Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Social Darwinism masquerading as Progressivism?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Social Darwinism masquerading as Progressivism?

In Stuart Ewing's book 'House of Truth', the role of Goerge Creel as civilian director of the CPI (committee on public information) is described in detail. The most fascinating, and troubling, aspect of the discusion is Mr. Creel's motivation for accepting the post, and his vigourous pursuit of it's goals, which often led his committee to engage in acts usually employed by authoritarian regimes, not democracies. In fact, I find myself taking issue with his ideas of what a democracy should be:
"In a number of ways the active collaberation between progressivism and the war effort made historical sense. By 1917, the aims of progressivism and the agenda of the CPI were not that far apart...For some time, progressivism had articulated a vision of the future in which intellectuals and social technicions would come to lead a new and rational world order. In 1917, with one of their own-Woodrow Wilson-at the helm of government, many saw the war as an opportunity for American and American liberal values to frame the world's future."

The word progressivism has such a nice ring to it, like 'let's change things for the better'. Too bad it's just Social Darwinism in disguise. The poor, struggling, stupid masses of uneducated workers (Women, African Americans, Poles, Slaves, Italians, Irish, etc.) need well educated, white males like Mr. Creel to lead them to the promised land of peace, prosperity, and social order. History is full of well meaning men who were too smart for their own good, yet not smart enough to understand the common good of self-determination, the founding principle of American Democracy. It is no surprise then, that the progressives became the repressives. In order to ensure 'The Future of Democracy', Ameica was turned (for 2 years) into George Orwell's 1984.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

An interesting post.

Yes, both Wilson and Creel were progressives, but I am not sure that the "Social-Darwinist" label applies here.

Progressives believed that government should be used to uplift the masses not in "survival of the fittest."

While the use of propaganda can be seen as Orwellian in some respects I don't think that the progressive movement shared the same 'laissez-faire,' Social-Darwinism of the economic conservatives of the day.

Shouldn't the immigrant working classes be educated in the civic values of an American democratic society? That is a main function of the public education system, then and today.

The progressive themes of wartime propaganda are a key point here. Why was it necessary to sell a war with American progressive ideology?

2/23/2008 11:50 AM  

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