Home Book editor You don’t want to miss Mark Arsenault’s new book

You don’t want to miss Mark Arsenault’s new book


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To start

There is no more gifted writer in America than my colleague Marc Arsenault, who was at the Providence Journal and is now part of our Spotlight investigative team at The Globe.

If you enjoy reading Mark’s stories, you’ll love his upcoming book, “The Imposter’s War: The Press, Propaganda, and the Newsman who Battled for the Minds of America.” It comes out on April 5, so be sure to buy it.

It’s about a former Providence Journal editor, John Rathom, who led efforts to expose Germany’s efforts to infiltrate the American media during World War I, but had plenty of skeletons in his cupboard.

There’s a lot of Rhode Island in the book, so I asked Mark to tell us more.

Q: With all eyes on Russian propaganda, it seems like you couldn’t have timed your book’s release better. Why is it so relevant right now?

Arsenault: Someone is always trying to manipulate our way of thinking. In Russia’s interference in the US election and in its attack on Ukraine, Russian agents have used the same propaganda manual that Germany deployed against the United States before America entered WWI. That was what Rathom was up against.

These tactics include fabricated news articles, secret agents claiming to represent groups of voters that do not actually exist, and false flag operations. Only the technology has evolved. It is now more convenient for Russian agents working on computers in St. Petersburg to unwittingly recruit Americans into Russian-led political groups via social media. The Germans at the time of the First World War had to send people here by ship.

Question: John Rathom isn’t exactly a household name in American journalism, but you’ve painted a fascinating, if complicated, portrait of him in your book. How the hell did he end up in Rhode Island?

Arsenault: He came to Providence largely as a result of scandals. He was a journalist in Canada, but fled to the United States just before police came to arrest him for extortion. He quit his job in San Francisco after his wife and lover were implicated in an attempted murder that generated breathless media coverage.

Then he wrote brilliantly in Chicago, but was turned away from the newspapers by a propaganda firm for the railroad industry. When this clandestine operation came to light, Rathom was once again unemployed. He was looking for a job in New York when he learned that the Providence Journal staff had been attacked by a rival and the newspaper had openings.

Q: I’m curious if you think there is a modern version of Rathom, and what that means for all of us.

Arsenault: It’s hard to imagine that there is a modern media figure who is actually an impostor, hiding a deep secret behind a fake name and fake biography. There are characters that remind me of parts of Rathom. He was a nationally known member of the mainstream news industry, as a Jack Taper, but also a massive star who would fall hard out of favor, à la Lance Armstrong.

Rathom participated in as much espionage as he exposed, and there’s simply no obvious parallel for a reporter/spy. As a propagandist and political trickster, however, he had more sincere, less malignant undertones. Roger Pierre.

Q: The book comes out on April 5 (the day after the PC National Basketball Championship game) and you’re having a launch event at “Books on the Square” that night at 6 p.m. Tell us more about the event.

Arsenault: Yes, delighted to organize the initial launch of the book in Providence. Everyone is welcome. It should be a blast. I will discuss Rathom, his influence, and how I researched and wrote the book. My contact for the evening is a journalist Mike Stanton. Mike has experience with Rhode Island’s Colored Rogues, as the author of the definitive fire biography Friend Cianci.

We will answer any questions that arise, of course, and I will argue that John Revelstoke Rathom is the most fascinating Rhode Islander in history.

The Globe in Rhode Island

⚓ While 62% of all Rhode Islanders owned a home in 2019, only 34% of black Rhode Islanders did, according to a recently released report by researchers at Brown University. Read more.

⚓ Just a day after Bryant University clinched its first NCAA Tournament berth since leaving Division II, its administration announced plans to dedicate new facilities, including an iconic Convocation Center and Arena. Read more.

⚓ Speaker of the House K.Joseph Shekarchi and Representative June S. Spokesperson on Thursday unveiled a package of 11 bills to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis. Read more.

⚓ Will Rhode Island end the sale of pinches of alcohol? Read more.

🎂 Rhode Map readers sent another round of happy birthday wishes to: Kerri Goodson (41), Eric Wagner (41), Joe Green (70), Michaela Antunes, Peter Baptista (37), Eric Hyers, Nate Pseekos (42), Ernie Almonte, Stu Crowley (78), Tim Clarkin, Santiago Posas (32), Adam Harrington, Janice Day, and Shay Maloney.

Also in the Globe

⚓ The 2020 census missed a surprisingly small percentage of the total US population given the unprecedented challenges it faced, according to a report released Thursday, but civil rights leaders were outraged that black residents, Latinos and Native Americans have been neglected at higher rates than a decade ago. Read more.

⚓ President and CEO of Kane’s Donuts Paul Delios filed a lawsuit against her siblings last week, alleging they were trying to oust her from the beloved business. Read more.

⚓ What does baseball’s latest labor agreement mean for the Red Sox? Read more.

what is there today

Email us the events at [email protected]

⚓ The Brothers take on Creighton at 6:30 p.m. You can watch the game on Fox Sports 1 or listen on WPRO-AM.

⚓ The Big East Championship game is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1.

My previous column

Ed Cooley overcame long struggles as a child growing up in South Providence. Now his rambling brothers are following their coach’s lead. If you missed the column, you can read it here. And all of my columns are on our Rhode Island Commentary page.

Rhode Island Report Podcast

Ed Fitzpatrick talk to Aminullah Fairy, a frontline Afghan interpreter who worked with the US military for nearly 12 years. Listen to all of our podcasts here.

Thanks for reading. Send your comments and suggestions to [email protected], or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan . I’ll be back tonight after the Providence-Creighton game.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.