PropagandaGood and Badfor Democracy
Clyde R. Miller and Louis Minsky
The main thing is to keep cool, keep our heads, shape our actions in terms of the long time interests of the majority of the American people. This means analysisand, first of all, analysis of propagandas which would pull us one way or another. We must ask: What propagandists seek to influence us, and to what end? How do they operate? What are their methods and their motives?
Ask these questions about representatives of various governmentsabout Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Baldwin, Chamberlain, Daladier, Roosevelt; about leaders of various groupsEarl Browder, Norman Thomas, Father Coughlin, Frank Buchman, Hamilton Fish; about representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties; about newspaper columnists like Hugh Johnson, Dorothy Thompson, Westbrook Pegler and Heywood Broun.
What is name calling? In this device, the propagandist wants us to condemn and to reject another nation or another race or a religion or a political party or a candidate or a program of some sort or a policyor possibly even a commercial product. And to do this, he applies to the race, nation, policy, or whatever it may be, a bad name. If we take his bad name at face value, if we regard it as a poison word which really means poison to us, we are likely to react almost automatically, particularly if the bad name has been built up to have a connotation of great evil and wickedness.
What sort of bad names? Well, Mr. Roosevelt has used some. "Economic royalists" is a bad name. "Tory," "Copperhead." Some of Mr. Roosevelt's opponents have used bad names. They have called him a "radical," a "dictator," a "Red." In the later Middle Ages, both Protestants and Catholics made of the word "heretic" a bad name. So that it was only necessary to say that some poor soul was a "heretic" to have that individual removed from the social sceneand oftentimes none too pleasantly removed.
Later there was the phobia of witches. Even gentle John Wesley pointed out that witches must be hunted down, because "witch" was a bad name. To many Protestant fundamentalists, "Catholic" has been a bad name. In the 1920s the Klan added to its evil connotations.
What were some of the bad names in the world war? Of course, Germany's "hymn of hate" against England was full of such bad names. And, of course, the common bad name that the English and we used was "Hun."
Hitler, probably the ablest propagandist of modern history, and one of the ablest of all time, very early in his political career made the word "communist," already a bad name, even worse. Then he associated with "communist" the word "Jew," and gave to "Jew" that same connotation of baseness and evil and wickedness which went with the word "heretic" in the Middle Ages. It was only necessary to whisper the word "heretic" to get one punished as a heretic. And that held for Protestants and Catholics.
Then, very cleverly, Hitler made "democracy" a bad name. In an address at Nuremberg, he declared, "Democracy is the foul and filthy avenue to communism." So he kept identifying JewCommunismDemocracy. And he influenced not only people in Germany but he influenced people in England and France and Spain and Italy and the United States, and the whole world. So much so that, in some circles, if an individual actually expressed himself in favor of democracy, he was immediately labelled as "communist" or as "Jew." Father Coughlin and propagandists like the Rev. Gerald Winrod and General Mosely have been using this same technique in America. There are many examples in the current literature involving the New Deal of the use of "communist" and "Jew" as bad names, for instance, the "Jew Deal."
What is the antidote for "name calling?" The first thing to ask is, What does the word mean? What is an "economic royalist," what is a "radical," what is a "communist," what is a "fascist"? And see if we can agree upon a definition, or at least get a working definition.
Second, who applies the term? Third, what are his motives, his interests? Does he represent any particular person or group? And, finally, if we rejected and condemned this race, religion, nation, policy, candidate, principle, program, that he wants us to, would we be serving his interests or the interests of some selfish and perhaps hidden group or our own interests?
Name calling is the commonest of the propaganda tricks. It will be resorted to constantly in this war's propaganda. But almost as common is the "glittering generalities" device. Here the propagandist uses good names. He identifies the race, nation, policy, program, candidate, with virtue by the use of virtue wordswords that instead of making us fighting mad, as the bad names do, put us into a kind of rosy glowwords like "truth," "beauty," "brotherhood," "justice," "social justice," and "democracy." These virtue words are dangerous, because they are omnibus words on which all manner of meanings may ride. If a propagandist talks in terms of virtue words, we may subscribe to what he says, and find ourselves subscribing to a policy which is just contrary to what we, ourselves, adhere, or should adhere if we reason the thing out.
In some respects, the virtue word that holds the greatest danger for us today is the word "democracy." For us, it is a good word; just as "socialism" was a good word for Hitlerwho named his party the National Socialist Partyblandly ignoring the contradiction that socialism and communism both stem from the Marxism that he said he detested.
What is the antidote for "glittering generalities"? Simply this: We must run these glittering generalities through a prism of analysis and break them down into their concrete, specific parts and apply them to concrete situations. And because democracy is going to be the key word of any propaganda campaign to get us into war or to keep us out of war, run it through and you get four parts.
