pyongyang in the early hours of the morning:
Why does an eerie electronic ballad play across North Korea’s capital every morning?
It was early in the morning, but Mark Fahey had been awake for hours. A biomedical engineer turned North Korean propaganda expert, he had spent most of the night tinkering with a radio in his room at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, secretly recording the opening moments of Pyongyang FM Pangsong.
While he listened to the station’s typical offering of classical music and propaganda, another microphone and recorder were set up next to an open window to capture the sounds of the city as it roused itself awake. It was August 2011, and the sun hung low on the horizon. Fahey expected to pick up the sound of the dredging work taking place along the Taedong River.
Instead, he heard music.
“Pyongyang is deadly silent at night,” Fahey tells NK News. “If a lorry’s just passing through the city, you’re going to hear it. It’s so quiet. And at 6 am, you hear this kind of weird…” he hesitates. “It sounds like mind control music.”
Seeking an explanation, Fahey brought the tune up with his minder.
“They didn’t know what I was talking about,” he recalls, “but I don’t actually think that means they didn’t know what it was. They probably didn’t realize that I could hear it from where I was.”[…]