WHY did the United States go to war in 1917? For an answer, some point to the banks and munitions makers, some to the character of President Wilson, some to the capitalist system, some to Allied propagandists. In any attempt at presenting a complete answer, careful consideration must be given to what was in the minds of the American people themselves in the thirty-two months during which the United States was neutral. There were speakers, books, periodicals, and movies which gave the American people interpretations of the war and provoked popular emotions and reactions. But it was above all the news of Europe as supplied by the newspapers which provided the bases of contemporary American opinion.
The task of charting the features of this war news might be pursued along several useful lines. In the present case, attention is concentrated upon only two features: (1), the origin of the news which created the American picture of the war; and (2), the appeals contained in this news (not editorials) which might make the reader favor American participation. Reportorial interpretations naturally varied with the countries in which they originated. It seems worth while today to reëxamine the appeals they contained in view of the present controversy as to the motives which determined the United States to join the conflict.
The accompanying diagrams show the origin of our war news and indicate the nature of the appeals which that news contained. The diagrams are based on a compilation of the number of items appearing on the front page of the New York Times, the newspaper which published the maximum amount of war news. The diagrams do not cover the entire period of American neutrality; but they include the vital months from the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia through the sinking of the Lusitania and the resignation of Secretary Bryan, and the period from the German peace proposals of December 1916 to the American declaration of war in April 1917.
It is not to be assumed that each item counted
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