During World War I, governmental agency, Committee of Public Information was asked to spread out a massive propaganda by using all the media imaginable (Poster, songs, articles, radio, church…). To better understand why the government came to this point, we need to go back in time.
After choosing the neutrality when the war erupted in 1914, the president Woodrow Wilson eventually chose to enter in war three years later on the side of the Allies, and this, for economical and ethical reasons. America was trading with England and France way more than they were with Germany. They couldn’t afford to loose the money they had lent to them during the war. But more than that, Wilson wanted to avoid tensions among the American-German and American-British that formed a significant part of the population. But unrestricted submarine warfare, introduced by Germany on January 9th, 1917, was one of the primary issues that pushed Wilson to ask Congress to declare war to Germany. Moreover, Germans were threatening America by proposing a deal to Mexico. But how could a country with such a multicultural background and disunited population take side for America in this sudden desire to go to war? And how could they want to risk their life for a country that never recognized them as part of the society.
The government, via the CPI, brought this heterogeneous population of America to an extreme assimilation and nationalism that permitted them to go from neutrality to world war I with the full support of the nation with its consequences. When the president Wilson created the CPI, he called a journalist and political ally George Creel to take the head of the organization that would attempt to mobilize and unified the opinion of Americans. The first step was to encourage them by trying to pull out their patriotism and pride in representing their country, family and manhood, which was a delicate action because of the European background of many of them. “Could American of the same ethnic stock as the enemies be rallied to the cause?”. To do so, Creel with the help of private organizations utilized all the media they could, from songs to posters, through movies. For example, one of the most popular song at this time, “Over There” shows us how they took men’s pride for target with keywords such as: “ Make your daddy glad”, “To be proud her boy’s line”. If a man didn't think about going to war after hearing that kind of very strong songs, people would think he’s a coward, and he would dishonor his family. In the poem “It’s Duty Boy” read by Four Minute Men, the words are even stronger. They don’t let place for hesitation when it come to know if you should go to war or not “ I’d rather you had died at birth or not been born at all than know that I had raised a son who cannot hear the call that freedom has sent round the world”. We can easily see in what kind of atmosphere the population was bathing. This exaggeration of nationalism started to look more and more like fanatical patriotism and turned into an extreme form of vigilantism. People started to accuse anybody that wouldn’t expressively take actions in the war effort and were looking for any type of treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to laws. So could we honestly say that the propaganda helped the people to feel naturally more ethnocentric when we know the pressure that was as put on them? It is hard to say. However, Creel and the CPI were only at the beginning of their plan, and their new target was big. An important minority was about to finally be recognized as part of the nation, at least it’s what they thought.
When the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917, the government realized that their small army wouldn’t be enough to bring them victory overseas. Their biggest enemy was public unity. Not only the support of the white community was necessary, but also the one of all the minorities, with the black community as the biggest one.