The images portrayed in the stereoscopic cards, advertisements and stereoscopic views euphemistically depicted in graphic eloquent terms American imperialism as the country’s destiny and responsibility for the world. Albeit, more than euphemizing the imperialist efforts, the images actually served as propaganda materials to justify the wars of expansionism and to promote American ethnocentrism. The 3-D stereoscopic technology provided for an effective medium to ‘teach’ the American public about the Spanish-American War, which graduated into U. S. conquests of the Philippines and Cuba, along American imperialist ideology.
It is worth noting that at that time, there was considerable opposition to President William McKinley’s imperialist policies, including Leo Tolstoy. Given the strong visual impact, the technology truly proved to be effective propaganda medium for the wars’ imperialist supporters. Both the stereoscopic cards and advertisements harped on the supposed patriotic duty of the servicemen and their families in order to popularize or make acceptable the imperialist aggression. As argument to support United States imperialism, the images perpetuated a lot of myths about the peoples of the lands Uncle Sam colonized.
The myths generally revolved around the colonized peoples as being mostly uncivilized and needing the presence of America to civilize, educate and modernize them. The Philippines and the Filipinos were particularly victimized by the propaganda and the stereoscopic materials because of the extensive coverage of the Philippine-American War. The 3-D cards to a certain degree portrayed the indigenous Filipinos as uncivilized, in part because a number of them reproduced the photograph exhibit of the Philippine Reservation at the 1904 St.
Louis Exposition. In that Fair, an aboriginal Filipino was brought and presented, creating the impression that the general population was comprised of tribesmen. There was one stereoscopic image that conveyed how American arrival made the Filipino workers into civilized plantation workers. These advertisements and stereoscopic images also floated, and certainly didn’t disprove, notions of cannibalism among the people in the tropical island possessions of the United States.
A cereal advertisement actually capitalized on the concerns on cannibalism in order to tout the supposed benefits of the product to the stomach. These captured images certainly portrayed the turn-of-the-21st-century American imperialism inaccurately as they emphasized the less gory and ‘benevolent America’ pictures of the war. The images altogether became propaganda vehicle for the administration’s expansionist policies and therefore provided only a single viewpoint.
While there was a measure of anti-imperialist sentiments in the home front, by and large this wasn’t supported by stereoscopic or advertising images made available then to the American public. The circulated images literally carried partisan views that reflected the thrust of the American military and the pro-imperialist advocates. To be sure, these cards and advertisements excluded images showing the complete picture—the perhaps truer state of ‘civility’ of these peoples as according to their own viewpoints.
As an example, the caption “Better Class of Filipinos—who welcome American rule” communicated the inaccurate message that Filipinos from the higher class welcomed United States’ conquest of the islands The complete truth is that the Filipino elite in generally fiercely fought the Americans at the start of the Philippine-American War and while a number of them were eventually coopted into American Rule, there were intellectuals and elites who helped the masses defy the imperialist and prolong the War.
The captured images from this War also downplayed the gross atrocities and mass killings committed against the Filipinos and instead focused on the seeming kind acts of nursing wounded Filipinos in U. S. reserve hospitals. It is unfortunate that the American public was introduced and educated to these new colonies via these images. Intended as propaganda materials, the images were selected in order to drum up public support for the imperialist wars and they therefore depicted an ethnocentric view of American imperialism in concerned countries.