Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Propaganda in the U.S. During -- and After -- the Great War

Note for a Planned Article

From: J. Michael Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977) 51-52:
Before the Great War, propaganda was an amorphous term that, if it had any referent at all, conjured up images of Papists actively working against Protestants. The notion of "The German Propaganda," prevalent after exposure of the Kaiser's campaign of diversion, first connected propaganda to contemporary politics. The process by which propaganda came to denote self-interested social influence generally, rather than merely deceit by outsiders was completed by postwar retrospectives on the Allied and CPI [USG Committee on Public Information, 1917-1919] persuasions.
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Now society had a meaningful label for the undemocratic, underhanded publicity that had first provoked the muckrakers. By the mid-1930s, the concept of propaganda encompassed not only covert manipulation of news and control of government bureaus but also included self-interested messages insinuated into a variety of ostensibly neutral civic channels, particularly education, entertainment, and religion. Basic to almost all definitions of propaganda was a concern that, through covert orchestration, people might be influenced by biased symbols without realizing that they had been herded into the propagandist's corral.

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