Pulitzer’s War Mongering
by Joy Tomme
In 1895, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer promoted the Spanish American War–a war between Spain and Cuba–to bolster circulation of the Hearst New York Morning Journal and Pulitzer’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. By 1896 the American Congress demanded that the United States intervene. Since the war was fought mainly on water, it quickly ended because the U.S. had a superior navy. Our losses were considered piddling. And newspapers sold like crazy.
War is good for the economy, it’s good for political reputations, and God knows it’s good for the media. Only the general population–the ones who fight, die, mourn and pay the price–hate war.
In the century since the Hearst/Pulitzer Spanish American War, very little has changed in politics and the media. In 1895 the newspapers showed photographs of Spanish general Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, “the Butcher,” rounding up Cubans and putting them in concentration camps where they were exposed to hunger, disease, and primitive sanitation. The pictures roused the American Congress to a frenzy of outrage. It is said the American public also demanded that the United States get involved. But who knows? The “American public” may simply have been a few people interviewed.