8 Pages 1911 Words
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 regardin...
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