Sunday, September 4, 2011

Woodrow Wilson's propaganda efforts were a great success - Walter Lippmann

In his book "Public Opinion" Walter Lippmann has written this:(page 47)

A rough estimate of the effort it takes to reach "everybody" can be had by considering the Government's propaganda during the war. Remembering that the war had run over two years and a half before America entered it, that millions upon millions of printed pages had been circulated and untold speeches had been delivered, let us turn to Mr. Creel's account of his fight "for the minds of men, for the conquest of their convictions" in order that "the gospel of Americanism might be carried to every corner of the globe." [Footnote: George Creel, How We Advertised America.]

Mr. Creel had to assemble machinery which included a Division of News that issued, he tells us, more than six thousand releases, had to enlist seventy-five thousand Four Minute Men who delivered at least seven hundred and fifty-five thousand, one hundred and ninety speeches to an aggregate of over three hundred million people. Boy scouts delivered annotated copies of President Wilson's addresses to the householders of America. Fortnightly periodicals were sent to six hundred thousand teachers. Two hundred thousand lantern slides were furnished for illustrated lectures. Fourteen hundred and thirty-eight different designs were turned out for posters, window cards, newspaper advertisements, cartoons, seals and buttons. The chambers of commerce, the churches, fraternal societies, schools, were used as channels of distribution. Yet Mr. Creel's effort, to which I have not begun to do justice, did not include Mr. McAdoo's stupendous organization for the Liberty Loans, nor Mr. Hoover's far reaching propaganda about food, nor the campaigns of the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, not to mention the independent work of patriotic societies, like the League to Enforce Peace, the League of Free Nations Association, the National Security League, nor the activity of the publicity bureaus of the Allies and of the submerged nationalities.

Probably this is the largest and the most intensive effort to carry quickly a fairly uniform set of ideas to all the people of a nation. The older proselyting worked more slowly, perhaps more surely, but never so inclusively. Now if it required such extreme measures to reach everybody in time of crisis, how open are the more normal channels to men's minds? The Administration was trying, and while the war continued it very largely succeeded, I believe, in creating something that might almost be called one public opinion all over America. But think of the dogged work, the complicated ingenuity, the money and the personnel that were required. Nothing like that exists in time of peace, and as a corollary there are whole sections, there are vast groups, ghettoes, enclaves and classes that hear only vaguely about much that is going on.

If it very largely succeeded, then it's a great success. What's interesting to note is how many journalists were a member of the CPI. Most of whom, names you'd never know. L. Ames Brown(Philadelphia Record), J W McConaughy(NY Evening Mail), Leigh Reilly(Chicago Herald),and Edward S Rochester(Washington Post). But the newspapers was the first place Creel went about scouting for talent. As a journalist himself, that's the natural first place to turn.(see "Encyclopedia of American journalism" By Stephen L. Vaughn, Page 113)

Most notably, Edward Bernays, the father of spin was a part of CPI. So too was Walter Lippmann himself, though perhaps to a bit of his credit he quickly turned against Creel and his CPI. But as Lippmann would go on to write in Public Opinion(1920):

The mass of absolutely illiterate, of feeble-minded, grossly neurotic, undernourished and frustrated individuals, is very considerable, much more considerable there is reason to think than we generally suppose. Thus a wide popular appeal is circulated among persons who are mentally children or barbarians, people whose lives are a morass of entanglements, people whose vitality is exhausted, shut-in people, and people whose experience has comprehended no factor in the problem under discussion.

He was no fan of individual rights or "the masses" in general. Here's another example of what he writes:(Phantom Public page 145)

The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.

This quote is widely available online, though most don't cite the book from where it originates. But it's just a quote. There are all kinds of things in these books which will give you insight into progressivism. It isn't pretty. But there are things we need to know if we are to defend ourselves.

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