From the Vault: “The Birth of American Propaganda” – A Conversation on Manipulating the Masses with John Hamilton
John Hamilton (LinkedIn, Website) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss Woodrow Wilson and the birth of American propaganda during WWI. He is a Professor of Journalism at Louisiana State University.
What You’ll Learn
- Propaganda as a form of covert action
- The history of the Committee on Public Information
- Woodrow Wilson & Intelligence
- Deception and mental manipulation
- There is nothing new under the sun...or is there?
- Life chapters in very different settings
And much, much more …
When the Committee on Public Information was created in April of 1917, the United States was but one week into the first World War. In fact, the Selective Service Act would not come about for another month after the organization of the CPI. Why was Woodrow Wilson so quick to establish a system of control over public opinion, and how successful was this endeavor?
To answer these questions and more, author John Hamilton joins Andrew in a conversation about how propaganda and manipulation were used as a covert tactic during WWI and beyond. As John notes, “everything that’s done today can be traced to the CPI.”
While the CPI formally existed for only a year, its impact and imagery has endured for over 100 years. For proof, look no further than the story of the iconic “I Want You!” poster of Uncle Sam.
Quotes of the Week
“You may not like the enemy, but the enemy and you are doing the same thing to manipulate people’s attitudes. And while you may think you have a just cause, your means are quite often the same – Right down to lying, and manipulation and coercion.” – John Hamilton.
Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda, J. Hamilton (LSU, 2020)
The Third Option: US Covert Action with Loch Johnson, Part 1 (2022)
The Third Option: US Covert Action with Loch Johnson, Part 2 (2022)
Crossfire Hurricane: Trump, Russia & the FBI with Josh Campbell (2021)
Intelligence and the Presidency with John Hedley (2008)
How Does Propaganda Work? A. Cuncic, VeryWell Mind (2022) [Article]
Selling the War, The National WWI Museum and Memorial (2020) [6 min. Video]
Committee on Public Information, R. McNamara, ThoughtCo (2019) [Article]
The Imposter’s War, M. Arsenault (Pegasus, 2022)
This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality, P. Pomerantsev (PublicAffairs, 2020)
The Fake News Panic of a Century Ago, L. Huebner (Cognella, 2020)
Ukraine’s Garwa Media Fights for Truth in Kharkiv, B. Dooley, Human Rights First (2023)
The Espionage Act’s consitutional legacy, S. Bomboy, National Constitution Center (2022)
Modern Political Propaganda Posters & the Principles of Art, B. Krudwig, ArtsHelp (2020)
World War I: Its History and Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017)
Crackdown on Dissent, PBS Learning Media (n.d.)
World War I Posters (1914-1920)
The Sedition Act (1918)
The Espionage Act (1917)
To the Four Minute Men, George Creel (1917)
Letter From Creel to President Wilson (1917)
- Check out the Mussolini funded movie Scipione L’Africano (1937) - an attempt to use the story of a legendary Roman general to justify the fascist regime and its ambitions in North Africa.