The Power of “An Event” to Sway Public Opinion – I’ve Heard It All Before!

Throughout history, there usually is some event (real or imagined) that aids in communicating a reason to masses of people to do something – like go to war, build a wall, and that sort of thing.

BEWARE!  It WILL happen again! And it shows the power of the critical skill of Communications to sway public opinion!

These historical events, prior to the age of instant and 24-hour news coverage, had to be spectacular in nature to attract attention. For example:

  • Abraham Lincoln used the shelling of Fort Sumpter to sway public opinion to begin the Civil War;
  • William McKinley used the sinking of the battleship Maine as a cause for war against Spain;
  • Woodrow Wilson used the sinking of RMS Lusitania, unrestricted submarine warfare against US shipping, and the Zimmerman Memorandum as causes for entering World War I;
  • Hitler used the burning of the Reichstag to inflame the passions of Germans against the “communists” and the left wing to seize power;
  • Hitler used a fake “attack” by Poles on the eastern border of Germany to invade Poland and effectively start World War II;
  • Roosevelt used the attack on Pearl Harbor to sway American public opinion to enter World War II;
  • Lyndon Johnson used the Golf of Tonkin incident as a cause to take military action against North Vietnam;
  • George W. Bush used the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2000 as a cause to invade Afghanistan;
  • George W. Bush used the threat of weapons of mass destruction as a cause to invade Iraq.

See the cause and effect?

  • Sometimes the “causes” are real, like  the shelling of Fort Sumter, Pearl Harbor, 9-11, etc.,
  • and some are either imaginary (like the Gulf of Tonkin and weapons of mass destruction)

The musical Shenandoah described this in the lyrics of “Stand and Show Your Colors”:

Stand and show your colors

Let’s all go to war

The Lord will surely bless us

I’ve heard it all before!

Someone writes a slogan

Raises up a flag;

Someone finds an enemy to blame;

The trumpet sounds the call to arms

To leave the cities and the farms

And always the ending is the same!

The dreams have turned to ashes

The fields have turned to straw

And someone asks the question,

“What was the dyin’ for?”

The living can’t remember,

The dead no longer care;

But “NEXT TIME” it won’t happen!

Upon my soul I swear!

I’ve heard it all a hundred times

I’ve heard it all before

DON’T tell me it’s different now –

I’ve heard it all before!

Given the heat and passion and the yawning gap between the left and the right, there most likely will be some sort of “event” – real and possibly staged – to sway public opinion.

I’ve heard it all, I’ve heard it all, I’ve heard it all before!

Don’t tell me it’s different now!

I’ve heard it all before!

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