Saturday, February 16, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt, the propagandist

Having spent some time over the last few days highlighting some of the foundations of press manipulation(here and particularly here), I find it instructive to highlight how it is that the press came to be so closely tied to national government, in an official capacity. Ideologically, the press support big government by default, but that's a different topic.(see my prior entries)

The two people to focus in on are Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Particularly Roosevelt, who was the first. And how he does this is stunning. The following information was quite a pain to get access to over the internet, so each link will put on display that I have the information correct. From two sources, "The Life and Times of William Howard Taft", by biographer Henry Pringle(Starting on page 415), and a publication called Omnibook - at the time, Pringle's book was excerpted there.

Taft's ultimate defeat was caused, in no small measure, by these repeated, incessant headlines which, try as he might, he could not guide or control. Taft was well aware of the flaw which made it impossible for him to deal successfully with the newspaper correspondents; he had mentioned this, too, in his farewell letter to Roosevelt. And it was this inability which caused to evaporate, in an astonishingly brief time, the good will which had been his. His predecessor, needless to say, had to an amazing degree the flair, utterly essential to a successful chief executive, for molding public opinion through newspapers. Roosevelt was not content with editorial comment, merely; he actually made news.

He was the first president to employ a stratagem which has been valuable to politicians ever since. It is known, in practical journalist circles, as the trial balloon. The method was simple. Roosevelt would call in a favored correspondent or two - he held no general press conferences - and would divulge, on a pledge that he would not be quoted, some probable policy regarding the railroads, the Standard Oil, or pure righteousness. The correspondents would then write articles setting forth that "the President, according to close intimates," proposed to take the action in question. Roosevelt, during the next fortnight, could sit back and watch the reaction to his scheme. If it was favorable, he would go ahead. If the hostility was too pronounced, the whole matter would be quietly forgotten. If some political foe declared that the President had shifted his policy, he was nominated for the Ananias Club.

I used more links than necessary, simply to demonstrate that these are the same publication.

I'm sure many of you read this with the same marvel that I have. The use of the trial balloon can be traced back to Theodore Roosevelt, in his duels with Taft. This is exactly how progressives today act. The media is used as a way to further statist goals, and trial balloons are usually not questioned, if they too are for furthering the state.

The term "Ananias Club" is a way of calling someone a liar. Roosevelt's relationship with reporters was very friendly. A few years later, he would go on to be a regular contributor and editor to The Outlook. As President, Roosevelt made sure to put in a press room so as to bring his allies even closer to him. From (Click on the section for 1901-1918)

In 1902, the executive offices were moved from the second floor of the White House to the newly erected Executive Office Building(later named the West Wing). The building included an innovation--a small press room.

Reporter access during the Theodore Roosevelt administration changed markedly when he required that cabinet members channel all press requests through his private secretary. William H. Taft made little effort to promote himself and newsmen accused him of withholding news.

Woodrow Wilson held the first formal, public press conference in 1913.

Through the CPI, Wilson took Roosevelt's foundation and expanded it to unprecedented levels, even going so far as to making them "associates of the state". But this is how it started. By a progressive republican, who many today mistakenly believe was a conservative.

No comments:

Post a Comment