Part Number One is political democracy. That is the right to voteto vote "No" as well as to vote "Yes." It is also the right to talk about the things on which we vote, to discuss them, to print pieces in the paper about them. In short, it is freedom of speech in press and assembly. You can hire a hall and talk about them. That is upheld in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.
Second, there is economic democracy. The right to vote doesn't mean a great deal without the right on the part of the adultand also the obligationto work. And that means, again, the right to discuss the conditions under which men work. That implies the right of those workers who are employers to organize into national manufacturers associations and chambers of commerce, and the right of employee to organize into American Federations of Labor and CIO's. The obligation to work, without the right to work and without the right to discuss the conditions under which we work, is, of course, tantamount to slavery.
Third, there is social democracy, which is the right to be free from oppressionbased upon some theory of superiority or inferiority. For instance, women are often thought inferior to men; therefore, if they actually do work, persons who believe them inferior think they ought to get paid less than a man. And some positions, such persons think, women shouldn't be permitted to fill at allsuch as most careers in medicine and in the higher administration of schools. Similarly there is discrimination against Negroes on the basis of race. That discrimination often, as in the case of sex, shows how interrelated and interdependent these component parts of democracy are.
The discrimination against Negroes on the basis of race takes the form of not letting them do certain types of work. It often takes the form in sections of the South of not permitting them to vote, of not permitting them to stay in ordinary hotels or ride in ordinary trains.
Finally, there is religious democracy, which is the right to worship God or not to worship God, according to the dictates of one's conscience. That, of course, involves the separation of church and state as provided by the Bill of Rights. Keeping these specific democratic freedoms in mind and applying them as tests, it becomes easier to spot the propaganda of those who use "democracy" as a glittering generality.
The third common device is that of transfer. Here, the propagandist would transfer the prestige and the sanction and the authority of some institution we respect, like the state or the university or the Church, to some cause he would have us respect. Or it works in reverse. He may transfer the condemnation of this institution to something he would have us condemn or reject. In the first world war the Germans used it: "Gott mit uns." And, of course, an important and one of the very early British propaganda campaign slogans in the world war was, "For God, for King and Country," thereby carrying the sanction of God Almighty to the British side of that particular war.
Symbols are much used in this transfer device.'The cross symbolizes the Church. Uncle Sam symbolizes our nation. Symbols are effective because, with the speed of light, they can bring in us a reaction that arouses a whole complex of feelings, of emotions. Thus, if the sword ofthe warrior has superimposed upon it the cross of Christ, you have a sort of double transferChrist approving war; the Prince of Peace actually approving the swordand the warrior defending the Church. This, of course, has been used again and again, and will be used continuously, I suspect, in our country in today's propaganda.
Take the cartoon picture of Uncle Sam. That symbolizes our country. We will say you are the cartoonist on a newspaper, and you are ordered to draw a cartoon on keeping us out of war. What are you going to do? You are going to picture Europe in flames, and you are going to picture an Uncle Sam with a stern face, standing upon the shores of America and saying, "Keep out of it!" And many who see that cartoon of yours in the newspaper will echo your opinion, or your publisher's opinion. It may be your own opinion, or you may just be working for your editor and carrying out his orders, and have another opinion yourself.
On the other hand, you may be working for an editor or publisher who says, "I think we ought to be getting into this war and doing our part." Then you will draw, let us say, a figure representing Democracy, perhaps a beautiful woman, who is being assailed by a horrible beast, and Uncle Sam is the one who is sending valiant men to go to her rescue. Uncle Sam will be saying, "If Americans are men, they will not let this happen."
Professor Peterson of the University of Oklahoma wrote a book called "Propaganda for War," published last May, showing how this whole transfer device was beautifully utilized by the British, but pointing out that what they would do, any other nation would do.
According to Peterson, they worked in a very simple way. They converted, first of all, the ministersthe leading onesto the British cause. At the same time they converted leading educators, journalists, and statesmen. Those educators and ministers and journalists and statesmen became advocates of the British cause in Americaand those men really did most of the British job of propaganda from 1914 to 1917.
Another common device that you are going to see is the testi,monial device. This is common in the field of patent medicine and cigarette advertising. You get it in political propaganda too. "John Lewis is the worst thing that could happen to American labor," or "John Lewis is the best thing that could happen to American labor." You can use testimonials for and against. For obvious reasons, you do not find negative testimonials in commercial advertising; but you will find a lot of negative testimonials in political, religious and social propaganda. There are all.manner of testimonials for and against the United States' embargo on arms. Go back of the testimonials. On what facts are they based? What motives do they reveal? And how do those motives concern us?
The plain folks device is a familiar American method of persuasion by means of which an advocate of any proposition identifies it, himself and his audience with plain people. It was a notably strong weapon in the hands of Huey Long, and it serves anyone who wishes to appeal to great masses of ordinary folks.
Then there is the device of card stacking. Here, the propagandist stacks the cards against the truth. He runs the whole gamut of misrepresentation, from innuendo or slight distortion of meaning to outright lies. Card stacking may be very hard to discover at the time, because the most accomplished liars are those who appear to be telling the unvarnished truth. It often takes a great amount of researeh, of digging, to get at the facts.
