Sunday, October 26, 2014

Propaganda and Censorship: The Case of George Creel, Chairman of the Committee on Public Information (1917-19)

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(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

Along with his position as Chairman of the Committee on Public Information, Creel was a member of the Censorship Board, established on October 12, 1917.

"It is our opinion that the two functions – censorship and publicity – can be joined in honesty and with profit, and we recommend the creation of a Committee on Public Information ... ”

--Letter of April 13, 1917 from Secretaries Daniels (Navy), Baker (War), and Lansing (State) to Wilson, published in Official Bulletin, May 10, 1917, p. 4; cited in Walton E. Dean, Creel and his critics: A Study of the Attacks on the Committee on Public Information, 1917, unpublished dissertation, University of California, 1941, p. 66.

image from

"I am not the [in italics] censor or even a [in italics] censor."

--"Address delivered by George Creel, Chairman of the Committee on Public Information at Ashville [North Carolina], July 25, 1918," Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Creel Papers, Box 5.

"For the most part, Creel has been looked upon as The Censor, and as such he  has been been damned by a large and as such, he has been damned by a large portion of the press, and disturbed by a certain portion of the public. For the first year his removal was demanded almost daily: first for one cause and the another.

But the war went on -- and so did George Creel."

--"Creel: An Announcement," Everybody's Magazine, January 1919, Volume XL, p. 25.

"The Committee on Public Information is without authority to decide what constitutes seditious utterances or disloyal attitudes, Congress having specifically vested these powers in the courts of the land. At all times we have refused to assume this authority, or to be put in the position of usurping functions of the prosecuting and judicial branches of government. Only in cases of absolute misstatement of fact have we ever intervened, scrupulously avoiding all appearance of control over opinion.  [Footnote]42. Creel to [John T.] Graves, June 15, 1918, Ms. Nat. Arch."

--Cited in Volper, op. cit., p. 41.

For more on Cree and censorship, see

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