1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Propaganda
PROPAGANDA, the term applied to a concerted scheme for the promotion of a doctrine or practice; more generally, the effort to influence opinion; by a false analogy from such plural words as “memoranda,” frequently applied to the means by which a propaganda is conducted. The objective of a propaganda is to promote the interests of those who contrive it, rather than to benefit those to whom it is addressed; in advertisement to sell an article; in publicity to state a case; in politics to forward a policy; in war to bring victory. This differentiates it from the diffusion of useful knowledge; the evangel of a mission; publication of the cure for a disease. In such objectives there may be a secondary advantage to the contriver, but to benefit the subjects of the effort is the leading motive. Similarly those engaged in a propaganda may genuinely believe that success will be an advantage to those whom they address, but the stimulus to their action is their own cause. The differentia of a propaganda is that it is self-seeking, whether the object be worthy or unworthy, intrinsically, or in the minds of its promoters.
Statements or arguments known to be self-interested tend to raise suspicion. A wide examination of propagandas supplies an empirical argument in justification of such an attitude. Indeed, casuistically considered, indifference to truth is a characteristic of propaganda. Truth is valuable only so far as it is effective. The whole truth would generally be superfluous and almost always misleading; the selections made range from a high percentage to a minus quantity. The time factor is vital. If a quick sale or a decisive victory is possible, opportunism may be more useful than exactitude. If a permanent market is to be opened or a protracted campaign is expected, caution is required in suppression or in misstatement. Although truth may thus be irrelevant to the success of a propaganda, it does not follow that those engaged in it are consciously unethical. Doubtless, in every effort to control opinion, there are persons either indifferent to justification, or who justify the means by the end. But the more the emotions are excited, whether by patriotism or by cupidity, by pride or by pity, the more the critical faculties are inhibited. It is a quality of propaganda, as of counter-propaganda, that high-minded persons on both sides commend their cause by identical arguments, and that high-strung persons soon come to believe what they wish to be true. Their character and their enthusiasm lend weight to many partial statements, or even make false coin ring true.
The suspicions aroused by an admitted propaganda lessen, its effectiveness, from which it follows that much of the work has to be furtive. Part of the task, and that the more easy, is to whip up existing inclinations, but the more arduous and the more frequent duty is to reverse or to create opinion. Efforts are therefore made to present “tendencious” matter as impartial. The simplest case is seen in the familiar methods of newspaper advertisement. The crudest form is a direct printed recommendation of an object, obviously paid for. More subtle, but still plainly a paid advertisement, is a general paragraph in the “News” columns, with the letters Adv. at the foot. Best of all is commendation in the editorial columns or description disguised as news, these methods being seldom adopted in the responsible Press of the better kind, but familiar in organs subsidized to support an interest, possibly with a free hand on everything except that interest.
The methods of a propaganda are limited only by the resources and the ingenuity of its promoters. They may be studied in their most intensive form in the propagandist efforts during a war; the magnitude of the object secures the necessary funds, and at the same time attracts the services of persons of more intellect and character than would usually devote themselves to such a pursuit; in the atmosphere of war, moreover, truth, like many other fine qualities of humanity, is judged by expediency, with varying answers.
The use of propaganda in war dates from remote antiquity. It is plain that Herodotus, with his alert and modern mind, suspected the possibility of “working” the oracles whose pronouncements had so great an influence. But in Urania VIII., 22, he describes a propagandist effort made in the Persian War by Themistocles, son of Neocles, which in intention and method might have occurred in the recent World War:—
“Themistocles, having selected the best sailing ships of the Athenians, went to the places where there was water fit for drinking, and engraved upon the stones inscriptions, which the Ionians, upon arriving next day at Artemisium, read. The inscriptions were to this effect: ‘Men of Ionia, you do wrong in fighting against your fathers, and helping to enslave Greece: rather, therefore, come over to us; or, if you cannot do that, withdraw your forces from the contest, and entreat the Carians to do the same. But if neither of these things is possible, and you are bound by too strong a necessity to revolt, yet in action, when we are engaged, behave ill on purpose, remembering that you are descended from us, and that the enmity of the barbarian against us originally sprung from you.’ Themistocles, in my opinion, wrote this with two objects in view; that either, if the inscriptions escaped the notice of the king, he might induce the Ionians to change sides and come over to them; or, if they were reported to him, and made a subject of accusation before Xerxes, they might make the Ionians suspected, and cause them to be excluded from the sea-fights.” (Herodotus VIII., Urania 22.)
Propaganda on similar lines has been conducted in almost every war in history, but until the World War (1914-18) chiefly as a subsidiary part of the actual military or naval operations. Clausewitz, the Polish-Prussian officer (1780-1831) whose works on the conduct of war were translated into most modern languages and formed the basis of most military theory, laid it down partly as a prediction and partly as a precept that war must be waged with the whole force of a nation. Military propaganda may therefore be defined as the attempt to add the psychological factor to the other resources of warfare. It may be considered formally under four heads: (1) Control of Home Opinion; (2) Control of Neutral Opinion; (3) Control of Allied Opinion; (4) Control of Enemy Opinion. Counter-propaganda is the effort to counter the operations of the Enemy.
(1). Control of Home Opinion. —In modern times even the most autocratic ruler or state cannot hope to conduct a protracted war, or a war that brings a great burden on a nation, or a war that sways with doubtful success, unless public opinion is favourable. A large part of propaganda must therefore be for home consumption. It will proclaim the certainty of victory, describe actual and prospective military and naval triumphs, obliterate or explain reverses. It will vaunt economic strength, financial resources, power of organization; it will explain difficulties in the supply of food and raw materials, give the reasons for vexatious regulations and interferences with the ordinary routine of trade. When the war appears to be going unfavourably, it will urge the need of endurance. But it will not neglect the moral appeal. It will insist that the war is one of defence, or at least for an unselfish purpose; that victory will be for the good of the world, will be a permanent triumph of right over wrong. At the same time, according to the mentality of the nation, it will insist on historical military glory, on the pursuit of the national aspirations such as recovery of ancient rights, redress of old wrongs, material benefits to be derived from victory, appalling consequences of defeat. The outrageous conduct of the enemy, his unnecessary cruelty, his breach of international law are all important.
(2). Control of Neutral Opinion.—The propaganda addressed to Neutrals covers much of the same ground, with the least possible stress on the interested motives, much stress on the defensive and inevitable sides of the war, the certainty of victory and its benefit to all humanity. Very careful attention is devoted to explaining as necessities all the steps that have interfered with the rights of Neutrals or have been positively harmful to them. Much care is given to exposition of the thesis that victory would also be to the benefit of the Neutrals.
(3). Control of Allied Opinion.—This is of great difficulty and of increasing importance with the prolongation of a war. It is necessary to anticipate points of friction, gloss over points of diverging interest, pay very careful deference to the Allied contribution to the common cause and to the absolute identity of interest. In the World War many mistakes were made in this aspect of propaganda, but by none more conspicuously than by the Germans, whose treatment of their Allies was marked by compulsion rather than by persuasion.
(4). Control of Enemy Opinion.—The efforts in this direction fall under three main heads: Insistence that victory is certain and that prolongation of the war is only increasing the inevitable disaster to the Enemy. Attempts to stir up disaffection amongst the Enemy's Allies; attempts to stir up internal trouble in the Enemy's country.