You had some beautiful examples, of course, in the world war. For instance, the factory they had in Germany for boiling corpses down into fat to make soapwhich, of course, was not true. In a sense, Wilson's Fourteen Points were used effectively as card stacking, because they were one of the things that made the Germans agree to an armistice. And it was assumed that the peace would be based on those Fourteen Points. So that was really "putting something over" on the Germans.
Wilson's "open covenants, openly arrived at" was a stirring ideal, but in actual practice was card stacking. If you happened to be in Paris at the time of the making of the Treaty of Versailles, you would know that there was nothing open at all in the way that treaty was made. It was made in the greatest secrecy, and the Paris papers every day had great columns of white space in them because those columns had contained things about the treaty which the government censors didn't want printed. So there was card stacking and it helped lay the foundation for a European situation in which another great armed conflict was almost inevitable. More card stacking preceded and accompanied the Munich Pact, adding to the inevitability of conflict.
The bandwagon is the culminating device of all propaganda. The theme song for it might be, "Everybody's doing it. Let's get on the bandwagon, too." The techniques range from those of the street corner medicine show to the vast pageant, and are conspicuous in every drive for a cause and in every political campaign.
WHAT IS THE MORAL, IF THERE BE A MORAL, FOR US? THERE will be these innumerable efforts made to shape American policy. What we do ought to be done in terms of our own long time interests. To know those interests we need to cut through clouds of propaganda, clouds of censorship, which means that we need to maintain our freedom of speech and our freedom of press, and particularly as these concern foreign policy.
The Williamstown Institute of Human Relations
BECAUSE PROPAGANDA IS PLAYING AND WILL CONTINUE TO play such an important part, not only in shaping American policy but in influencing the attitude of the man in the street, the discussions at the Williamstown Institute of Human Relations were of special significance and performed a vital public service.
The Institute was held at Williams College in Massachusetts, August 27September 1, 1939, under the auspices of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, an organization founded in 1928 to work for justice amity, understanding and cooperation among Protestants, Catholics and Jews. The general theme of the Institute was "Citizenship and Religion." Nearly one thousand educators, business men, churchmen, social workers and representatives of labor, agriculture and women's groups came together to discuss every important aspect of the relationship between Church and State.
The Williamstown Institute of Human Relations is the successor to the Williamstown Institute of Politics, discontinued in 1932, which had such an important influence upon our political thinking. The present Institute carries on this work in the field of human relations.
The daily forum on propaganda at the 1939 Institute was, in a sense, a continuation of the 1937 Institute which had as its general theme "Public Opinion in a Democracy." This year the subject of propaganda was considered under the heading of "PropagandaGood and Badfor Democracy." For nearly a week leading educators, business men, writers, editors and representatives of the motion picture and radio industries gave thoughtful attention to the problems presented by propagandas both favorable and inimical to democracy.
The speakers at the daily forum on propaganda were Franklin Dunham of the National Broadcasting Company; Professor Harold D. Lasswell of the William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Frank Kingdon, president of the University of Newark, Newark, N.J.; Freda Kirchwey, editor of The Nation; Arthur T. Robb, editor of Editor and Publisher; Professor Richard Lewis, Glendale Junior College, Glendale, Calif.; Howard Dietz of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; and Roger W. Straus, co-chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Succeeding pages will attempt to summarize the viewpoints of the speakers as regards the problem of propaganda generally and with respect to the special problems presented by the press, radio and motion pictures in relation to propaganda.
PropagandaGood and Bad
PERHAPS THE MAJOR QUESTION FACED BY AMERICANS IS whether democracy should tolerate propaganda directed against itself. This problem has been an insistent one during the past five or six years. Americans have seen the growth of the German-American Bund and other Nazi and fascist-minded groups which openly advocate violence against certain racial and religious groups and the overthrow of the democratic form of government generally. They have witnessed the growth of a militant Communist Party whose objective is the destruction of democracy and the substitution of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Some students of political conditions have stated that if the Weimar Republic had suppressed the National Socialist Party in the early stages of the latter's existence, Germany might have remained a democracy and Hitler might never have come to power.
Other thoughtful Americans have posed the question as to whether a democracy should tolerate propaganda directed against racial and religious groups which are guaranteed equality under the constitution of the land. This question has become more urgent to the citizens as they have seen fascist-minded groups, such as the "Christian Front" in New York, become bolder and more brazen in their advocacy of violence and hatred against special groups.
It has become clear that the liberty vouchsafed by democracy is being exploited by the enemies of democracy. This being acknowledged, the question is: Shall anti-democratic propaganda be suppressed for the safety and security of democracy?
