AP World History
Mr. Christopher Rhatigan
1st April, 2012
MEDIA BENEFITTED THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES
FIRST WORLD WAR
The US government used media in various ways during the First World War, to manipulate the public to support their purpose. The reason that the majority of people in the US had common views throughout the First World War was because of the media influence. When the US was under the neutrality agreement, the media helped people feel good about being neutral. However, when the time came for the US to join the war, the media suddenly changed and tried to gain public support in favor of joining the war. During the war, however, to keep the home front happy, the media had to portray the war in a way that made the people forget the previous reasons for not joining the war. The newspapers were also highly censored so that the people would not know the entire truth about where their families had been sent to. This was to keep people from revolting after they had joined the war. The US, being one of the most diverse nations, needed a way in to portray the war in a way that would gain the approval of the majority of the people, to prevent civil unrest. The US media ended up sugar-coating the war so much that the common people did not know that the war had as devastating effects as it did. Only after the war had completely ended, did the common people of the US realize the effects it had had on the country and on the rest of the world. Although some argue that the media hid the truth from the people, it was all done for the general good. The US had chosen a way that would not worry the people and protect the home front, instead of a way that would let the people know the reality of the war, but worry them about something that was inevitable. President Wilson established the Committee on Public information, an organization which, under the direction of a journalist named George Creel, became unlike any organization before conceived in warfare. Wilson had chosen Creel, on the basis of a letter which he had written to him. In this letter, Creel addressed the debate: how much censorship to impose on the media. Creel said that he was against censorship, other than what the newspapers would enforced on themselves, after they had been convinced of the need for it. Creel wanted to bring the media into “unparalleled openness”. Meaning, the kind of information they would allow the public to see, would have never been shown before. However, Creel was against the publication of anything that he considered being enemy propaganda. He was only in favor of the publication of information that would help unite the people in the country. In Creel’s own words, he wrote that he wished for an opportunity to create “a publicity proposition, a vast enterprise in salesmanship, and the world’s greatest adventure in advertising.” At this, President Wilson put the whole censorship propaganda question under Creel’s supervision in 1917. It was because of this decision that the purpose of the American propaganda, the media, was to shape the American public opinion and unify the people’s views. At the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, the United States president, Woodrow Wilson, declared the United States neutral. The government used the newspapers the most to publicize information. Newspapers were the most influential form of media at this time. There were about 2,500 newspapers available in the country, at this time. Almost everybody could read. The costs of periodicals were low so almost everybody could afford them, radio and movies were still in experimental stages and television was two decades away. President Wilson’s decision on remaining neutral claimed popular amongst the public, especially the German-American and the Irish-American population. The people viewed the First World War as a European civil war, and they felt that there was no reason for the US to interfere. The US media had to support this...
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