A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion, and Newspapers in the Great War

A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion, and Newspapers in the Great War

A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion, and Newspapers in the Great War

A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion, and Newspapers in the Great War

Synopsis

World War I highlighted the influence of newspapers in rousing and maintaining public support for the war effort. Discussions of the role of the press in the Great War have, to date, largely focused on atrocity stories. This book offers the first comparative analysis of how newspapers in Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary attempted to define war, its objectives, and the enemy. Presented country-by-country, expert essays examine, through use of translated articles from the contemporary press, how newspapers of different nations defined the war for their readership and the ideals they used to justify a war and support governments that some segments of the press had opposed just a few months earlier.

During the opening months of the war, governments attempted to influence public opinion functioned in a largely negative fashion, for example, the censoring of military information or criticisms of government policies. There was little effort to provide a positive message to sway readers. As a result, newspapers had a relatively free hand in justifying the war and the reasons for their respective nation's involvement. Partisan politics was a staple of the pre-war press; thus, newspapers could and did define the war in terms that reflected their own political ideals and agenda. Conservative, liberal, and socialist newspapers all largely supported the war (the ones that did not were shut down immediately), but they did so for different reasons and hoped for different outcomes if their side was victorious.

Excerpt

Whoever first coined the phrase, “When the siècle hit the fin,” described the twentieth century perfectly! The past century was arguably a century of intellectual, physical, and emotional violence unparalleled in world history. As Haynes Johnson of the Washington Post has pointed out in his The Best of Times (2001), “since the first century, 149 million people have died in major wars; 111 million of those deaths occurred in the twentieth century. War deaths per population soared from 3.2 deaths per 1,000 in the sixteenth century to 44.4 per 1,000 in the twentieth. Giving parameters to the twentieth century, however, is no easy task. Did it begin in 1900 or 1901? Was it, as in historian Eric Hobsbawm's words, a “short twentieth century,” that did not begin until 1917 and end in 1991? Or was it more accurately the “long twentieth century,” as Giovanni Arrighi argued in The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Poiver, and the Origins of Our Times? Strong cases can be made for all of these constructs and it is each reader's prerogative to come to his or her own conclusion.

Whatever the conclusion, however, there is a short list of people, events, and intellectual currents found in the period between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries that is, indeed, impressive in scope. There is little doubt that the hopes represented by the Paris Exhibition of 1900 represented the mood of the time—a time of optimism, even Utopian expectations, in much of the so-called civilized world (which was the only world that counted in those days). Many saw the fruits of the Industrial Revolution, the application of science and technology to everyday life, as having the potential to greatly enhance life, at least in the West.

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