On this issue there was general agreement by the forum that the principle of "free trade" in propaganda must be maintained. Democratic governments are bound to permit anarchist, syndicalist, communist, fascist and militant propaganda within their borders. There is no "ism" the propaganda of which democracy can ban and still remain democracy. No man is wise enough, in the words of Professor Lasswell, to decide for the people what the people shall discuss. Any effort to limit discussion is anti-democratic and violates the basic principle of free trade in propaganda.
But in exercising this principle, caution must be used, as Dr. Kingdon emphasized, not to surrender entirely to the romanticism that attaches itself to some aspects of the democratic idealthe idea that, somehow or other, men are basically good, and if you give them a chance they will arrive at good conclusions. In other words, the democrat may be optimistic about the capacity of the ordinary man to arrive at proper conclusions, and he may be certain about the ultimate victory of democracy in a battle of propaganda, but he must nevertheless exercise a certain sense of realism in dealing with anti-democratic propagandas.
I think both democracy and liberal religion, at any rate, suffer from a too romanticized view of the capacity of human nature. I think that tile moral depravity of man, while I would not want to endorse it theologically to the full extent, has a fundamental truth hidden in it. There is something that is rotten and corruptible in human nature. And democracy is not going to work if it is going to be dealing all the time in terms of a sort of gay and poetic romantic view of human nature that says, "Well, after all, if we deal with these people in a fine way, we shall always get a fine response." We may not. We have got to be psychologically realistic in our dealing with the passions and with the motives and with the emotions that actually drive men into action.
One reason for tolerating anti-democratic propaganda is that any challenge to democracy sharpens the alertness of democrats. As Professor Lasswell remarked, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin have done more for civic education in America than any other three men. They have forced Americans back upon first principles. Americans have nken democracy too much for granted. The attacks upon democracy have stirred them to action and to critical self-analysis.
But granted that "free trade" in propaganda must be the principle, the question to be answered is: What methods must democrats use to meet anti-democratic propaganda? One thing is certain, we must guard against becoming undemocratic in practice as we defend the principles of democracy. The easiest way to fight a fascist is always to fight him with fascist weapons. This way to fight the fascist is to make war on him. And war is the fascist way of settling international difficulties. Fascist propaganda can be met by descending to the same kinds of name calling and vituperation to which the fascist descends. But if this is done, the values of democracy are being betrayed. As Dr. Kingdon said "You are not going to defeat fascism with fascism, even though you say you are doing it the name of democracy."
The difficulties faced by democrats in finding a suitable method of counteracting anti-democratic propaganda were evident in the discussion between Professor Lasswell and Dr. Kingdon. Professor Lasswell recommended that democracy should deliberately opt the "instant reply" plan of coping with anti-democratic propranda. Under this system, anti-democratic propaganda would have no access to the channels of communication unless it is instantly met by pro-democratic propaganda. The radio stations of this country, for example, would give no circulation to anti-democratic propaganda in which pro-democratic answers are not given on the same program or immediately thereafter. The newspapers, magazines, newsreels and feature pictures, also, would give no publicity to anti-democratic propaganda without giving equal prominence to pro-democratic propaganda. So far as public halls and lectures are concerned it would tend to prohibit public meetings or large private gatherings in which anti-democratic propaganda is circulated, unless at the same time the audience is exposed to counter-propaganda.
To put such a plan into effect, said Professor Lasswell, we should resort to legislation, to administrative ordinance, to strengthening self-regulation, whenever self-regulation is not able to operate effectively. This means that in the case of newspaper and magazine publishers and owners, the owners of radio and motion pictures, and the book publishers, we should look to them to work out for themselves a policy of "instant reply," applicable to their medium of communication. Democracy is too much in danger, Professor Lasswell observed, for people who exercise control over the mass media of communication to operate thoughtlessly.
Dr. Kingdon pointed out, however, that under such a plan it would be necessary to leave the definition of democracy to the owners of the media of communication. In the case of the press, for example, he expressed doubt that "some newspaper owners know what democracy is." There might be a difference of opinion between the newspaper owner and the reporter as to just exactly what is democratic propaganda and what is not. What would be effected by this procedure, in Dr. Kingdon's opinion, is a reinforcement of the owner's own concentration of power since he could always excuse any piece of propaganda he wanted to put into his columns by saying, "I am putting this piece of propaganda directly into my columns to offset what I consider to be antidemocratic propaganda."
Dr. Kingdon also remarked that if you say to a radio station, for example, "If you put on a piece of anti-democratic propaganda, you must immediately put on the democratic reply," you are deciding the patterns of progress for that radio station. This, he declared, institutes the full authoritarian principle by "the thin edge of the wedge," since it means in effect saying to the stations: "You may have the right to put on fifteen minutes of that kind of stuff, but we step in afterwards and say that you must put on fifteen minutes of this."
