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Propaganda During Ww1 Essay, Research Paper

The United States decision to enter W.W.I. was not greatly supported by the people. To gain the support they felt was needed to send troops to war; the government began a propaganda campaign to change the minds of the American citizens. Not only did they create propaganda but also created legislation that made it illegal to question the government in the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Political enemies must be created to achieve the greater good of the country. The use of propaganda by the United States government turned Germany into this enemy to strengthen the homefront. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned for reelection in 1916 on the promise to keep us out of W.W.I. Barely three months after his inauguration in 1917, the United States was sending troops to Europe. German submarines attacked our shipping to Britain. Wilson believed in freedom of the seas so he was outraged that Germany would stop a neutral country from trading on the open seas. In April, the United States declared war on the Central powers, Germany, Hungary, and Austria. Americans, many of who were recent immigrants and had relatives in Germany or were just politically opposed did not universally approve of this war. To change the sentiment of the people, George Creel, a veteran newsman, was made director of the newly found Committee of Public Information (CPI). Its function was to whip up enthusiasm for the war. It did so by sending thousands of speakers to organized rallies, where each gave a five-minute pep talk written by the CPI. This was not the only tool of the CPI. The CPI was created to gain public support for the war. This committee used propaganda to unite the country domestically while publicizing American war aims abroad. To support a war against a foreign aggressor who threatens national sovereignty and moral decencies is to construct oneself as a member of a nation of innocent heroes . By using newspapers, academics, artists, and filmmakers, they intended to make a nation of innocent heroes. In doing this, the CPI was able to depict the government of Germany as a political enemy. Murray Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle writes, the linking of diverse issues through language about the nature of an enemy who somehow combines them is a common political phenomenon and a potent maneuver for winning support for causes . This method helps to build public support for an issue and is a tactic propagandists use to convey their message. When the United States entered, World War I, President Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information (CPI). In Wilson s address to Congress in 1917, he appealed to the people by attacking the German government, not the people of Germany. He spoke of how the German people were not asked if they wanted to participate in the war but forced into it by the government. This statement is meant to appeal to our love of democracy and our spirit to protect all men s freedom. Such attacks against the German government are seen through the propaganda that the CPI put out.Although George Creel was an outspoken critic of censorship by the hands of government, the CPI took immediate steps to limit damaging information. Invoking the threat of German propaganda, the CPI voluntary guidelines for the press and helped pass the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The Espionage Act stated that it was illegal to make false statements against the United States Armed Forces. It also stated that any materials sent through the mail that were considered treasonous would be punished with jail time. The Sedition Act stated that it was illegal to utter bad language against the constitution and the government. This inhibited our first amendment rights that were given to us as protection from tyranny. Edelman say s, Leaders doubtless justify their political performances to themselves as instrumental in accomplishing worthy goals, and they differ in some measure in naming their objectives; but the names of goals remain tactics for courting support rather than conditions to be sought . This points out how Wilson was able to justify these two Acts because they were means to the goal of winning the war.

The CPI s domestic division was made up of 19 sub-divisions, which each focused on a specific type of propaganda. One of the most important elements of the CPI was the Division of News, which distributed 6,000 press releases and acted as the primary conduit for war-related information . By distributing so much literature, they were trying to appeal to the emotions of people. Propaganda is not designed to appeal to people s intellectual or rational faculties . As this statement points out, the authors were trying to present an official line in an easily digestible form. The Division of Civic and Educational Cooperation relied heavily on scholars to put out pamphlets like The German Whisper, German War Practices, and Conquat and Kultur. These pamphlets spoke to the people to sway their feelings about the Germans. People began to hate Germans and some American-Germans felt it necessary to change their names. The CPI changed most things in American culture that were German, the hamburger was renamed Salisbury steak, the frankfurter was renamed the liberty dog. These are just a few examples of how far the government was willing to take their propaganda. Language was now looked at as a clear and present danger.The CPI was not limited to just the written word they put out a large poster campaign that could be seen in almost all papers. This was known as the Division of Pictorial Publicity. They had at its disposal many of the most talented advertising illustrators and cartoonists of the time, these artists worked closely with publicity experts of the time . All the papers were quite willing to donate advertising space for the U.S. propaganda machine. This should help to get a better understanding of the power that the CPI had over the country, The fascinating thing about the CPI is that the United States is a democratic country that is based on freedom of the individual. Does war give the government the right to decide when we have the right to freedom?


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