The four sub-divisions enumerated above cover the main purposes of both propaganda and counter-propaganda, but they are only formal, and it is of vital importance to remember that under modern conditions a propaganda cannot be limited to the group for which it was intended. The most rigid censorship and scrutiny at the frontiers did not retain within Allied Countries or in Germany what was prepared for home consumption, with the result that the propaganda of one camp was often used almost without alteration as counter-propaganda in another. Neutral countries were the battle-ground in which contending propagandas met, and where statements of alleged facts and arguments came in contact.
The British Effort in the World War.—In the usual British fashion propaganda in the World War came into existence by the extension of the normal duties of several different bodies, with the result that there was much overlapping, as well as many gaps and considerable diversity of aim and method. From time to time new bodies were created, partly absorbing, partly replacing and partly combining the agencies in operation. Even when the Armistice came, no complete organization had been achieved, and the very great success actually obtained may be ascribed to the flexibility of the methods, the devotion of those who conducted them, and a very remarkable unity of purpose which overbore such personal rivalries as are inevitable in human affairs. A logical and consecutive account of the British propaganda is impossible. No complete organization ever existed, and as much of the most successful work was necessarily conducted secretly, and much was done by private enterprise, for instance by the spontaneous patriotism of universities, publishers, newspapers and private persons, an exhaustive description is impossible. The official side of it was conducted at first chiefly by the Foreign Office, the War Office and the Admiralty, as extensions or side issues of their normal duties. Many special missions were inaugurated by these bodies, or directly by the Cabinet.
In the beginning of 1918 a special body, the Ministry of Information, under a Cabinet Minister, Lord Beaverbrook, was created to combine and extend British propaganda with special reference to the control of Home and Neutral opinion, and another special body, the Department of Enemy Propaganda (afterwards the British War Mission), under Lord Northcliffe, for the same purpose, with special reference to control of opinion in enemy countries. Under the energetic direction of these two great publicists and the brilliant staffs they assembled, British propaganda enlarged its sphere, increased its potential and began to approach coherence. The steps of most vital consequence, however, must be attributed to Lord Northcliffe and his staff. They were early impressed with the conception that propaganda must be closely linked with policy. With the willing coöperation of the Ministry of Information, they first secured a general unity of method and purpose in purely British work, and, next, by propaganda conferences in London, extended a similar unity to British, French, Italian and American propaganda. Still later, as the war appeared to be nearing its end, they formed a general committee containing representatives of all the great Departments of State and worked out a Peace Propaganda Policy, to which the assent of the British Cabinet was obtained and which was at once made the basis of all British propaganda. Arrangements had been made for another conference of Allies in which the British Peace Propaganda Policy was to be coördinated with the policy of our Allies, when the signing of the Armistice made further effort of this kind unnecessary. Later in this article the steps which led to this ultimate coördination will be described more fully, or will become more apparent as the scattered agencies which led to it have been explained. But it is pertinent here to observe that the final stage, reached by slow experience, should have been the initial stage. In any national propaganda, the national policy, if such indeed exist, should be within the cognizance of those who have to create and direct the machinery for endeavouring to control opinion.
From the outbreak of the war in 1914 to the end of 1915, the official organization of British propaganda was highly tentative. The task of creating and directing public opinion during war had never before been a function of British Governments and did not consort well with the national traditions. In the first months of the war, during Mr. Asquith's Ministry, a War Propaganda Bureau was set up in the National Assurance Offices at Wellington House; a Neutral Press Committee, with special reference to Cabling was established under the Home Office, and a News Department, to deal with the Press, was formed by the Foreign Office. Gradually these three departments came more under the authority of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but they operated to a large extent as independent agencies without central control.
The Admiralty and the War Office had to exercise strict control over the publication of news relating to actual or proposed operations and other matters relating to the navy and army. The censorship which they had to exercise strictly for military reasons, gradually acquired a wider purpose and passed into a dissemination of news essentially propagandist. The direct effect of this bias given to news was upon home opinion, but naturally passed from home countries to neutrals, and from neutrals to enemies. It had therefore the legitimate objects not only of concealing what it was useful to conceal, but of making suggestions which might deceive. From indirect or accidental propaganda, it passed over to deliberate propaganda. Similarly the official representatives of the Foreign Office in Allied and neutral countries quickly found that their routine duties of explaining the intentions of the British Government, and of assisting public and private British interests, necessarily acquired a propagandist bias. As there were obvious inconveniences in this course, the propagandist activities in foreign countries gradually became detached from the official diplomatic activities, and acquired direct relationship with special departments at home. A similar series of events took place in the case of the representatives of the British army and navy in foreign countries, especially those attached to the Secret Services. As their efforts became more propagandist, it was convenient to separate them. Thus in various ways a propagandist service crystallized out of normal services.
During this period, and, indeed until the end of the war, the voluntary work of the great newspapers and publishing houses made an important contribution to British propaganda. It is perhaps necessary to insist on the voluntary side of this work. It has never been the tradition of the British Government to subsidize or to control the British Press, and although some efforts were made in that direction, they were signal failures. The great newspapers and the great publishing houses jealously maintained their independence and their right of criticism; they were willing to accept censorship so far as it was supposed to prevent the leaking of information that might be of service to the enemy. But they fought bitterly, and successfully, any attempts of the Censorship to overstep the bounds of military needs. (See Censorship.) The independence of their attitude and the strength of their patriotism combined to make their voluntary propagandist effort of the utmost importance.
Ministry of Information.—It will be convenient to deal first with the grouping of propagandist agencies under the Department, later the Ministry, of Information, as this body was the first to combine a number of scattered bodies under one direction, although, as will be shown later, the War Office, under the Directorate of Military Information, created earlier an extensive propagandist headquarters.
The Department of Information was formed by a resolution of the War Cabinet on Feb. 20 1917. According to that resolution its object was to take over and unify the various foreign propaganda activities, and to act as a general publicity bureau under the War Cabinet. Col. John Buchan was brought back from France and appointed Director of Information. Propaganda thus acquired its own specific organization separate from other Government Offices and directly under the Prime Minister. There was necessarily much overlapping with the War Office, but on the whole the Department of Information worked toward the control of civilian opinion, the War Office to that of military opinion; the former concentrated attention on political and general subjects, the latter on military subjects.
The Department of Information, during the time of its existence, covered the work of British propaganda in Allied, neutral and enemy countries. It was arranged in four sections:—
(a) An administrative section, divided into branches, corresponding to the different countries, each branch being under the charge of an official who was a specialist in that geographical area.
(b) A producing section which dealt with literature and art and was virtually a large publishing establishment.
(c) A producing section concerned with cables and wireless and the distribution of cinema films and press articles.
(d) A political intelligence section, which provided reports upon political and civil matters in foreign countries.