IN ANY DISCUSSION OF THE RADIO and propaganda, the activities of Father Coughlin are bound to receive a leading place. The weekly radio addresses of the priest of Royal Oak are the outstanding example of propaganda on the air today. The problem of counteracting this propaganda has concerned leaders in the field of public and human relations ever since Father Coughlin resumed his broadcasting activities. Consequently, Father Coughlin's activities as well as the problem of radio propaganda generally received attention at the forum.
The attitude of the broadcasting networks with respect to controversial issues was outlined to the forum by Mr. Dunham. He pointed out that no religious organization is allowed to put on a program attacking another religious group. Also, religious groups on the air are asked to emphasize their common faith rather than their differences. The third rule, he said, is that religious groups are asked to put before the public those people who are leaders in their respective groups and who can best present the views that the groups themselves hold.
In the field of public affairs, he said, it is a rule that if one point of view is presented on the air the opposite point of view must be presented, either at the same time or with an equal amount of force from some representative of the opposite point of view. The general policy, he added, is to present as many points of view as there are.
So far as Father Coughlin specifically is concerned, there was some difference of opinion in the forum as to the methods which should be employed to cope with his propaganda. Some forum members held that the Federal Communications Commission should rule that time should be given, not sold, for discussion of controversial issues and that representatives of persons or groups attacked by such a speaker as Father Coughlin be given time on the same broadcast. Professor Lasswell emphasized the importance pf an "immediate reply" to Father Coughlin and similar propagandists.
Many Americans are wondering what the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church is toward Father Coughlin and why the Church does not take some action in the situation. The attitude of the Church was stated by the Rev Gregory Feige (Newton, N. J.), a priest particularly concerned with the problem of anti-Semitism.
Father Feige posed the problem as: How can the Church, which definitely is committed to a path of justice and charity, prevent its official representative to go contrary to that principle of justice and charity?
He is not an official representative of the Church when he speaks over the radio or writes in the paper which has that somewhat incongruous name, Social Justicefor the simple reason that his own superior has stated more than once that he gives no approbation to anything that Father Coughlin may have to say, and the paper of which he calls himself the editorial counsel bears no stamp of imprimatur from his Bishop, which is necessary if he writes as a Catholic priest.
The Newspaper and Propaganda
FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS NEWSPAPERS HAVE BECOME increasingly a target of attack by individuals and groups who, for a variety of reasons, have charged the press with being a deliberate agency of propaganda or an unconscious vehicle for such propaganda. Newspapers have been accused of using their columns to combat the New Deal and progressive legislation generally. During the recent Spanish war they were charged, principally by Roman Catholics, with being biased against the Nationalist forces and, on the other hand, by followers of the Republican government with being prejudiced in favor of the Franco cause. Anti-Semites have violently denounced the press as being controlled by Jews, and thus pro-Jewish in policy. This charge was refuted by Mr. Robb, who said:
The charge of Jewish control of the press is a complete fabrication, designed not so much to injure the Jewish people as to injure the press among the ignorant and the prejudiced. For the record, I should like to cite briefly some facts I have discovered by careful investigation.In any discussion of propaganda in the press it is important to keep in mind the propaganda unwittingly furthered by a newspaper as well as that which may be deliberately fostered by the paper itself. It is probably true, as Mr. Robb intimated, that the extent to which newspapers are subject to pressure by advertisers has been greatly exaggerated, and that "outside of the area of partisan politics and at certain times and seasons only at that, newspapers as a rule are broad and tolerant." But the propaganda unconsciously disseminated by the press is usually more dangerous than that to which it may give its official blessing.
Newspapers can sometimes become the tools of governments, political parties or ideological movements. In France, as Miss Kirchwey pointed out, ordinary, commonplace corruption is the rule. A large part of the French press is either so heavily controlled or heavily subsidized by private interests or foreign governments that the news it carries must always be sifted through the readers' knowledge of its sources. And the ordinary citizen is obviously not in a position to do such a major job of sifting.
The situation in France, according to Miss Kirchwey, can be duplicated all over the continent except in the totalitarian states where the press is simply an extension of the propaganda ministries, and is worth reading only as a source of information on what the dictatorship wants believed about its own and other governments' actions.
In contrast, the press of the United States is "amazingly clean and singularly untrammeled," in Miss Kirchwey's words. Newspapers can be rarely "bought" in the sense that French newspapers can. But American newspapers have in the past lent themselves to the aims of foreign governmentsfree of charge to such governments.
An outstanding example occurred during the last few years when the Nazis were prosecuting their anti-Jewish campaign. American . newspapers frequently carried stories in which high Nazi officials made libelous statements about Jews and sometimes about Catholics. These statements appeared in hundreds of newspapers in this country without refutations or replies of any kind, thus helping to further anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic propaganda. In other words, the Nazis fomented anti-Semitism in the United States by having prominent government officials libel Jews. These libels were cabled to the newspapers by American correspondents and given circulation throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Newspapers may unconsciously further war propaganda by the kind of headlines and stories and photos they use. For example, a number of news items have recently appeared in American newspapers telling of several well known British and French movie actors and actresses who have allegedly joined up for war service. Is this an attempt to transfer the popularity of the matinee idol to the war itself ? (A member of the forum, indicating a picture in a newspaper of nurses digging a trench in England, said, "Here is a sample of the latest type of propaganda. It is from yesterday morning's New York Timesfour delightful British nurses, in white caps and white dresses, digging a five-foot trench in a hospital grounds in London. I know a little about digging trenches, and I don't see how they can stay so clean.")
