The Committee on Public Information (CPI) was a government agency established in the United States during World War I with the aim of supporting the war effort. It was created by executive order shortly after the United States entered the war in 1917 and was shuttered in 1919 with the cessation of hostilities. Thanks to extensive government archives, materials produced and used by the agency are readily available and provide insight into the way the US government promoted the war to the American people.
President Woodrow Wilson appointed a journalist, George Creel, to head the CPI. Key officials from the military were also important members. One aspect of the committee's work was censorship of potentially damaging material, and the committee maintained a stranglehold on the kind of material from the war that could be released to the public.
The other arm of the Committee on Public Information's work involved generating propaganda materials. Creel ran the committee much like an advertising agency and provided a blitz of media materials, like magazine and newspaper articles, posters, still photographs, film reels, and radio broadcasts to reach the citizens of the United States. The agency provided speech makers for public events and numerous other resources for communities across the United States.
While the committee was ostensibly established for the purpose of providing members of the public with information about the war effort, it was in effect a propaganda agency. It used a number of techniques to dehumanize the enemy and to promote anti-German sentiment in the United States with the goal of encouraging people to support the war. Atrocities committed by the other side were reported in detail and sometimes with unreliable facts, while questions about the activity of American forces and their allies were suppressed.
Despite the efforts of the CPI during the war, there was anti-war sentiment in the United States. Some people resisted the draft and others spoke in opposition to the war. This sentiment was suppressed by the agency, and it also publicly lampooned people who spoke against war and encouraged citizens to do the same. People who refused to take up arms were shamed with a variety of techniques, including the distribution of white feathers to young men who appeared to be able and of draft age to shame them for perceived cowardice.