Sunday, October 12, 2014

American Propaganda and the Propaganda Fide

Note for a Planned Article
"Creel, Lippmann, and the Origins of American Public Diplomacy"
(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

"There was also an even greater task beyond our borders. There were the war-weary peoples of England, France, and Italy that had to be strengthened by a message of encouragement, the peoples of neutral countries to be won to our support, and the peoples of the Central Powers to be reached with the truth. Not propaganda as the Germans defined it, but propaganda in the true sense of the word, meaning the 'propagation of faith.'" 

--George Creel (1876-1953), chairman of the first USG "propaganda" agency, The Committee on Public Information (1917-1919), writing in his autobiography, Rebel at large: Recollections of Fifty Crowded Years (1947), p. 158; Creel, a southerner (he was born in Missouri), had a father who (in his words) was "born and bred a Catholic" and drank too much; "the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (image below) was created in the 17th century, "with the double aim of spreading Christianity in the areas where the Christian message had still not arrived and of defending the patrimony of faith in those places where heresy had caused the genuineness of the faith to be questioned" (official Propaganda Fide website).

Update (10/14/2014)

From Creel's Rebel at Large, p. 21-22
It was the cruelty, even savagery, of the Old Testament tales heard in Sunday school [as a child in Missouri] that first turned me against so-called Christian teaching. ...
I liked the poetry of the Psalms, but thought King David a lecherous, treacherous old man. To this day I can remember the horror I felt at hearing how he lay with Bthsheba, and got her with child, and then the husband off to war with secret instructions to have him killed. If that was Christianity, I wanted none of it.
Later I came to believe in God the Creator, and bowed before Christ as a great teacher, but I could not swallow narrow denominationalism. ...  Nowhere in the New Testament could I find that He who delivered the Sermon on the Mount made mention of Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc., etc
On Creel's religious inclinations, from From James R. Mock and Cedric Larson, Words that Won the War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1939), p. 54:
Creel left Kansas City to move farther west, but before going an important event occurred in his literary career: he published his first book. It was called Quatrains of Christ [1907]. It was in a precious, gift-book binding and consisted of 121 stanzas after the fashion of Omar.
Edwin Markham referred to this work of "the brilliant young editor of the Independent" as "one of the four or five best books of verse among the many that have come to me from the younger American writers." The Denver Post, to the services of which paper Creel was shortly to be called, went farther, throwing caution to the winds: "A masterpiece . . . which, had it been printed before the translation of Omar, would have ranked higher than it in English literature." A sample stanza from these reflections on the life of Jesus:
God gave us mind and will; we are the free
Unfettered masters of our destiny,
And not as He did make us will He judge,
But as His word has meant that we should be.
Some of Creel's friends chaffed him about the Quatrains of Christ during the war years, and he appears to have taken the badinage good-naturedly. But the high purpose and religious spirit which Creel revealed in these lines was to have an important place in the work of the CPI.
Creel says in his Rebel at Large (p. 22) that he wrote this book of poems to convince his devout Episcopalian mother (who essentially raised him, given the drunkedness of his father) that he was "not an atheist."

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