Thursday, October 16, 2014

Creel vs. Lippmann -- Street Dog vs. House Cat: Searching the Origins of American Public Diplomacy

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(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

From a letter to The New Republic from George Creel addressed to its editors, March 27, 1915, pp. 209-210, in which Creel complains about NR's negative comments regarding his claim that a Mr. Paul Kellogg, editor of Survey, has been corrupted by big money in this editor's coverage of Colorado miners' strike:
For fifteen years I have devoted myself to a task of agitation in politics and industry, trying always to stay close to what may be termed the "under dog."  During this time I have seen oppression, exploitation, corruption,

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treachery and betrayal in all their forms, and it may well be that these experiences have made me less than judicial, overquick to suspect and denounce.
You, on the other hand, are academic products who have to be commentators by virtue of self-election, based upon self-evaluation, aided, I believe, by an endowment fund (1) that spares you the fear of existence. The antagonism between us, therefore, is as instinctive and inevitable as that of the house cat for the street dog.
These are the words of George Creel, a born-poor Missouri muckraking journalist, in a letter (March 27, 1915) to the newly-established The New Republic, a reform-oriented New York journal generously supported by the Straight family. Creel’s outburst evoked the acidic response of an anonymous TNR contributor who condemned Creel as “a reckless and incompetent person … incapable of judging evidence, and determined to make a noise no matter what canons of truthfulness he violates” (“Paul Kellogg Muckraked,” p. 61).

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Did Creel know who had written the poison comment on him in The New Republic? I had originally thought that he knew it was Lippmann, but after rereading Steward Halsey Ross's Propaganda for War: How the United States Was Conditioned to Fight the Great War of 1914-1918 (2009), pp. 314-15, footnote 26, I'm not so sure. Here's what Ross says in his superbly researched book: "Lippmann and Creel later worked together on New York's woman's suffrage [evidently years after than their the 1915 exchange Creel refers to] campaign. When Creel asked Lippmann to serve on that organization's publicity committee, Lippman admited that it was he who had authored that highly critical editorial. It closed, preposterously, 'I hope we can be friends and I hope we can work together in this equal suffrage campaign.' Creel's reply spurned Lippmann's olive branch: 'I could not denounced a man as reckless, brutal, stupid, incompetent and of a low quality of mind, without hating and loathing him for these qualities. Friendship with such a man would be as impossible as inconceivable. ... I am glad that you will help in the work of the publicity committee. I have never failed to keep my personal likes and dislikes entirely separate from my devotion to causes.' Lippmann, always insisting on the last word, sent a follow-up letter, that defended his editorial attack. On the occasion of Lippmann's marriage in May 1917, Creel sent a card addressed to 'My dear Walter,' offering his congratulations and wishing the bride and groom 'all happiness.' Lippmann papers [Yale]. There is no record of further correspondence between the two men."
(1) JB note: "The New Republic was founded by Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, and Walter Weyl through the financial backing of heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney and her husband, Willard Straight, who maintained majority ownership" (Wikipedia).

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