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Embracing Technologies of Domination: The Rise of Popular Imperialism in the U.S., 1898-1904
Unformatted Document Text:  The “splendid little war” of 1898 began with the echo of distant explosions, first of the mysteriously sunken Maine off Cuba on February 15 and ten weeks later reverberating from the one-sided barrage at Manila Bay in the Philippines. Though technology did not yet allow the public to hear the machinery of war in action, the popular press managed to evoke their essence, sparking paroxysms of patriotic expression the likes of which have seldom been seen in the United States. The initial surge of martial enthusiasm can be laid to a combination of confidence in both the righteousness of the national cause and the chances for military success, as well as rhetoric-fired optimism about the opportunities tangling with Spain might bring, and self-celebration at the capacity for world power the guns in distant Manila Bay betokened. Still, for a nation that had an insubstantial army 1 and that had turned down an opportunity to annex Hawaii twice in the preceding five years, 2 the United States was remarkably quick in 1898 to generate nationalist fervor for a little-considered war along far-flung frontiers in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. The technologies of communication that allowed for popular passions to be fanned and rekindled played a crucial role in maintaining the popularity of a tendency that ran against previously dominant anti-imperialist sentiments, setting the United States and the world on a path to unprecedented degrees of globalization. The enhanced speed and reach of mass communication and popular culture played a major role in propelling the patriotic narratives that proved so attractive to the populace at that crucial juncture. By the same token, however, the wildfire of patriotism that inspired tens of thousands of men to drop everything for the chance to go fight in far- flung, unknown places proved difficult to sustain in the service of a longer-term colonial project, even as popular media’s role in the engagement continued along diverse

Authors: Vaughan, Christopher.
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The “splendid little war” of 1898 began with the echo of distant explosions, first
of the mysteriously sunken Maine off Cuba on February 15 and ten weeks later
reverberating from the one-sided barrage at Manila Bay in the Philippines. Though
technology did not yet allow the public to hear the machinery of war in action, the
popular press managed to evoke their essence, sparking paroxysms of patriotic expression
the likes of which have seldom been seen in the United States. The initial surge of
martial enthusiasm can be laid to a combination of confidence in both the righteousness
of the national cause and the chances for military success, as well as rhetoric-fired
optimism about the opportunities tangling with Spain might bring, and self-celebration at
the capacity for world power the guns in distant Manila Bay betokened. Still, for a nation
that had an insubstantial army
and that had turned down an opportunity to annex Hawaii
twice in the preceding five years,
the United States was remarkably quick in 1898 to
generate nationalist fervor for a little-considered war along far-flung frontiers in
Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. The technologies of communication that allowed for
popular passions to be fanned and rekindled played a crucial role in maintaining the
popularity of a tendency that ran against previously dominant anti-imperialist sentiments,
setting the United States and the world on a path to unprecedented degrees of
globalization.
The enhanced speed and reach of mass communication and popular culture played
a major role in propelling the patriotic narratives that proved so attractive to the populace
at that crucial juncture. By the same token, however, the wildfire of patriotism that
inspired tens of thousands of men to drop everything for the chance to go fight in far-
flung, unknown places proved difficult to sustain in the service of a longer-term colonial
project, even as popular media’s role in the engagement continued along diverse


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