Presidents and Politicians: Products and Practitioners of Propaganda

PNP256537 'War! says Wilson; Big Army Wanted', front page of the 'Los Angeles Examiner', 3rd April 1917 (print) by American School, (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: American entry into the First World War; appeal for troops; Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) 28th president of the United States of America; twenty eighth;); Peter Newark American Pictures; American,  out of copyright

By S. Brian Willson (March 18, 2016)

Thinking of this post about Trump’s voluminous lies, I thought it instructive to share info about the fact that the entire system actually does run on lies to preserve power and profit.

Presidents once in office are, of course, excellent liars and pretenders, playing youth off as cannon fodder when force is needed to preserve economic and political power. When World War I began in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson’s sympathies increasingly lay with the British and the US banks that were funding the allied war effort, even as he publicly proclaimed US neutrality. However, he recognized that the great majority of Americans wanted no part of the fighting in Europe, and in 1916 he successfully sought re-election on the appealing slogan, “He Kept Us out of War.” Soon after his second inauguration, however, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war, which was approved in April 1917. Wilson promised this would be “the war to end all wars” but he was under intense pressure to bail out desperate US bankers such as J.P. Morgan who had been bankrolling the British war effort against Germany. 

After the gruesome World War I, US Americans resolved to never again make the same mistake. Yet just two decades later, President Franklin Roosevelt began the maneuvers by which the nation would once again be plunged into the European cauldron, despite his declared platform of neutrality toward the war.

Deep fear of the Bolsheviks motivated US America’s wealthy class, with complicity of the US government, to support the rise of Germany from the early 1930s into the war years, because they trusted the capitalist Nazis to serve as a block to the threat of socialism. Elite power brokers included leaders of Wall Street and wealthy barons such as the Rockefellers and Andrew Mellon, and businesses such as Ford Motor, IBM, General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Texaco, ITT, International Harvester, Chase Manhattan Bank, the House of Morgan banking dynasty, DuPont, United Aircraft, etc. The same economic forces that helped build up Germany in pre-war years stood to make huge profits off of war.

Knowing these realities, Franklin Roosevelt nonetheless campaigned for re-election swearing in 1940: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” Roosevelt was lying when he made this declaration, as he had lied before. Yet many, many Americans trusted Roosevelt with their lives. During the war, more than 400,000 US Americans paid the ultimate price. Since World War II, nine presidents, Truman to Obama, have lied to the people to justify hundreds of military interventions, while covering up thousands of covert intrusions. Propaganda rules supreme!

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