Sunday, October 12, 2014

Richard T. Arndt on George Creel and the Committee on Public Information (1917-1919)

This entry is a work in progress; updated/reviewed 5/22/2016; suggestions welcome -- please email

From Richard T. Arndt, The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century (2006):

p. 27. "[With World War], [e]nter America's 'first minister of propaganda,' George Creel. For years a row of photos of former directors graded the wall at USIA [on USIA, see] leading to the director's office. Though Creel died well before USIA was born in 1953 and left government work in 1919, his photo, in a high Calvin

Creel image from

Coolidge collar, led the others."

p. 28. "Creel's decision to use the word 'information' in CPI's name was no accident; he chose 'information' expressly to avoid 'propaganda,' which Creel agreed was a fatally poisoned synonym for "purposeful lying."

p. 28. "CPI in 1917 set out under the banner of information to commit propaganda, at home and abroad."

p. 31. "CPI's overseas improvisations made for a confusing model -- they used whatever definitions came to hand."

p. 33. "Creel operated at stratospheric levels."

p. 33-34. "CPI ... approached Rome as though it were Wichita."

p. 34: "Creel swirled the scholars and the advertisers into one omelette -- to win the war."

p. 34. "Versailles was Creel's failure as much as Wilson's."

p. 34. "[W]hat lay ahead in 1917 ... was unimaginable total war. The crisis, in Creel's mind, justified almost anything."

p. 34. "Believing fervently in 'facts,' he [Creel] thought his truths to be truer than the truths of others; he needed only to 'tell American's story to the world' and everything would fall into place."

p. 35. "Creel had overlooked the variability of cultural resilience: in the postwar period Europe's political cultures returned to their approximate earlier shape."

pp. 35-36. "[W]ith Creel, [Thomas] Paine's [see] reductionist sloganeering had won out over the humane dialogues of Jefferson and Franklin ... who instinctively adapted to the foreign context, establishing trust by being truthful."

p. 35. "[F]or Paine and Creel, stirring rhetoric in service to a cause banished inconvenient truth. Exchanging ideas in search of truth is not the same as telling America's story our way."

No comments: