I’m sure that all governments do it—manipulate public opinion to support war. It doesn’t matter if the country has an autocratic government ruled by a dictator or a democracy ruled by elected public officials—the people must be convinced that the enemy is evil and war necessary.
If we follow public support for America’s largest wars, we discover the US government’s learning curve to use the media to drum up support of wars. This manipulation of public opinion may be explained by Abraham Lincoln who said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
The idea is to fool enough people to start a war. After that, it’s easier to keep a war going even when public support turns against it—for a while anyway.
That learning curve started with the American Revolution. For example, many think that the American Revolutionary War (1774 – 1783) was a war fought with the unanimous support of the people for independence from Great Britain.
But in North America, the colonists generally considered themselves loyal British citizens, asserting rightful constitutional claims that had been previously established through their colonial charters or contracts. … Many colonists (and eventually foreign nations) had to be persuaded to join in this revolution. Source: GilderLehrman.org
Then “as the colonists discovered how difficult and dangerous military service could be, enthusiasm waned. Many men preferred to remain home, in the safety of what Gen. George Washington described as their Chimney Corner.”
In fact, Washington predicted that “after the first emotions are over,” those who were willing to serve from a belief in the “goodness of the cause” would amount to little more than “a drop in the Ocean.” And he was correct. Source: Smithsonian Magazine
But how did the colonial government drum up public support?
“American printers played a vital role in swaying public opinion in the years leading up to the American Revolution. A heavy use of propaganda, or the spreading of information and rumors, was used. American printers wrote a great deal against the British which helped to raise morale within the American colonies.” Source: VoicesYahoo.com
And what would have happened to America’s Founding Fathers if the Revolution had been lost? Well, pretty much what’s happening to Edward Snowden but worse. Snowden is a traitor for spilling American secrets, and if the U.S. catches him, he may spend the rest of his life in prison. In the 18th century, the Founding Fathers would have been hanged. Now you may understand why that propaganda and those rumors was so important to these future leaders of a fledgling country.
Continued on July 9, 2013 in Manipulating public opinion to wage wars: Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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