Discuss the approach of the American government in promoting support for American involvement in World War I among its citizens, and evaluate the impact of these policies on the activities of the American people.

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The beginning of World War I for America was the beginning of modern-day propaganda. While there has always been some form of subterfuge and propaganda in drumming up support for these sorts of ventures, the American "spin" system went to work efficiently and effectively during its campaign at the beginning of World War I.

Previously, America had remained relatively neutral, deciding to stay out of conflicts with foreign interests. That was one of the main benefits of being so far separated geographically from the rest of the Western world—it was very easy to remain disengaged. However, America had already entered wartime activities in a subtle way and was making sure to show its support however it could for Britain and its allies, with supplies and resources being ferried to the European continent frequently.

When one of these ships, the Lusitania, was destroyed, Americans were sent into an uproar—not because they thought they were being attacked for wartime activities, but because they believed the Germans had attacked innocent civilians. The general public did not know about the supplies being ferried across the ocean and believed they were simply victims. After this, public outrage was incensed, and support was encouraged through pamphlets and constant reminders about the evils of the Axis Powers.

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The United States had had a policy of neutrality since its inception in the late eighteenth century. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, had warned the country of the dangers of "entangling alliances" in 1801. To counter this deep-seated tradition, the US government engaged in a propaganda campaign to win support for American participation in World War I (1914–1918).

Germany and Britain attempted to interfere with each other's commerce on the high seas during WWI. Because the British fleet was the most powerful in the world, the Germans had to rely on submarines to fight back. In 1915, the Germans sank the Lusitania. Over one hundred Americans died, and former President Theodore Roosevelt asked the current President, Woodrow Wilson, to declare war. Not ready for that, Wilson protested to the Germans and prepared the country for war. Also, the US government's public blaming of Germany was an effort to change public opinion. In fact, the Lusitania was illegally carrying munitions and Americans had been warned not to sail on the ship.

Wilson won reelection in 1916 in part because he kept the US out of the war, but American neutrality ended in 1917. Wilson tried to rally public support by claiming that America and her allies were fighting for democracy. There were Uncle Sam posters encouraging enlistment; posters exhorting the public to buy war bonds were ubiquitous. Wilson secured support from women, at least in part, by promising that women would soon be able to vote.

Propaganda was spread by the Committee on Public Information. This office was run by a former newspaper reporter, George Creel. He used modern propaganda techniques and hired tens-of-thousands of speakers to travel around the nation and rally support. A propaganda film, The Beast of Berlin, was released to public acclaim. Sauerkraut became known as "liberty cabbage," and schools stopped offering courses in German.

The U.S. government insisted that American citizens support the war effort. Dissent was not tolerated, and more than one thousand people were convicted under the Sedition and Espionage Acts. Surprisingly, the US Supreme Court upheld the legality of these draconian measures after the war in two 1919 cases.

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In WWI the government was able to take advantage of social groups which already existed in America at the time. The government instituted a draft for the first time since the Civil War but had the draft administered at the local level often by prosperous men of the community. This prevented the disastrous draft riots that took place during the Civil War and made the public more accepting. Also, the government took over providing information about the war. This practice had already started when Britain cut the German transatlantic cable in the early days of the war, thus ensuring that only Entente stories reached American shores. Woodrow Wilson commissioned advertising agent George Creel to enlist people to speak in favor of the war and what people could do to help America's efforts in it. The United States also used its artists such as James Montgomery Flagg to make the famous "Uncle Sam Wants You" poster for enlistment purposes. The nation told its civic groups to organize war bond drives and to encourage "pro-American" behavior by going to work in munitions factories and willingly rationing or going without such as "the Wheatless Wednesday" initiative. People were also encouraged to tattle on German-speaking neighbors in order to be wary of espionage or saboteurs. The risk of sabotage was exaggerated but there was a sharp decrease in socialist and foreign language newspapers during this time as people embraced "Americanism" in order to promote the war effort. The government also took the direct step of reviving the old Sedition Acts used by the John Adams administration and using them to imprison anyone speaking out against the war or the draft. Eugene Debs, Socialist candidate for president, was the most famous person arrested under this act.

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