Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"How We Advertised America"

Megan W.

Response #6

Rallying support and minimizing dissent was a crucial and significant part of the mobilization of the United States for WWI military action. The Zimmerman note fueled American's hypersensitivity to dissent. For example, this poster actually suggests that dissent, which is regarded as an act of treason -- leads to the attack of the US navy. It is true that exposing US military secrets with enemies is a threat to our national security. However, the actual percentage of the population seen as this kind of threat is very insignificant to even produce and distribute this flier. Creel writes that a voluntary agreement "safeguarded military information of obvious value to the enemy, but in all else the rights of the press were recognized and furthered." Although this may have been Creel's accurate memory of the time, I believe that the freedom of speech, such as views from the left, must've lacked government support.

I take away a clear sense of America's values from the images seen in poster after poster of propaganda during World War I. They had a strong belief that the duty of an American was to support the nation -- through good times and bad. As Creel puts it, "Democracy depends upon the degree to which each one of all the people of that democracy can concentrate and consecrate body and soul and spirit in the supreme effort of service and sacrifice [towards democracy]." (Creel, 6) After the war, the Committee for Public Information even ventures to promote the stop of venereal disease as pro-American. I thought that was a particularly interesting poster.

The message to "Support our Troops" is not something new -- it is a fundamental American cornerstone. And in World War I, those called upon in largest numbers to support the war efforts were women. Whether it is working in factories or preserving food properly, women were an integral element in winning the war. And the Government knew it! In this poster, an older woman is depicted supporting the war economically by purchasing liberty bonds. This poster in particular shows how the CPI used psychological research, like targeting the maternal instincts of women, to gain support.

Before the era of art deco, US propaganda bent reality with a clear cut, two dimensional world. The Germans were portrayed with the theatrics of a children’s cartoon, big bad and evil. There was no middle ground. You were either with us or against us. And although Creel disagrees that the US propaganda was misleading, there is a clear slant biased against America's opponent in the war.

Just as the CPI portrayed the war to benefit their own objectives (to rally support for the war), I think that Creel portrays the CPI in a self-beneficial manner. Creel, an intelligent man, is at the ready with a barrage of facts to support himself against nay-Sayers. Yet for the most part, Creel simply does not address his opponent's facts - or does so in an insufficient and round-about way. In his final words, Creel dismisses a wellspring of newsworthy concerns like dusting dirt of his shoulder. The inaccurate press coverage of American lynchings, strikes, riots, and the disparity of wealth, he argues, is the fault of the unreliable news organizations. Creel leads the reader to believe that the international news organizations had inaccurately reported the state of America by sensationalizing insignificant issues. I disagree. In the textbooks, lectures and my own research on the subject I believe that the lynchings, strikes, riots, and the disparity of wealth of the era were in fact very real and newsworthy issues.

In conclusion, I have thought about the above historical evidence, and I have come to the following conclusions that today, just as much as the past, visions are constantly in conflict. I could continue at length comparing and contrasting WWI era to today -- there is just so much to explore.
Through examining WWI primary sources like CPI posters and George Creel's "How We Advertised America," it is fair to say that there were a number of conflicting accounts of the state of affairs. Each citizen's reality is perceived differently; Visions naturally collide. However, the difference with this period of American history is that visions that were perceived as anti-American were prosecutable.


At 10:51 PM, Blogger mabel said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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