American Propaganda -My Story
Propaganda as a means to deceive and manipulate people was a foreign problem, or so I thought while growing up in American and attending public school. The American media was independently owned and operated free from interference from the government and acting as a watchdog for crime and corruption, I naively believed.
WWI and the Committee on Public Information were too distant to affect my thinking. I was taught that America was “making the world safe for democracy” by her participation in WWI without recognizing the meaninglessness of the phrase and its vital role in the highly orchestrated propaganda machine that was developed at the time. (See bottom of the page for more information)
I woke up from that blinding delusion many years later to my shame. For most of my life I ignored taking any active interest in politics, until economic and political realities started hitting too close to home.
Critical Thinkers Not Wanted
As I began to pay closer attention, I gravitated to the republican position, watched Fox news and got angrier and angrier about the state of affairs in the country. On one particular occasion, President Obama opined on the need for gun control stating that, “If there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save—we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Of course if you have a brain this is a ridiculously easy statement to debunk. In any given year we could save hundreds maybe thousands of lives by simply banning cars and outlawing swimming pools. Do we do it? No, because any honest discussion of this topic requires the need for personal security and safety be balanced against civil liberties and personal freedom.
How was he able to get away with touting such nonsense in the absence of any critical questioning by the media? Was everyone in journalism brain dead or asleep at the wheel, I wondered?
Propaganda Example Falls In My Lap
Then one day I had an epiphany of sorts, Fox news anchor Brett Baer had an in- studio guest supposedly a Syrian expert confidently suggesting that the rebels U.S. officials were seeking to arm at the time were mostly moderates. Common sense told me that this woman, who was relatively young, late 20’s early 30’s, was not likely to be a Syrian expert because of the view middle easterners take of women in general and her relative youth. She had an unusual name, Elizabeth O’Bagy, and worked for an unusual organization, the Institute for the Study of War.
Not being one to take things at face value, I began to research everything that did not pass the smell test. Confirming my suspicions, I found that Institute for The Study of War’s leadership was almost exclusively ex-military and the majority of funding as a non-profit came from the military-industrial complex.
Time magazine discusses her heady rise
Questioning Secretary of State John Kerry during a Sept. 3 hearing on Syria, Senator John McCain read extensively from a Wall Street Journal op-ed by “Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy” about the growing moderate Syrian opposition. The next day, testifying before the House Kerry himself cited O’Bagy’s work in explaining how only 15% to 20% of the 70,000 to 100,000 fighters on the ground Syria were “bad guys.”
It would be easy to imagine that Elizabeth O’Bagy was a venerated Syria expert with decades of experience. In fact, O’Bagy turned out to be a 26-year-old who had first begun to research Syria 20 months ago as an intern at the Institute for the Study of War, a hawkish Washington non-profit.
Weeks after she had come to my attention, I found out that she had been dismissed from the Institute for resume padding, claiming to have obtained a doctorate from Georgetown University. Her failure to disclose her duel job with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a Washington lobby group advocating for the armed overthrow of the government of Syria in her op-ed article led to a closer look at her resume and ultimately her dismissal from the Institute.
Less than two weeks later, the ultimate war hawk himself, John McCain softened the harsh landing she should have received by appointing her to a legislative assistant position with him in his Washington DC office.
I also found out that not only had she appeared on Fox News but had received widespread exposure on numerous media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and NPR just to name a few.
That a 26 year old without vetted credentials and scant Syrian expertise could become a media starlet, deliver speeches at universities and think tanks; brief over 14 Senate and 20 House offices and get quoted by high ranking senior American officials at congressional hearings is a profoundly disturbing phenomenon and a striking example of propaganda in the heart of the American political system.
The O’Bagy Story Raises Profound Questions
At that moment I realized that our system was rotten to the core on both sides, the media being a complicit operator in fabricating and maintaining illusions that benefited all but the average American. The breakdown of Elizabeth’s story, the finances and the players who promoted and facilitated her rise to stardom would be a fascinating study on the inner workings of the contemporary propaganda machine. Elizabeth O’Bagy was ultimately a propaganda puppet in the service of powerful elites facilitating her entry and manipulating her circulation in and amongst the most celebrated media establishments.