Foreign propaganda was conducted (a) among foreigners on a visit to Britain or resident there as correspondents, and (b) in the foreign countries themselves. (a) The first task involved hospitality to foreign visitors, the securing of facilities for Allied and neutral correspondents, and the arranging of visits to the British front, the British fleet and other centres of interest for writers and public men from Allied and neutral countries. Three châteaux on the western front were used for guests by the Department of Information—one for American visitors, one for the Allied and neutral press, and one for visitors in general. A large number of distinguished foreigners were invited to Britain, since it was held, with reason, that the best propaganda in any country was that done by the citizens of the country themselves. (b) Propaganda in foreign countries was conducted by the issue of a very large number of publications in different languages, including pictorial journals, pamphlets and books. The War Pictorial was issued monthly in eight editions with a circulation of over 700,000. Six oriental papers were published fortnightly in different languages, and the Department published fortnightly journals in Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese. Exhibitions of photographs and war films were arranged throughout the world. Over a million words of propaganda material a month were cabled by Reuter, and there were also daily cable and wireless messages sent from the Department. An average of 400 articles per week was sent out to the foreign press. Bureaux of Information were established in the different Allied and neutral countries, which assisted to distribute the material prepared by the Department, and also acted as intelligence centres. A special section dealt with propaganda in enemy countries by means of articles and cables printed in the newspapers of adjacent neutral States, and by aeroplane and balloon distribution on the different fronts.
The organization of the Department of Information obviously left much to be desired. In the first place it was not a ministry and had no ministerial head. This led to two disadvantages: the War Cabinet had little time to spare for the supervision and direction of its policy, and in dealing with other ministries it lacked the prestige necessary to safeguard its interests and enforce its requirements. Again, it had no single domicile, being housed in four different parts of London, and this led not only to a great deal of delay in its work, but prevented it being organized according to the normal plan of a Government office.
The Ministry of Information was constituted on March 4 1918, with Lord Beaverbrook as minister. It took over the whole organization of the old Department of Information, with the exception of the Political Intelligence branch, which was transferred to the Foreign Office, and the section dealing with enemy propaganda (excluding Turkey and the Middle East), which was transferred to Lord Northcliffe. The new Ministry was organized on the normal lines of a Government department, and was able to draw for its increased staff upon a large number of distinguished volunteer workers. The new Ministry had four main departments:—
(1). The Intelligence Department received and digested all information necessary to the efficient work of propaganda in the different countries, translating policy into terms of propaganda. The special cable and wireless messages which were issued daily were prepared under the direct supervision of this Department.
(2). The Propaganda Department was in charge of the actual administration of propaganda in foreign countries. Under its director there was a section for each important country, or group of countries. Each section was in charge of a “National” at the headquarters of the Ministry, and in each foreign area there was a corresponding organization which carried on the work in that area. Over each of the main sections there was a special officer called the controller, whose business it was to supervise the work of the “Nationals,” more especially with a view to the expenditure of public money.
(3). The material for propaganda—apart from the cables and wireless, which were directly under the Intelligence Department—consisted of press articles prepared or arranged for at the Ministry's headquarters; literature in the shape of journals and pamphlets; and war photographs, films, pictures. The preparation of pictures, photographs and films, as well as their distribution, was directly controlled by the minister, and was no longer in the hands of War Office Committees, as had been the case with the old Department of Information.
(4). The Ministry gave special attention to what might be called “personal” propaganda, securing facilities for foreign correspondents to visit British centres of interest and to meet representative British public men, and, generally speaking, the widening of sympathy for Britain's cause by the personal and social contact of Britons with the citizens of other lands. In this direction the work was large and ramified. A Facilities branch arranged for visits and entertainments; an Overseas Press Centre acted as a clearing house between all branches of the Ministry and the correspondents of the Overseas Press in this country; a special organization dealt with the entertainment of American troops in Britain. Besides the work of personal propaganda done in Britain itself, much was done by representatives of the Ministry abroad, who acted as popular and democratic ambassadors, keeping in touch, not with official, but with unofficial powers.
The nature of its duties made it impossible for the Ministry of Information to be a rigid organization like an ordinary Government office. Propaganda is not a static thing and can never be standardized, and the constitution of a propaganda department had to be adapted to so fluctuating a subject matter. Constant revision was necessary, both in material and method. Moreover, the larger part of the work of the Ministry had to be done quietly and unofficially, and without advertisement, since popular opinion in every country is so delicate an instrument that attempts to play upon it in the name of a foreign government, even an Allied Government, would without doubt have been resented. The anomalous character of its duties was reflected in the curious variety of its staff. It is probable that never before in any Government department had there been so many distinguished men of a type so remote from that of the normal official. All varieties of talent were needed—the skilled journalist and the expert in publicity for the actual business of propaganda, the experienced business man for the control and expenditure of machinery, and the student of public affairs for Intelligence and Policy.
Directorate of Military Intelligence.—Until the end of 1915, the Intelligence Section of G.H.Q. (France), and the Director of Special Intelligence at the War Office, made somewhat casual efforts in the direction of propaganda at home, abroad and amongst the enemy forces, and did more in the direction of acquiring information about the propagandist activities of the enemy. The supreme military authorities, however, either attached little value to propaganda, or were more absorbed by their directly combatant functions, and gave no encouragement to the development of propaganda. In the beginning of 1916 Gen. Sir George Macdonough returned from France to become Director of Intelligence on the Imperial General Staff. Thenceforward until the end of the war, a branch of his directorate was devoted to propaganda with continually increasing intensity. Under his stimulation and with the encouragement and the active assistance of Brig.-Gen. Cockerill, his second-in-command, a small group of men, half of them regular officers and half distinguished civilians with temporary commissions, a very large and successful organization was built up. It worked in close coöperation with General Headquarters at the various fronts and with the propagandist agencies in England. Its command of material drawn from all the branches, open and secret, of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, and its close connexion with the fighting services, gave it very large opportunities, of which it took full advantage; on the other hand, the fact that it was a branch of the War Office, run on strict military lines, prevented the full extent of its activities being known, and the credit of much that it accomplished was assigned to organizations more accustomed to work before the footlights.
Reports, captured documents, photographs and any other matter with a possible propagandist use, were collected from all the fronts. Samples of all propaganda prepared by the enemy were obtained from neutral countries, through the postal censorship, by direct capture, from the navy and from all other available sources. Details of the actual fighting operations, stories from the fronts, and all matter tending to show the conditions of fighting on both sides were assembled. Letters written by prisoners of war were read in the special censorship and copies of any judged to be of utility were preserved for reproduction in facsimile. Illustrated booklets describing the happy conditions of enemy prisoners in British camps were prepared. The foreign press, especially that from enemy countries, was regularly read, and extracts taken. From these and similar materials propaganda was prepared for distribution, partly by the regular staff of the section, partly by distinguished civilians who gave their services, and largely by wounded or otherwise disabled officers of literary capacity seconded for the purpose. The propagandist material prepared in this way was first carefully censored from the military point of view, in case inadvertently it might contain information which it was desired to keep secret. It was next submitted, especially where it contained matter with any political significance, to the Foreign Office. It was then ready for use. A staff of linguists was maintained to examine and translate material from foreign sources which covered almost every known language. The prepared propaganda, if useful for other than English readers, was translated into foreign languages ranging from Urdu to Spanish, from Russian to Arabic.
