The Lincoln administration utilized both censorship and propaganda in its effort to conceal the immense carnage and early defeats from the Northern public, as well as portray the South as murderers of noble Union soldiers who were defending the Founders’ republic. After Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, the campaign of hatred toward the South intensified to ensure that the South would remain a subject colony and economic wasteland — plus a source of freedmen votes to ensure Republican political hegemony.
It is true that Northern men hated the draft and did not flock to the colors; generous bounties were required to attract recruits and most often these were foreigners. Many posed the question the North was reluctant to ask: “If the cause of the Union was such a noble one, why was there so much violent opposition to the idea of fighting for it.” It was British propaganda that helped bring America into the First World War, despite a president being elected on a pledge of no American boys dying on European battlefields.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Mobilizing the Hate of the People
“There was no richer field for propaganda than the United States of America in the first years of the war. Atrocities, Germany’s sole responsibility, the criminal Kaiser, and all the other fabrications started in Great Britain, were worked up by American liars with great effect.
The Belgian baby with no hands was a special favorite. There was hardly a household in which it was not discussed all over that vast continent, and even so ridiculous a scare as the concrete platforms for German guns was current in California. Villages were burned [by the Germans], women carried off, and various cruelties perpetrated.
After America entered into the war a number of “actual war picture” films (prepared at Hollywood) were released. An immense army of speakers and pamphleteers were employed by the Committee on Public Information, and the country was flooded with literature describing the iniquities of the Hun.
An interesting volume on the technique of propaganda was recently published by [political scientist and communications theorist] Professor [Howard D.] Lasswell, of Chicago, from which the following passage may be quoted:
“So great are the psychological resistances to war in modern nations that every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor. There must be no ambiguity about whom the public is to hate. The war must . . . be due . . . to the rapacity of the enemy. Guilt and guilelessness must be assessed geographically, and all the guilt must be on the other side of the frontier. If the propagandist is to mobilize the hate of the people, he must see to it that everything is circulated which establishes the sole responsibility of the enemy.”
(Falsehood in Wartime, Propaganda Lies of the First World War, Arthur Ponsonby, E.P. Dutton, 1929, excerpts pp. 180-182)