President Woodrow Wilson authorized the formation of the Committee on Public Information through the signing of the executive Order 2594. The committee was a government agency mandated with spreading propaganda in America on the onset of the Great War. George Creel, a veteran journalist and political ally, was charged with the job of directing the committee. The committee’s aim was to change the general public opinion of the Americans by convincing them to change their opinion on the entry of the United States into the War (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011). The committee in a bid to unify the nation towards a changed opinion about an involvement in the war, by creating and spreading propaganda. When the States joined the war, the committee introduced a self-voluntary censorship system and at the same time utilized all the tools at its disposal for mass advertising. The Creel Committee produced, in a bid to unite the nation towards supporting the American entry into the war, produced many copies of speech scripts by Four Minute Men, books, press releases, pamphlets and films. The best artists and illustrators in the country also volunteered their expertise in producing color posters used in spreading propaganda. The committee had succeeded in unifying the nation by using propaganda to change their minds towards the non-involvement policy of the United States.
Creel and his committee were tasked with uniting the nation. They were to change the public opinion on the standing of the United States as a neutral party in the war. In uniting the people, the commission was supposed to merge the ethnic breaks in the people of the United States, to pool a significant number of men to fight for the States and consolidate universal support for those men. They also had to unite the civilian population towards the course of war by purchasing war bonds and to sway the civilian population into pressuring other civilians to avoid making comments that are anti-war, activities that are anti-draft and other forms of activities that would derail the war efforts.
In its effort, the Creel committee used a popular song which enjoyed performance in vaudeville houses and music halls. The Committee on Public Information however did not produce this song and it also discouraged the performance popular songs that were ‘unpatriotic’ in nature. The song “Over There” by George Cohan encouraged the civilian population to volunteer and assist in the war. It was a song that persuaded young soldiers to join the war on the American side to make their family members proud. “Make your daddy proud” “Tell your sweetheart not to pine, To be proud of her boy” The song was also passing a message to the people that the enemy was drawing near and that they needed to let it be known throughout (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011). This song was basically used to spread propaganda about an enemy who was approaching and urged the American people to stand as one and prepare to fight the coming enemy.
Another uniting tactic used by the committee was the use of cartoons. One of the cartoons was in an army publication while the other was an editorial cartoon. The editorial cartoon showed Americans dead in a land away from their home and the enemy enjoying the comfort of the American land while the other in the army U.S. Army publication showed a victorious boy who was escorted by his family to join the army (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011). These cartoons were a source of inspiration for Americans to unite against a common enemy who was threatening their sovereignty. The cartoons would motivate Americans to be one in the fight against a common enemy.
The Committee on Public Communication also employed the use of magazine and newspaper advertisements which it produced directly. One of the advertisements was the “Bachelor of Atrocities” whose main aim was to encourage the people to buy liberty bonds to assist in fighting the enemy. The advertisement used convincing statements like, “It is sometimes harder to live nobly than to die nobly”. The “Spies and Lies” advertisement was also used to convince the Americans to tell on the enemy (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011). The advertisement was used to show the Americans the seriousness of having spies among them and the importance of having them weeded out of the society to help Americans win the war.
Fourthly, in a bid to encourage civilians to join the army, to purchase liberty loans and bonds, encouraging civilians to be patriotic and united and to calling for sacrifices, the committee commissioned up to eleven posters. A famous poster used to encourage people to join the army was the “Uncle Sam Poster” with the words ‘I WANT YOU FOR U.S. ARMY NEAREST RECRUITING STATION’. The poster “Germany as a raging beast” was used to show how cruel Germany was to the Americans. There was also an “Our Boys Need Sox” poster that was used to ask the civilian to sacrifice and donate to those in the army. All this posters were used by the committee to unite the Americans in the time of war. Other posters included; “Buy Your Liberty Bond”, “The Greatest Mother in the World” and “Here He Is Sir” (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011).
Finally, the Committee on Public Communication made use of material from feature films. They would give suggestions to the owners of theatres on how they would advertise films like “Kultur” so as to attract more audience to watch the film. The film, “The Kaiser, The Beast of Beast of Berlin”, also had a famous hate picture for its advertisement. There was also a still picture from this film showing the cruelty of the Germans towards the Americans (Wheeler, Becker & Glover, 2011). Such films and advertisements were aimed at creating mental pictures of the enemy in the heads of the Americans and thus persuading them to be united in the course of the war.
In conclusion, the Creel Committee used various methods with an aim of maintaining unity of the Americans during the Great War. The song, “Over There” was used to persuade the civilian men to join the war. There was also use of cartoons which were used to display the kind of suffering Americans would suffer in the hands of the enemy. Magazine and newspaper advertisements were also used to encourage civilians to purchase the liberty bonds and to encourage civilians to expose the spies among them. Posters such as the “Uncle Sam Poster”, “Germany as a raging beast”, “Our Boys Need Sox”, “Buy Your Liberty Bond”, “The Greatest Mother in the World” and “Here He Is Sir” were used to convincing the Americans to purchase liberty bonds to help finance the war, to encourage civilian sacrifice, and to encourage civilians in joining the army. Materials from feature films were also used by the Creel Committee to help in uniting the Americans.
Wheeler, W., Becker, S., & Glover, L. (2011). Discovering the American past. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.