American Propaganda Essay Research Paper American Propaganda

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American Propaganda Essay, Research Paper American Propaganda of The First World War As the Great War dragged on in Europe throughout 1914, 1915, and 1916, an overwhelming majority of the American people were determined to stay out of a war they saw as none of their affair. America was still strongly isolationist and deeply reluctant to become involved in the disputes of the outside world. President Wilson had just won reelection to a second term based in large part upon his policy of staying out of the great European war, and was perceived as unlikely to allow the republic to be dragged into the bloody fighting across the Atlantic. But as events coalesced in 1917 a stark and threatening future appeared imminent. The Germans had just launched unrestricted submarine warfare in

an effort to starve Great Britain into submission, the French armies appeared about to collapse, and Russia had dissolved in chaos and revolution. By early spring it had become increasingly clear to President Wilson and his advisers that the United States had no choice but to join the allied cause. If America didn t come to the aid of the Allies Imperial Germany was certain to win, with dire consequences for the future of democracy. When America finally entered the war on April 6, 1917, it was very clear in Washington that unwavering public support would be crucial to the success of the wartime effort. So, as Pratkanis relates, (1999) within a week of the declaration of war President Wilson created the Committee on Public Information to promote the war domestically while

publicizing American war aims abroad. The CPI recruited heavily from the business, newspaper, and art worlds, and blended public relations techniques with a sophisticated understanding of human psychology to disseminate propaganda on an unprecedented scale. The first task of the new organization was research. CPI staff were set to work gathering information about the war, particularly material regarding German activities. This process was rather simple, due to the abundance of newspaper, magazine, diplomatic, and military reports covering in great detail the nearly three years of fighting. As Tucker explains, (1998) the objectives of the fledgling propaganda campaign were basically two-fold-to arouse enmity and hatred against the new enemy, and to rally public support for the war

effort through appeals to patriotism; in order to achieve the United States government s identified goals of increased enlistment, greater industrial production, purchase of war bonds, and other practical measures which would bring the war to a victorious conclusion. As Keegan discusses, (1999) CPI planning discussions explored a number of options, but soon revolved around implementing a program which relied upon indirect messages rather than overt, logical arguments. CPI efforts would focus upon a strategy which included making calculated emotional appeals, demonizing Germany, linking the war to the goals of various social groups, and, when necessary, perpetrating outright lies. To execute its propaganda efforts and achieve these objectives, the CPI planned and programmed a

number of activities. Some of its most important and widely-distributed work was done by the Division of News, which distributed more than six-thousand press releases and acted as the primary source for war-related information. On any given week, more than twenty-thousand newspaper columns featured material taken directly from CPI handouts. Due to effective evaluation techniques, CPI staff people quickly realized that many Americans only glanced at the front page and headed straight for the features pages, so they created the Division of Syndicated Features and recruited the help of leading novelists, short story writers, and essayists. According to Winter, (1989) these popular American writers presented the official line in a clear and understandable manner, and their work was