A few examples may serve to illustrate the range covered by the War Office propaganda. A German Army Order captured in E. Africa showed contempt or ignorance of Mahommedan religious customs. It was reproduced in facsimile, with a translation into every known tongue spoken by Mahommedans. A pamphlet written by Dr. Liebknecht, the German socialist leader, suppressed in Germany, was reproduced in German. Photographs of German prisoners showing their miserable condition on capture, their reception in the British lines with food, chocolate and cigarettes, and their happiness in their ultimate quarters in British prisoner of war camps, were reproduced as a small album. Letters written home by German prisoners of war, describing the comfortable conditions under which they lived, were reproduced in facsimile. An erroneous account of the battle of the Marne, written in Spanish for circulation as German propaganda in S. America, was followed by a correct account with exact maps, written by a British general who had been actually engaged in the battle. Every effort of German propaganda was followed and promptly countered in the same language as that in which it had been written. Perhaps the quickest exchange and counter-exchange took place through a cable and wireless service. All the messages issued by the enemy by cables or wireless telegraphy were intercepted and transmitted at once to the War Office. They were followed by a special staff, and the replies to them often reached their destinations a few hours after the originals, more often than not in time for the same editions of foreign newspapers.
Increasing attention was paid to the unification of the propaganda issued by the Allies, and to the pooling of information useful for propaganda. Regular conferences took place at British and French military headquarters in France for the purpose of coördinating propaganda. With the same object constant touch was maintained between the military propagandist staffs in London and Paris. A weekly journal, Le Courrier de l'Air, was prepared and issued at the War Office for circulation in the part of Belgium under German occupation. It contained information as to the progress of the war, general news, political intelligence, and much ordinary magazine reading.
Articles suited for British newspapers were offered to editors, and were freely used. These for the most part consisted of descriptions of scenes in the war on various fronts, written by officers who had been engaged in them. Similar matter, and articles covering a wider field, were distributed to English newspapers in every part of the world. A special staff watched the newspapers to observe the kind of articles that were most freely taken by each, so as to suit the supply to the demand. In the same way articles on almost every subject connected with the war were translated into foreign languages and distributed to newspapers in foreign countries. Large quantities of matter were sent to the Department of Information for distribution by their agencies, especially in neutral and Allied countries. There were several military distributing agencies in the Near East, and farther away, of which the largest was an “Arab Bureau” in Egypt. Some of these had local presses at which copy sent from London was set up, but a very large bulk of matter, especially illustrated matter, was prepared and printed in London, and sent out in bulk. According to its objective, it was distributed through vernacular newspapers, or by special agents, who smuggled it into enemy countries.
As regards distribution to enemies, a certain amount of this important side of the propagandist effort was done through the Department of Information, but the War Office itself directed the greater part of the work, especially where it was desired to reach enemy soldiers directly, or the enemy civilian population through them. From the examination of prisoners of war and by the direct admission of the German authorities it became clear that this service was highly effective. Early in 1917 the decision was made to extend considerably the work of preparing and distributing propaganda for the enemy troops on the western front. A special sub-section was created under the charge of an officer who had just completed an analysis of over 2,000 books and pamphlets of enemy origin. At that time there was no objection to the use of aeroplanes for the distribution of literature over the enemy's lines. The sub-section prepared and had translated into German a large quantity of suitable literature, much of it written by the officer in charge of the section (the writer of this article), other matter selected from the work of the Department of Information or from other sections of the War Office. Some of these early efforts were too successful; in particular the Germans objected to a cartoon with the legend “A German Family that has had no losses in the War,” depicting the Kaiser and his sons in uniform, on the ground that its distribution was an offence against military discipline. Captured flying officers accused of distributing propaganda were tried in Germany by court martial and received severe sentences. Although in fact the sentences were not carried out, after negotiations had taken place through a neutral Power between the British and German Governments, the Germans let it be known that any future cases would be treated with the utmost severity. The French continued the use of aeroplanes in spite of this threat. But the British Air Ministry opposed the use of aeroplanes, partly on the ground of the “bad psychological effect of working under such threats, on young pilots and aviators,” and partly on the more valid ground that the supply of trained men and of machines was no more than sufficient for the direct purposes of this branch of the forces. After an attempt, obviously impractical, to distinguish between propaganda that could not be regarded as “inflammatory” and that therefore could be distributed by aeroplanes, and propaganda that could not escape this charge, British G.H.Q. accepted the position and decided against the use of aeroplanes for the distribution of literature. The stock of literature prepared for the western front, except such small parts of it as could be used by other army devices, was transferred to the Ministry of Information and to the French army.
The War Office Enemy Propaganda Section then turned to the devising of other possible methods for the distribution of literature by mechanical means. Information was collected from all possible sources, the methods of the enemy being carefully watched. With the assistance of the Aerial Inventions Board and the Munitions Inventions Department, many devices were tried, and as soon as any had reached a promising stage, the officer in charge took it out to France, to discuss its possibilities, and, with the assistance of the intelligence officers of the army, to test it under field conditions.
A section of G.H.Q. Intelligence had obtained great success in dropping homing pigeons and other means of carrying messages on known areas where they could be found by British agents behind the enemy lines. In this work fabric balloons with timing devices for dropping loads at the required localities were employed, but the apparatus on the one hand was unnecessarily exact, and, on the other, much too costly for the distribution of literature. The Germans were found to be using very large balloons of scarlet Japanese paper which carried bundles of newspapers and other matter long distances, sometimes releasing them by slow-burning tinder fuzes. It was clear, however, that this method was haphazard, as balloons and loads destined for the neighbourhood of Verdun not infrequently dropped in Kent. Experiments were undertaken to study the lifting capacity of light balloons, the load and degree of filling that would enable them to rise to an approximately known height, and the arrangement of time fuzes so that they would liberate weights at known distances varying with the strength of the wind. At the same time experiments were made as to the shape, economical mode of manufacture and dimensions of paper balloons, and on the treatment of the paper to lower the rate of diffusion of coal-gas or hydrogen.
A large number of devices such as rockets, grenades and shells were enquired into, but were not adopted because of various objections raised against their use by the military authorities. A device consisting of a fire-balloon, the fabric of which consisted of propaganda sheets joined by strips of touch paper, seemed promising, but did not reach success.
Extensive experiments were carried out with the object of adapting an apparatus invented to distribute light bombs to the distribution of literature. It consisted of a box-kite with an automatic conveyer which carried five-pound loads of propaganda up the cable, liberated them at the required height, and automatically returned for another load, the sheets when liberated being carried to their destination by the wind. The method was extremely good; it was cheap, easy to work, and had a range of upwards of ten miles according to the strength of the wind. But objection to its use at the front was taken by the Air Force on the ground that the cable of the kite would be a danger to aeroplanes.
In connexion with the last-mentioned apparatus, extensive observations were carried out on the wind-driftage of sheets of paper of different shapes and weights, and of the methods of releasing them at height. Experiments were made from aeroplanes and from captive balloons, and the range and conditions of falling were ascertained. It was found, for example, that in a wind of approximately ten miles an hour, a bundle of 150 sheets liberated at a height of 2,500 ft., came to the ground two miles away, scattered over an area 500 yd. square. In higher winds and from greater heights much more distant ranges could be attained. The War Office Propaganda Section accordingly suggested that aeroplanes might be safely used, flying at heights proportioned to the strength of the wind, and the distance of the enemy lines, by flights well within the British lines. But this proposal also was “turned down.”