One question which the individual seeking to detect propaganda in the press must constantly ask is: Who is behind a story, a statement or an article appearing in a newspaper? This point was particularly emphasized by Miss Kirchwey, who said:
Today, you may read in a newspaper an article pointing out the dangers to the United States of taking sides in the European dispute. The views will probably be attributed to some public man whose opinions command space in the news section. It will dwell upon the methods of power politics used by both groups of statesby the Western so-called democracies as well as the fascist dictatorships. It will point out how easily material aid might lead to active involvement. It will insist that democracy in the United States would more certainly be sacrificed through war than even through a victory in Europe by the fascist powers.
The technique of concealed propaganda in the press has also been practiced by groups other than those serving foreign interests. As an outstanding example, Miss Kirchwey cited the propaganda program of the National Association of Manufacturers. Here Miss Kirchwey quoted from the summary findings of the report of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor on the Labor Policies of Employers' Associations Part III, as follows:
The National Association of Manufacturers has blanketed the country with a propaganda which in technique has relied upon indirection of meaning, and in presentation upon secrecy and deception. Radio speeches, public meetings, news, cartoons, editorials, advertising, motion pictures and many other r artifices of propaganda have not in most instances disclosed to the public their origin with the association. The Mandeville Press Service, the Six Star Service, Uncle Abner cartoons, George Sokolsky's services, the "American Family Robinson" radio broadcasts, "Harmony Ads" by MacDonald Cook Co., "civic progress meetings" and many other devices of molding public opinion have been used without disclosure of their origin and financial support by the National Association of Manufacturers.
How many of the newspapers and magazines actually printed the material sent them? The report does not specifically say. But the president of the N.A.M., William B. Warner, in appealing for funds for the propaganda campaign, wrote to prospective contributors: "Last year's newspaper campaign2000 pageswould have cost above a million dollars to buy." And, he might have added, the space could not have been bought. Indeed, the irony of it is that many of the papers that carry this mess of special pleading disguised as news, comics, financial items, economic wisdom, and independent editorial comment, would refuse it if they were offered money for their space. They might even pay for the stuff. Their consciencethat peculiar American consciencewould be disturbed by the idea of selling their news columns to special interests; and besides, it is against the law. But to give it away, that is pure, and beyond criticism!One other form of propaganda attributed to the press has been that of the suppression of news. But suppression of news has not always involved a propaganda purpose.
Sometimes it has been the results of what newspapers conceive to be the furtherance of the public interest. This fact was brought out in a discussion between Miss Kirchwey and Mr. Robb over the handling by New York City newspapers of the "growing violence" instigated by what Miss Kirchwey described as "followers of Father Coughlin and other so-called Christian organizations on the streets of the city."
"But the press of New York," she declared, "did not consider the situation news. A very few of the individual attacks that ended in the police court were briefly reported in one or another of the newspapers. The majority were ignored, whether or not they came into court, and few did. And no newspaper printed any summary or interpretative account to show their readers what it was all about."
Miss Kirchwey then charged that "the suppression of the story of the Coughlin riots and attacks was a result of deliberate policy; it was not a purely journalistic decision based on the news value of the story itself. Is this an instance of improper methods of propaganda? I think it is. The suppression of news is a distortion of news, and distortion in furtherance of a deliberate policy is an example of subverting news columns to propaganda purposes."
But Mr. Robb denied that the riots in question were as important as Miss Kirchwey alleged. He referred to them as "a minor wave of intolerancecausing scarcely a ripple." *
The newspapers are right, in my judgment. There is nothing to be gained, either for journalism or for the public good, by fanning the egotism of fanatics. It is good journalism to report their doings, briefly, accurately, without prejudice and without dramatization. That lets the public know what is going on, without giving the disturbers the idea that they are really important. It also avoids fanning the flames of religious prejudice which, however tolerant we may be, need little agitation to become dangerous. For while a man's religion is often of little importance to his daily life, it is one of his congenital attributes. With a good deal more liberty and safety, you can jeer at the color of his eyes or the shape of his legs than cast reflections on his spiritual life and the ways it follows.The Movies and Propagandizing
FOR SEVERAL YEARS A POLEMIC HAS been growing over the question as to whether it should be the function of the motion picture to educate or entertain. This debate has gathered momentum as Americans have become more self-critical and sought for ways and means of counteracting anti-democratic propaganda. Because the motion picture has generally been accepted as an entertainment medium, it has not, in the past, been subjected to as much organized propaganda pressure as have radio and the press, nor has it been scrutinized as carefully by social idealists. But with the growth of a social consciousness in this country and with democracy an increasing target of attack by totalitarian forces, more and more leaders and groups have come to the conclusion that a medium which reaches eight million people [Editor: Prof. Richard Lewis's estimate] every week can be an effective vehicle for good or evil propaganda.
