Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Walter Lippmann on "the character of American propaganda in Europe" during WWI

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(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

From: Walter Lippmann, "For a Department of State," The New Republic (September 17, 1919), pp. 194-197
If American opinion is screened from the facts about Europe, Europe is no less screened from the American facts. One of the genuine calamities of our part in the war was the character of American propaganda in Europe. It was run as if an imp had devised it to thwart every purpose Mr. Wilson was supposed to entertain. The general tone of it was one of unmitigated brag accompanied by unmitigated gullibility. Europe was told that we would do everything and at the same time that everybody could do so. We were going to win the war for Europe by stupendous magnificence, and by implication Europe was to decide entirely what to do with that victory when won. The outfit which was abroad "selling the war to Europe" (the phrase is not my own) gave shell-shocked Europe to understand that a rich bumpkin had come to town with his pockets bulging and no desire except to please. One would have never dreamed from these "personal representatives of the President" who were all over the place that America had purposes and interests and ideas and reservations together with its whole-hearted determination to win the war. To be sure none of these things had appeared on the surface at home, because whenever they did appear Mr. Burleson [Postmaster General who handled mail censorship]

Albert Sidney Burleson image from
 or the Department of Justice stepped on them. But they were there, and in a mutilated way they have emerged in the Senate. No wonder "Europe" is distressed at the delay and at the discovery that America has something which might be called a mind of its own. Europeans were never told that by our diplomats or by our press agents abroad.

No comments: