A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Selling war from 1917 to 2012 – Al Jazeera English

In News, Politics on March 26, 2012 at 10:09

American Feelings on war  have changed. Why?

One day in 1917, US President Woodrow Wilson sat in his office scratching his head. He faced a dilemma. The war in Europe was very good for American business, but he needed to persuade the American public that entering the war was good for democracy.

The problem was that Americans were deeply sceptical of capitalism, far more than today. As John Reed wrote in “Whose War?”, an essay that ran in the socialist magazine The Masses: “The rich has [sic] steadily become richer, and the cost of living higher, and the workers proportionally poorer. These toilers don’t want war… But the speculators, the employers, the plutocracy – they want it… With lies and sophistries, they will whip up our blood until we are savage – and then we’ll fight and die for them.”

Americans often ascribe to economcis effects that are in fact caused by politics. Before the Espionage Act, for instance, there were hundreds of radical newspapers, many of them socialist or communist – or just sympathetic to the plight of workers. After the war, most disappeared. That wasn’t the result of market forces. The US government went to great pains at great expense to persuade Americans to embrace an approved ideology while it silenced dissidents with old-fashioned censorship. The Masses, along with 70 other radical publications, went out of business, because the US Post Office wouldn’t deliver it.


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