One significant sign of this development is the report that Hollywood now seethes with sixteen organizations all bent on strengthening and extending democracy in American life. [The Christian Century, June 21, 1939.]
Another significant sign is the growing willingness of the motion picture producers themselves to release an occasional picture which, in one form or another, constitutes propaganda for the democratic way of life. Will Hays, according to Prof. Richard Lewis, has recently said that films must serve democracy. Mr. Dietz emphasized that the movies are an expression of democracy and find their greatest success when they are a true expression of it. In support of this statement he cited the recent exclusion of American films from Italian screens by the fascist government. When this ban was complete and only Italian films were shown, the public began to whistle and hiss the showing of trailers announcing forthcoming Italian productions.
First, they saw some approximate reflection of American life. They sensed that our films breathed a freedom, the wide sweep of men alone on the open plains, the camaraderie that pervades exchanges between the various characters, the intimacy of the taxi driver with his passenger, the simple code of the family where father and son talk "man to man," the theme of great success achieved from humble beginnings, the allure of titled personages leading to the common man's disgust with evidences of snobbery. They heard the criticism of institutions, the sarcasm, the jest, the cynicism, the outright condemnation.Feature productions such as "Juarez," "Confessions of a Nazi Spy," "Young Mr. Lincoln," "Man of Conquest," and short subjects such as "Sons of Liberty," "The Bill of Rights" and "Servant of the People" have been described as attempts on the part of Hollywood to be helpful to the cause of democracy. Pro-democratic propaganda has also been inserted in films of a romantic nature where the characterization and plot allow.
The newsreel, as Professor Lewis intimated, has been used as a propaganda vehicle. The subjects presentedfashions, battle fleet, lottery winter, a Senator speaking on neutrality, girls sitting on cakes of ice in Floridamay be propaganda, while the descriptions made by the commentator may be in propaganda terms instead of reportorial ones. Professor Lewis paid tribute to the "Mareh of Time" as displaying a genuine attempt to explain the basic conflicts in the subjects it treats.
Great emphasis was laid upon this point by Professor Lewis who asserted, with regard to characterizations, that the human beings presented on the screen are not always altogether human. Often, he said, the women are "more beautiful than life itselfmasterpieces, not of creation, but of re-creation at the hands of the make-up men, electricians and camera men.
"It is not that I offer objections to beautiful women," he declared, "but that too often the beauty is like the beauty of a reconditioned homepaint, paper and plasterwith sometimes a little upholstering. These women and men of the screen lack the multiplicity of human values that make people of character. 'Cardboard lovers' are not necessarily good examples of valuable personalities."
Failure of the motion picture to represent reality, in Professor Lewis's opinion, permits the propagandist to "take the center of the stage in the dream of life itself." As an instance, he cited one film in which the heroine had Christmas rush work in a department store and was not sure of her next job. She lives in an apartment with several rooms, dresses trimly, and has her worries. "But," Professor Lewis observes, "girls who work in department stores only during the holiday rush do not live alone in multiple room apartments in big cities. Her solution, of course, was to marry the boss's son. In life, there haven't been enough bosses' sons to solve the unemployment and relief problems."
The producers' side of the questions proposed by Professor Lewis was discussed by Mr. Dietz who defended the screen against the charge that the motion pictures encourage crime by misrepresenting crime, that the culmination of a successful romance brings to solution all the social probems brought up by the film, that war is made heroic, and that the film runs away from contemporary social problems. Mr. Dietz said:
On all these points, one is entitled to a controversial opinion. In the case of crime, the movies are asked to deal with the crime problem and not merely the crime itself. This they often do. One could cite several films. But in the others the critic finds a fallacy in the law. His criticism then becomes a gesture of revolution in the shadow world rather than in the real world. In the case of the romantic story, one asks the dramatist to be as well a mathematician. Must he solve the problems as well as merely state them? If one laughs at the idea that "love conquers all," one should pause and ask again, "Does love conquer all?" Maybe it does. Certainly, the boy-meets-girl theory is at the basis of our social complications and maybe our whole propaganda for democracy is waged so that boy may meet girl on a decent basis.
As for war, the very scenes of war make for a paradoxical situation. If the hero is killed, we say what a brave fellow he was to go through that ordeal. If the villain is killed we say that it serves him right. Either way, war does not come out as badly as it should. The intention of the film is to be anti-war. The shadow world may play strange pranks with us.