Ron Paul’s response to this fiasco was to highlight the financial connection of the NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) to the government itself
We are being lied to about Syria, and to add insult to injury we are being forced to pay for the privilege. The myriad of cut-out NGOs pose as independent voices but in fact are on the payroll of the US government. That is the scandal. Not fake PhD’s.
Pay attention and it will be easy to find endless propaganda examples around you. But beware, once your eyes are opened, the false prism of “left” and “right” will forever be destroyed and in its place will be the one question to rule them all. Have you found your way out of the matrix?
Learn more about the Propaganda Model that no one is teaching in school
Reprint from Missouri Over There Blog
Just seven days after declaring America’s entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson established the Committee on Public Information. This new independent agency’s goal was to distribute information about the war [WWI propaganda] and inspire the public to take action both at home and abroad. Under the influence of the chairman, Missourian George Creel, the Committee produced the most extensive propaganda campaign the world had ever seen.
George Creel was born in Lafayette County, Missouri in 1876. He began his career as a newspaper reporter for the Kansas City World in 1899. Just five years later, Creel began publishing his own newspaper – the Kansas City Independent. As his career progressed, Creel became a nationally known muck-raking investigative reporter. In 1917, Creel was chosen by Woodrow Wilson to be chairman of the Committee on Public Information.
During its 28 month lifespan, the Committee on Public Information distributed information through every medium possible by both creating and censoring. It had twenty bureaus and divisions, and spanned nine countries. Essayists, academics, artists, journalists, businessmen, and celebrities came together to contribute to the Committee’s campaign. Additionally, 75,000 public speakers (nicknamed “Four Minute Men” for their four minute speeches) volunteered for the Committee to teach the public about the War. They covered topics such as the draft, rationing, Liberty Loans, victory gardens, and challenges of the war effort.
The Committee on Public Information recruited the film industry to its cause. A film division of the Committee was formed in 1917, composed of Hollywood moguls such as D.W. Griffiths and Jesse Lasky who had agreed to volunteer their resources. With the help of the film industry and the Army Signal Corps cameramen, the Committee on Public Information produced and distributed short films and commercial feature films throughout the course of the war.
They were immensely successful in both informing the public and raising funds. According to George Creel, “through the medium of the motion picture, America’s war progress, as well as the meanings and purposes of democracy, were carried to every community in the United States and to every corner of the world. Pershing’s Crusaders, America’s Answer, and Under Four Flags were types of feature films by which we drove home America’s resources and determinations, while other pictures, showing our social and industrial life, made our free institutions vivid to foreign peoples.”
Some of the most vivid and lasting artifacts of the Committee on Public Information are its propaganda posters. George Creel pulled together a group of well-known American artists, such as James Montgomery Flagg, Joseph Pennell, and N.C. Wyeth. By utilizing artistic talent and design trends, Creel’s artists were able to create hundreds of posters that emboldened and educated onlookers. Today many of these iconic posters can be viewed online through theLibrary of Congress’s extensive World War I poster collection.
The State Historical Society of Missouri, the Missouri History Museum, the National WWI Museum, the University of Missouri Special Collections and Rare Books, and Truman State University Special Collections have collections containing the original propaganda posters issued in Missouri by the Committee on Public Information.
The Committee on Public Information was disbanded in 1919, but George Creel continued to serve the public. He was the Chairman for the National Advisory Board of the Works Progress Administration. He also ran, unsuccessfully, as the Democratic nominee for governor of California in 1934. Throughout his life, Creel wrote several books, publishing 15 before his death in 1953. One of his books, How We Advertised America, tells the history of Committee on Public Information. It has been digitized by the Internet Archive and is available online.
“George Creel.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Online. 04 Oct. 2012.
“Poster Art of World War I.” American Experience: Woodrow Wilson. KCET for American Experience and PBS Online. 04 Oct. 2012.
Duffy, Michael. “Who’s Who – George Creel.” First World War.com: a Multimedia History of World War I. Online. 04 Oct 2012.
Manchel, Frank. Film Study: An Analytical Bibliography. Volume 1. Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses, 1990.