By the end of 1917 it became clear that the use of paper balloons was the only method which would encounter no opposition, and attention was therefore concentrated on producing them on a large scale and on applying the experience gained in other directions to them. By far the largest bulk of propaganda distributed by the Allies on the western front was released from balloons, and it may therefore be of historical interest to describe their final form. The propaganda balloons were made of paper cut in longitudinal panels, with a neck of oiled silk about 18 in. long. Their circumference was approximately 20 ft. and their height when inflated 8 feet. They were liberated inflated nearly to their full capacity—from 90 to 95 cub. ft. of hydrogen. The weight of the balloon was under one pound, the load of propaganda four pounds. The leaflets were attached to a fuze of treated cotton, similar to the tinder of flint pipe-lighters, and burning at the rate of an inch in five minutes. The string of propaganda was tied to the neck of the balloon, and just before liberation a slit was cut in the neck to permit the escape of gas, and the end of the fuze was lighted. The weight and lift were adjusted so that the balloon could rise several thousand feet into the air before the loss of gas due to expansion would have caused a state of equilibrium. At this point the first bundle of leaflets was set free, and the process was continued until, at the end of the run, the last bundle was released. The total time length of the fuze and the attachment of the bundles to it were calculated according to the area which it was desired to reach and the strength of the wind. Experimental improvement of the “dope,” by which the rate of diffusion of the gas was lowered, and the manufacture of balloons of double the standard capacity, had made runs of upwards of 150 m. practical, before the Armistice suspended operations. But the bulk of the propaganda was actually scattered over an area of from 10 to 50 m. behind the enemy lines, rest camps and villages occupied by the troops being made the chief targets. Each distribution unit at the front consisted of two motor lorries which carried the balloons, hydrogen cylinders, and personnel to convenient positions, generally from 3 to 4 m. behind the front line.
Early in March 1918, the method of balloon distribution was in full working order, and the War Office Propaganda Section resumed the active preparation of material. The reproduction of selected letters written by prisoners of war was resumed, and Le Courrier de l'Air was enlarged and improved by the introduction of direct propaganda. A series of leaflets, known as the A.P. (Aerial Propaganda) was begun. The first of these, sent to France in March, was a complete German edition of the British Prime Minister's speech on British War Aims. This had been incompletely reported in the German newspapers, and in the new edition attention was directed to the portions which had been taken out by the German censorship; copy for other leaflets was selected from German and Austrian newspapers, was contributed by G.H.Q. (France), by the War Aims Committee, by the Ministry of Information, and by the new Directorate of Propaganda in Enemy Countries which had been established under Lord Northcliffe. But the whole series was selected, revised, edited, and produced by the War Office, and a very large proportion of the actual leaflets were prepared by the officer-in-charge. The first of the series was sent to France on March 16, the last, number 95, on Sept. 4; of the whole series over 12 million leaflets were sent to France.
Later, in 1918, when, under the energetic direction of Lord Northcliffe, the machinery for propaganda in enemy countries was greatly increased, there was a further extension of distribution by balloons. The military successes of the Allies were being concealed from their troops by the Germans, and it was thought that quick and accurate information would further demoralize the Germans. In conference with the War Office, Lord Northcliffe's department arranged that the leaflets should be divided into two categories, “stock leaflets,” the contents of which would not deteriorate by a little delay, and “priority leaflets” containing matter of urgent importance. The latter were printed three times a week and sent in editions of 100,000 direct to Messrs. Gamage, who were manufacturing the balloons and the “releases.” They were at once prepared for distribution, handed over to the Military Transport Department and sent via Boulogne direct to the distributing stations. In favourable weather they were thus actually in the hands of the Germans 60 hours after being written.
But even with the best arrangements, distribution by balloon is subject to many delays from weather and other conditions. Lord Northcliffe continued to urge on the Cabinet the need of distribution by aeroplane, and was at last successful in breaking down the resistance. The writer of this article, then liaison officer between Lord Northcliffe's department, the Directorate of Military Intelligence and the Air Force, in the second half of 1918 carried through the final stages of the negotiations. The last obstacle was the fear of the Air Ministry that bundles of leaflets suddenly scattered in the air might foul the steering guys of the aeroplanes; he devised a simple mode of packing the leaflets so that they would fall as a solid bundle for 20 ft. before dispersing. On the morning of the Armistice, the first packets of propaganda made up on this system were delivered to the Air Force in France.
The methods of distributing propaganda by the Allies were ascertained in a conference held in August 1918 at Crewe House under the chairmanship of Lord Northcliffe. Aeroplanes were used by the British forces in the Near East, and by the Italians, French and Belgians on the western front. But it was clear that either lack of aeroplanes or of personnel limited their use even by those who had no objection to it. The Italians used special devices such as rockets and shells, the French were experimenting with shells and trench-mortars and were trying to manufacture balloons on the British model, and both the French and Belgians sent large quantities of newspapers and of other matter to be distributed by the British balloons. The Americans had hardly reached the actual stage of distribution before the end of the war, but they had developed a small rubber balloon with a very ingenious timing device for releasing the load. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that all these methods would be replaced by aeroplanes in any later war.
Lord Northcliffe's Directorate.—In Feb. 1918 the Prime Minister appointed Lord Northcliffe to be Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries. Lord Northcliffe brought to the task a limitless faith in the possibility of controlling public opinion, a unique experience in the methods of publicity, and direct access to the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet. He selected a council of advisors and an executive staff of remarkable authority and talent, and Crewe House, in Mayfair, London, the headquarters of the new Department, quickly became the centre of far-reaching activity. A mere catalogue of the operations undertaken, and of the men who carried them out would occupy many pages. But two names must be mentioned, as without them Crewe House would have been little more than a powerful addition to the existing propagandist agencies. Sir Campbell Stuart, a young Canadian who had been of great assistance to Lord Northcliffe on his mission to the United States of America, was selected as deputy-director of the department and deputy-chairman of the committee. Lord Northcliffe's choice was fully justified by the remarkable powers of tact and conciliation shown by Stuart, who rapidly disarmed all suspicion on the part of existing organizations, found out how to get the best work out of all of them and how to combine their efforts towards a single resolute purpose. Lord Northcliffe selected Mr. H. Wickham Steed as his chief political adviser. Steed at the time was foreign editor of The Times, and for many years had been the representative of that journal in Rome and Vienna. He had an exceptional knowledge of the political personalities of modern Europe, the open policies and the secret aspirations of all the nationalities great or small. He was an idealist, believing that truth and justice could bring ordered peace to chaotic Europe; a realist, conscious of the stubborn obstinacy that would yield only to force and of the ignorance that misled the accepted leaders of men. Steed provided the knowledge and lofty enthusiasm which shaped the policy of Crewe House, Stuart the conciliatory tact which made concerted action possible, Lord Northcliffe the swift judgment between contending views, the experienced instinct for what was practical, and the driving force to make the practical actual. The present writer assisted at many intimate deliberations at Crewe House; he desires to add his own observations to the varying estimates that have been made of Lord Northcliffe. The Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries was patient in listening to the facts and arguments put before him, decisive in coming to a judgment on them, swift and powerful when action began. Steed's knowledge, Stuart's organizing tact, and Lord Northcliffe's driving force and far-reaching influence, made Crewe House different in quality and energy from any preëxisting agency.
