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Propaganda and Stories 10/7/20 Blogpost

The immense amount of propaganda used to begin, and continue, the United States’ involvement in the war for mainly economic and political reasons sounds almost unprecedented in the modern era. Although I previously knew both the “real” reason for the beginning of America’s involvement, trade and allyship with England and its counterparts and the “fake” reason, the Lusitania, I was still shocked by the amount of government pressure placed onto Americans. My favorite part of how Zinn tells this piece of history is by mixing in the smaller stories of rebellion, that people would have been talking about and passing around, in with the more major and recorded parts of history, therefore making me feel involved and connected to the past. The most compelling anti-war stories to me were that of Kate Richards O’Hare of the socialist movement and Eugene Debs. 

Kate Richards’s small act of rebellion in the Missouri state penitentiary added to the humanistic aspect of the war that the Socialist Party was trying to represent. The United States tried painting the war as a war for the soul of the nation, but what many would consider the “soul” of our nation today, rural Americans, and farmers did not see a good reason to join. The United States government attacked this issue from every angle like legislation, songs, publications, gatherings, speeches, ads, businesses/unions, and more, just as their opposition was doing. This reminds me a lot of modern politics and government tactics, but obviously with a different context. Today we interpret hundreds of different things that could, and probably should be considered propaganda but we just see regular publications. How crucial is propaganda for running a country during a time of emergency? Is having a “unified country”, through intimidation and indoctrination, or is it more important to support American allies in terms of enacting war? Would/could the same type of propaganda be used even with social media today?

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4 Comments

  1. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    In a time of war, propaganda is vastly important to keep the morale of the country high and keep the citizens motivated in fighting for the war. This is part of a transactional leadership relationship because the leaders of the country are dependent on the followers to fight the war that they want to happen. The leaders know that without the support of the masses the war will be a lost cause. By making reasons for the average citizen to want to fight in the war, it helps the war effort and the whole country. The ethics of doing this to a population for their support is definitely ambiguous but it is important to note that even free countries like the United States do this in every war they are in.

  2. Julia Borger Julia Borger

    I also found this chapter’s focus on the propaganda and attack of the US government on literature publications very interesting. I liked how the reading gave a more first-hand look into what people were saying and writing about during the time of the war, and how the government responded to it. It also made me wonder about if we were involved in another war, what that propaganda would look like today.

  3. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    I personally had never learned about Socialist opposition to WWI, so I agree that it was really eye-opening to see this perspective. I think that a lack of educational focus on criticism of the war is largely attributable to historiography. The educational resources that are most widely distributed in America are either provided by government-funded academic programs or large publishing businesses. Though this is logistically reasonable, it’s important to consider when analyzing any bias that might be present in our education. Both the government and corporations were on the side of support for WWI for reasons of political and economic power, but I think combining educational resources from these parties in combination with those from opposing parties gives a more clear picture of what the true sentiments of the American public were at the time of the war.

  4. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I am shocked to learn all this information about this war because I feel as if I was not that educated in school about the war. I think there needs to be more focus on the different perspectives of the war especially from American citizens themselves.

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