A Tale of Two False Endings to World War I
Assistant Professor, International History
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Fellow, Transatlantic Academy, German Marshall Fund, 2016–17
When and how have the media changed the course of events? This talk will examine two media-generated false endings to World War I to understand how and when the migration of information resulted in substantive political change. In one case, that information did not resonate; in the other, it sparked the creation of a new democracy. In the United States, a news agency, United Press, mistakenly reported the end of the war several days before it actually happened, inspiring celebrations in the streets and ridicule for the news agency thereafter. In Germany, meanwhile, Chancellor Prince Maximilian von Baden used the semi-official news agency Wolff’s Telegraphisches Bureau to announce Wilhelm II’s abdication on November 9, 1918, without the Kaiser’s permission or knowledge. Von Baden’s actions sparked a chain of events leading to a new German chancellor and a range of compromises that formed the basis of the Weimar Republic. Tworek will consider what theoretical approaches to media systems and social identities help us to understand these two contrasting tales. More broadly, she will consider how the movement of information concealed contested political, economic, and technological processes that cut off much of the world’s population from access to speedy communications and concentrated the power of news reporting in the hands of a small elite.