The inspiring principle of the new organization was that propaganda should depend upon policy. It may be argued, although not convincingly, that a definite constructive Allied policy could not have existed in the earlier stages of the war, when fortunes were changing and the nature of the ultimate decision was uncertain. In any case, if a concerted policy did exist, it was unknown to those who were conducting propaganda. The wiser propagandists in most countries therefore endeavoured to limit themselves to a restricted field from which declared “war aims” and ultimate terms of peace were excluded. Rasher agents plunged, with results that were often ludicrous and sometimes disastrous. Dr. Lamprecht, the German historian, for example, confessed that the consequences of the German propaganda were often gruesome. Probably, he wrote, more harm came to the German cause from the efforts of the German professors than from all the efforts of the enemy. “None the less it was done with the best intentions. The self-confidence was superb, but the knowledge was lacking. People thought that they could explain the German case without preparation. What was wanted was organization.” A single example will illustrate the results of lack of organization amongst the Allies. The French military authorities complained to the War Office that German propaganda appeared to be entering France in large quantities through England. They sent examples, and asked that precautions should be taken. On enquiry it was found that the incriminated documents were the product of one of the British civilian propagandist agencies. Doubtless it was a matter of opinion whether the French or English judgment of the efficacy of the leaflets was the more correct, but the real fault was the absence of harmonious effort. In 1918, the fifth year of the war, it became of vital importance that the Allied peace aims should be explained with a clear and unanimous voice to the war-weary enemy. It was to this purpose that Lord Northcliffe addressed himself. He used his influence first to extract from the British Government the broad lines of a definite policy, in order that the propaganda of his Department might not be in conflict with the casual and sporadic utterances of ministers, next to secure unity of purpose among the British and Allied propagandist agencies.
The first campaign was against Austria-Hungary. The British Government, hampered by the secret Treaty of London, hesitated between the policy of working for a separate peace with the Habsburg dynasty, leaving its territory almost untouched, and the alternative of trying to support and encourage all the anti-German and pro-Ally elements in the Austria-Hungarian Empire. The objective selected by Crewe House was to support the national desires of the Czechs, Southern Slavs, Rumanes, Poles and Italians for independence, so as to form a strong non-German chain of Central European and Danubian States, and thus to encourage the disinclination of these peoples to fight for their German masters.
The chief obstacle to the policy of the British propaganda was the pledge given to Italy in 1915, to give her certain Austrian territories inhabited by Southern Slavs. In 1917, the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes had assembled in Corfu, and under the leadership of Dr. Trumbitch, president of the Southern Slav Committee, and M. Pashitch, prime minister of Serbia, had proclaimed the unity of the three Southern Slav peoples. Early in 1918, after recovery from the disaster of Caporetto had begun, the united Southern Slavs, on the initiation of Mr. Wickham Steed and Dr. Seton Watson, came into conference with leading Italians and agreed to settle amicably the territorial controversies in dispute. Lord Northcliffe took up the position at that point, and almost the first step of his campaign was to send Mr. Steed and Dr. Seton Watson to the Congress of Oppressed Habsburg Nationalities which took place at Rome with the consent of the Italian Government. Meantime he urged on the War Cabinet the need of coming to a decision between the alternative policies and of obtaining the agreement of the French, Italians and Americans to the choice. He got only a dubious and halting opinion from the British Foreign Secretary, who urged that the same propaganda could be adapted at least to the earlier stages of either polity. This indecision, maintained through the war and through the peace negotiations, led to the disastrous adventure of D'Annunzio, for the Italians, like other peoples, flushed with the unexpected joy of complete victory, forgot the wise concessions to which they had been willing when the issue was doubtful. But Lord Northcliffe's mission achieved a temporary and successful unity of purpose. A joint commission consisting of representatives of Italy, Great Britain and France, was established at the Italian general headquarters, with the special object of conducting propaganda directed to the oppressed nationalities in the Austrian armies. Representatives of committees of each of the oppressed nationalities were attached to the commission. A polyglot printing press was acquired, and large quantities of propaganda of all kinds were distributed by aeroplane, rockets, grenades and contact patrols. The latter consisted of deserters of Czechoslovak, Southern Slav, Polish and Rumanian nationalities, who volunteered for this service against their former oppressors. The effect was soon apparent. Deserters belonging to the subject races came over to the Italian armies in large numbers, so that the attack planned by the Austrians had to be postponed. Unfortunately, the complete success of the effort, apparently assured early in May, was prevented by the reactionary tendencies within the Italian Government, supported by the uncertain attitude of the Governments of France, Great Britain and the United States. But even in the face of this difficulty, the success was so great that, after the battle of the Piave, members of the Inter-Allied Propaganda Commission were received and thanked by the Italian commander-in-chief.
While this great campaign was taking place on the Italian front, the propaganda addressed to Germany was being intensified. On assuming office, Lord Northcliffe found the War Office propaganda department, described above, in full operation. Except that he at once began to press the Government to renew the original permission for the use of aeroplanes, he suggested no change in the War Office work. His committee at Crewe House, however, first with the assistance of Mr. H. G. Wells and after a few weeks with that of Mr. H. Hamilton Fyfe, set to work to frame a general propaganda policy directed against Germany, and to produce leaflets and other matter. Some of this material was given to the War Office Department; much of it was distributed by special means chiefly through neutral countries. In July, when the work in Italy had been established on permanent lines, and Mr. Steed had returned to London, it was decided to concentrate all the production of propaganda at Crewe House, with the object of bringing it more into line with a concerted policy. Accordingly, the writer of this article was transferred from the War Office to Crewe House, but kept in touch with the War Office as liaison officer, the army remaining the agent for distribution.
The General Committee met daily at Crewe House, receiving the reports of the different branches, collecting information from all possible sources, and stimulating the propagandist work against Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Germany. It became more and more obvious during the summer of 1918 that the spirit of the enemy was breaking on every front, that they were alert to every suggestion as to the approach of peace, and that the supreme necessity was a clear statement of the intentions of the Allies. Lord Northcliffe, with varying success, continued to press the Government for such a definition of policy as would serve as a true basis for propaganda. The fundamental principle on which he wished to act was that when a line of policy had been sanctioned as a basis for propaganda, the Allied Governments should be asked for their assent to it, so that their propaganda departments might act in concert. Failing to obtain a clear lead from the British Government, who at that time appeared to have no definite policy with regard to any issue of the war, Lord Northcliffe convened an inter-Allied propaganda conference at Crewe House. It was attended by Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Information, representatives of the British Foreign Office, War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry, and by delegates from France, Italy and the United States, the U.S.A. delegation, however, being instructed to attend only as observers. The conference, after a plenary session, divided into committees to discuss details of policy, methods of publicity and methods of distribution. At a final plenary session the reports of the committees were adopted, and it was agreed that they should be submitted by the heads of the four missions to their respective Governments for approval. The conference then constituted a permanent Inter-Allied Body for the conduct of propaganda in enemy countries. Steps were at once taken to secure the permanency of contact between the propagandist agencies which had been established at the conference, and these became increasingly effective until, when the Armistice came, there was almost complete unity of action amongst the Allies.