As for contemporary social problemswhich brings us close to our thoughts about democracythe makers of movies have to be extremely careful not to misrepresent these problems. They are somewhat embarrassed by the fact that no story is quite as dramatic as the headlines of the daily paper. They rightly apply to the films in hand the yardstick of possible success. They are not afraid of subject matter so much as of failure. There is no universal summary of the attitude of the movies. Some companies, some individual producers, dwell constantly with contemporary themes. Some decide that their feature pictures will best deal with these current events after there has developed a legitimate perspective. The best war film was not "The Kaiserthe Beast of Berlin," made during the war, but "The Big Parade" and "All Quiet on the Western Front," made some eight years later.
The Creative Artist as Propagandist
NO DISCUSSION OF THE PRESS, RADIO, MOTION PICTURES OR other public opinion medium would be complete without some reference to the place of the creative artist in a world of conflicting propaganda. One of the major debates of the present period has centered around the relationship of the artist to the social scene and its manifold problems. Reduced to simple terms the issue has been whether the creative artist should become a propagandist for social, political, economic and religious ideals and thus lend his talents for the achievement of a better world or whether his function is to create haphazardly, without any social purpose, for the mere end of expressing himself.
If the press, radio and movies should, in varying degrees, further propaganda for democracy, it logically follows that the creative artist should also become an instrument of pro-democratic propaganda. This opinion was vigorously expressed by Fannie Hurst, novelist, who went so far as to say that "the creative artist whose heart is not lit with the passionate belief that freedom is man's birth-right (even though it must often be bought at a greater price) is not worth his salt."
Such a task devolves upon the creative artist today, Miss Hurst declares, particularly because of the "cultural coma in which our world of today lies on its back." Because of this coma, "it lies within the power of America to cross the threshold of what may be her Periclean age of creative production.
Potentially we have every requisite. Intellectually we have come of age and now have an interpretive literature of our own. We are both regionally and nationally self-conscious. Our literature has become as mundane to us as our sky-scraping architecture.The creative artist, as well as the Church, Miss Hurst intimated, can perform a vital service to democracy by playing up similarities and playing down differences between cultural, religious and other groups. On this point, she said:
From the beginning of time it has been man's habit of mind to emphasize difference rather than similarities. If there is one theme I wish to highlight it is my passionate conviction that down through the ages, up to this troubled present, this tendency to play up differences and play down similarities, is the root of much human evil.
The forward march of democracy forbids the crass appeal to groups, whether occupational or of class, age, religion or race. Our citizens must regard themselves as individuals, not as members of some classified or regimented herd, if we are to maintain that high degree of human dignity required for democratic success.
Some Pointers on Propaganda
One: Define the term, and we at once recognize propaganda as expression of opinion or action calculated to influence the opinions and actions of persons and groups. Thus, the Boston Tea Party was a propaganda act; so probably was the burning of the Reichstag; so are the opinions for or against helping one side or the other in the European conflict.
Three: What makes propaganda dangerous is the fact that it often is supercharged with emotion which can sweep us off our feet into hysterics of fear and hatred, and holy exaltation. Remember the first world war.
Four: Propaganda is effective only when there exists a fertile soil for it to grow in, as for example, the soil caused by conditions of depression and unemploymentconditions giving rise to fears, hatred, insecurities upon which the propagandist can play. Hitler could not have gotten to first base without such a soil; neither could Huey Long nor Father Coughlin.
(A) Propagandas (opinions of these conflicts and the propagandas associated with conflict, as cause or effect, or as both cause and effect. For example, Hitler caused conflicts by sending his propaganda agitators into the Sudenten areas before the Czechoslovakia crisis, into Poland just before the present European struggle.Six: In dictator countries, the dictator has a monopoly of propaganda. To achieve this he controls, insofar as possible, the conflict element; seeks absolute control of the channels of communication; seeks to create minds which will receive just one propagandathat of the dictatorand reject all others. In a democracy, there is a competition of propagandas and no monopoly control of the power to make conflicts; no monopoly control of the channels of communication; no monopoly control of the power to condition human minds. As the New York Times has observed, what is truly vicious is not propaganda but a monopoly of it.
* Editor Robb is right. Compare the current street harangues and scuffling with incidents which did make news in the nineteenth century against the church of Father Coughlin, such as the riots in Philadelphia, in 1844, and in Louisville in 1855. On the latter occasion, Bishop Spaulding wrote to Bishop Kendrick of Philadelphia:
"We have just passed a reign of terror surpassed only by the Philadelphia riots. Nearly one hundred poor Irish have been butchered or burned, and some twenty houses have been consumed in the flames. The city authorities, all Know-Nothings, looked calmly on, and they are now endeavoring to lay the blame on the Catholics."
All of that made news two or three generations ago in the United States press. What Editor Robb did not say, but might have observed correctly: If propagandists of hate encourage irresponsible followers to start street fights against Jews, then feuds and riots against Catholics, and against Protestants too by the same irreligious mobs, may "makes the news" in the future. It did in Germany.EVERETT R. CLINCHY