As the possibility of peace drew nearer, it became still more urgent that propaganda should be kept free from any trace of confusion. To secure this, a Central Body, called the Policy Committee of the British War Mission, was formed at Crewe House; it consisted of representatives of Lord Northcliffe's department and of the War Cabinet, the Admiralty, War Office, Foreign Office, Treasury, Ministry of Information, Air Ministry, Colonial Office, India Office, War Aims Committee and Official Press Bureau. It decided to undertake the following activities:—Study of peace terms, study of utterances by important enemy representatives, their real significance and the nature of the response to be made to them. It had to take action almost at once, since the German Peace Note, with its reference to the publication of President Wilson's “fourteen points,” required immediate attention from British propagandists. Lord Northcliffe's committee had been studying the fourteen points with a very close attention. It was plain that they could not be understood as a full recitation of the conditions of peace, and that it was therefore a matter of honesty and of prudence to define the interpretation put on them by Great Britain before accepting the surrender of Germany. This view was accepted by the Policy Committee, and, after detailed discussion, a statement drafted by the Crewe House Committee was adopted in principle. It was approved, by a representative of the Government designated for the purpose, for unofficial use as propaganda policy. Each department henceforward made it the text of its productions. As this document is of historical interest, it is here printed in full.
PROPAGANDA PEACE POLICY
The following conditions are indisputable:—
In no sense shall restoration or reparation in the case of Belgium be taken into consideration when adjusting any other claims arising from the war.
1. The complete restoration, territorial, economic and political, of Belgium.
2. The freeing of French territory, reconstruction of the invaded Provinces, compensation for all civilian losses and injuries.
3. The restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine, not as a territorial acquisition or part of a war indemnity, but as reparation for the wrong done in 1871, when the inhabitants of the two Provinces, whose ancestors voluntarily chose French allegiance, were incorporated in Germany against their will.
4. Readjustment of the frontiers of Italy as nearly as possible along the lines of nationality.
5. The assurance to all the peoples of Austria-Hungary of their place amongst the free nations of the world and of their right to enter into union with their kindred beyond the present boundaries of Austria-Hungary.
6. The evacuation of all territory formerly included in the boundaries of the Russian Empire, the annulment of all treaties, contracts or agreements made with subjects, agents or representatives of enemy Powers since the revolution and affecting territory or interests formerly Russian, and cooperation of the Associated Powers in securing conditions under which the various nationalities of the former Empire of Russia shall determine their own form of Government.
7. The formation of an independent Polish State with access to the sea, which State shall include the territories inhabited by predominantly Polish populations, and the indemnification of Poland by the Powers responsible for the havoc wrought.
8. The abrogation of the Treaty of Bucharest, the evacuation and restoration of Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro, the Associated Powers to aid the Balkan States in settling finally the Balkan question on an equitable basis.
9. The removal, so far as is practicable, of Turkish dominion over all non-Turkish peoples.
10. The people of Schleswig shall be free to determine their own allegiance.
11. As reparation for the illegal submarine warfare waged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, these Powers shall be held liable to replace the merchant tonnage belonging to the Associated and neutral nations illegally damaged or destroyed.
12. The appointment of a tribunal before which there shall be brought for impartial justice individuals of any of the belligerents accused of offences against the laws of war or of humanity.
13. The former Colonial possessions of Germany, lost by her in consequence of her illegal aggression against Belgium, shall in no case be returned to Germany.
The following conditions of Peace are negotiable:—
1. The adjustment of claims for damage necessarily arising from the operations of war, and not included amongst the indisputable conditions.
2. The establishment, constitution and conditions of membership of a League of Free Nations for the purpose of preventing future wars and improving international relations.
3. The League of Free Nations shall be inspired by the resolve of the Associated Powers to create a world in which, when the conditions of the Peace have been carried out, there shall be opportunity and security for the legitimate development of all peoples.
The action taken thereon by the Enemy Propaganda Committee at Crewe House was as follows: At their suggestion Lord Northclifle made it the basis of an address to the United States officers in London on Oct. 22 1918. The Production Department of the Committee got to work on a series of pamphlets and leaflets dealing with the different points of the memorandum. The memorandum was sent to the French, Italian, and American members of the inter-Allied Body for Propaganda in enemy countries, with the request that they should take similar action on it to that taken by the British Policy Committee and bring it up for discussion at the next meeting of the inter-Allied body. Lastly they decided to prepare and give wide publicity to an article covering the whole ground of the memorandum, so that the policy could be presented in the same terms to the British people, to their Allies and to the enemy. The steps taken by Crewe House, and the corresponding action taken by other departments concerned, were reported and approved at a meeting of the Policy Committee at Crewe House on Oct. 28 1918, the last meeting actually held.
Events were moving swiftly, and Crewe House found that there was no time to carry out the original intention of circulating the general statement through one of the more important monthly periodicals. It was therefore decided to ask Lord Northcliffe to give the peace policy the wide and immediate publicity possible by the use of his name and by the sources of distribution at his command. He agreed at once, and so consummated the efforts of British propaganda. On Nov. 4 1918 an article under his name appeared in The Times and The Daily Mail, The Paris Daily Mail, and the leading papers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, Newfoundland, India, the British Dependencies, the United States of America, S. America, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and elsewhere, and very soon afterwards in Germany. The arrangements for this wide publicity were made personally by Lord Northcliffe, and the cost of cabling was borne by him. The final form of the article was due to him, but its substance represented the unanimous views of his advisory committee, the members of which he had selected, and over whose deliberations he had presided.
Allied Propaganda.—The principles and methods of propaganda have been so fully illustrated in the foregoing account of the British effort, that little would be gained by a detailed description of the operations of England's Allies. France went through a history much like that of Great Britain. In the earlier stages of the war, propaganda was conducted by a number of agencies, for the most part in extension of their normal functions. As the war proceeded, concentration and intensification were achieved, ending in the work being placed under the control of a single minister with a large staff. The control of home opinion was less difficult than in England, as it was already in the tradition of the Government to regulate the dissemination of information and of official views. As, however, a considerable part of the French population was in territory occupied by the Germans, there had to be an extensive distribution of propaganda through the army and by secret agents. An intensive campaign was conducted in Alsace and Lorraine, the services of distinguished Alsatians of French descent being employed with great success. Neutral opinion was influenced by special missions and by resident agents. Much care was given to French propaganda amongst the Allies. Distinguished civilians of British and American nationality were frequently invited to France, and given every opportunity of seeing the spirit in which France was making her prodigious effort and the enormous difficulties she had to face. French agents kept in close touch with British opinion of every class, and in every part of the Empire, not neglecting Ireland and Quebec. In one respect this branch of French propaganda was more far-seeing than most of the British work; it was not content with the actual problems of the war, but anticipated and prepared for many of the difficulties and possible causes of friction that might arise in the making even of a victorious peace. France early foresaw that, as German colonies were unlikely to be restored to Germany, it would be necessary for France and Britain to be in general agreement with regard to extra-European territories. The French effort to reach the enemy directly was on a smaller scale, but was similar to the work done by the British War Office. By exchange of views and materials a high degree of concord was reached.
Belgium was in the unfortunate position of being able to operate directly only in a very small part of her own territory. By direct effort, and with the willing coöperation of France and Britain, she was able to keep in close contact with her own people. The unmerited calamities which fell on Belgium secured her in advance the sympathy of neutral and Allied nations, so that special propaganda was unnecessary. Italy was rather a theatre for propaganda than a direct propagandist. She spoke with so many different voices that, except for a certain amount of direct propaganda addressed to the enemy, she was unable to explain her attitude very clearly either to neutrals or to Allies. On the other hand, she issued a series of magnificent photographic descriptions of her arduous campaigns, which explained well the immense difficulties of military operations on the Italian front, and the brilliant technical methods by which they were overcome. The Americans devoted the same energy to propaganda as to preparation for actual warfare. Representatives were at once sent to Europe to examine and report on the methods of propaganda employed by the Allies. By Sept. 1918, an American Propaganda Department had been established with branches in London, Paris and near Verdun. Much literature was produced, and its distribution by aeroplane and by balloon had been arranged when the Armistice came.
Germany.—It would be difficult to say how far the exaltation of the German spirit in 1914 was due to official inspiration, or how far the long campaign of German intellectuals and industrials, before 1914, for the aggrandizement of Germany, had inspired official opinion. In any event, the outbreak of the war let loose a flood of literature unanimous in sentiment and apparently spontaneous. Professors and pastors, politicians of every section, pan-Germans and socialists were united in proclaiming the necessity of the war and the certainty of victory. But even in these early days there were striking differences of opinion. One school urged that the war was defensive, forced on Germany by the “encircling policy” of her enemies. German militarism was a necessary consequence of a position surrounded by powerful enemies, of the Russian danger, and of English jealousy of her commercial success. As it was difficult to reconcile this theory with the actual German plan of campaign and with the fate of Belgium, much stress was laid on the theme that an offensive was only the best means of defence. When victory came, annexations were to be limited to what might be necessary for future security. Another school proclaimed the historic mission of Germany, her high culture and civilization, the advantage to the world of her victory. The great empires of the past had expanded and developed for selfish ends; Germany wished to free the seas for all the nations, and to open up the world so that all the peoples great or small could develop on their own lines. England, France and Russia had been the great oppressors of smaller nations and races; Germany would liberate them. The unification of Germany had been the first stage in a beneficent process which would lead, first, to a great federation of Middle Europe, and then to a federation of the whole world. A third school expounded a somewhat careful form of the Bernhardi and Treitschke doctrine. The great and expanding German people required land within the German Empire in which the surplus population might find room and yet remain German. Outlet must be found for German talent, organizing capacity, capital, manufactures, and the necessary supplies of raw material must be forthcoming. These objects Germany would have preferred to attain peacefully. But she was a late arrival on the world-scene, and her rapid development had aroused such envy, particularly from England, that her legitimate rights could be secured only by force. Yet a fourth school, relatively small in numbers but of great influence in the navy, army and among the big industrials, appealed directly to cupidity. The riches, natural resources and possibilities of all parts of the world in which German influence could be extended or which Germany could take from her enemies were described elaborately. The growth of the British Empire was displayed in almost affectionate caricature as an accomplishment of successful piracy; England, however, must now disgorge to the younger and stronger pirate. It was an odd but possibly significant circumstance that, in all these diverging views, little attention was paid to the events immediately preceding the various declarations of war.
So far we are dealing with the unofficial home propaganda of Germany. It consisted to a much larger extent than in Great Britain of books and pamphlets, some oi which doubtless were subsidized, but most of which apparently were spontaneous. These served also for the German peoples in foreign lands, and were exported in very large quantities, often in their original form, often in translation so as to serve as propaganda for neutrals. It was a characteristic of German self-confidence that they appeared to think that explanations good enough for Germans were good enough for neutrals and even for enemies. But in addition to such private or at least apparently unofficial efforts, there was an official propaganda on a large and highly organized scale. The German Press was organized for war, with the object not only of influencing home opinion but neutral opinion, directly through the circulation of German papers in Switzerland, Holland, and Scandinavia, and by their effect on foreign editors. Dr. Theodor Wolff, the well-known editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, said that “German censorship passed news concerning facts, but forbade discussion of war events or internal politics and of many other subjects.” The Government suppressed criticism or the giving of information with regard to the internal conditions of the country. Every two or three days the newspapers received printed orders indicating what they were forbidden to publish, the attitude they were to assume on particular topics, and the articles from other papers they were free to reproduce. Editors were usually allowed to produce their papers without a preliminary examination of the proofs, but transgression of the regulations was followed by prosecution or suspension. One form of punishment was to place a paper on “preventive censorship,” under which all proofs had to be submitted, and any matter could be struck out, without, however, removing responsibility for what remained. The Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung was a purely official organ, and several other papers, notably the Kölnische Zeitung and the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, were semi-official.
With regard to the Press generally, there were several agencies of direction and inspiration. The Press Department of the Foreign Office issued a regular news-sheet containing the statements and views the propagation of which was desired; it also acted directly on newspaper correspondents. The Admiralty had a very active publicity department, for some time under the direction of Mathias Erzberger and Paul Rohrbach. The Ministry of the Interior had a separate organization and also circulated “tendencious” sheets. The War Press Bureau, controlled by the Higher Command, was the most important propagandist organ. It issued commands to the censorship, laying down the prohibitions and the special attitudes which were circulated through the local authorities, and it had a special foreign section. Moreover, daily Press séances were held by three officials, representing respectively the Foreign Office, the War Office and the Admiralty, at which instructions and directions too delicate to be committed to paper were issued.
German propaganda in neutral countries was officially controlled by a branch of the Foreign Office, the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst. It issued material for propaganda and propaganda for distribution through the official representatives in foreign countries. Every Germany embassy or legation had at least one organ under its immediate control, sometimes published in German specially for German readers, more often in the language of the country in which it was issued. The material consisted of copies of a special newspaper, the Nachrichten der Auslandspresse, prepared by the War Press Bureau, a daily paper containing telegrams and notes on current events, and often selected news cuttings issued by the general staff. Another official agency, believed to be directed by the Admiralty, issued an attractive and well-illustrated periodical, the Kriegs Kronik, as well as the Kriegs Nachrichten, the latter consisting of prepared articles on war subjects and a “Berlin” letter, for the edification of the foreign Press.
In addition there were several highly important private organizations for foreign propaganda. The Deutscher Ueberseedienst Transocean was a syndicate established before the war by big German industrials to supplement and correct the service of the official Wolff Bureau. It issued the daily German wireless, had a special foreign news-service consisting chiefly of selected cuttings from German and foreign newspapers, and a very fine illustrated monthly periodical in five languages—Der Grosse Krieg in Bildern. It had an intelligence division which reported on the standing and personality of newspaper editors in every country, and suggested means of influencing them. The Kriegsausschuss der deutschen Industrie, formed originally to represent industrialists in their controversies with the Government, became an extensive propagandist chiefly on trade matters. A bureau at Frankfort-on-Main, partly official, dealt chiefly with Latin countries. The Deutsch-Südamerikanisches Institut, and the Hamburgischer Ibero-Amerikanischer Verein were occupied chiefly with Latin and Latin-American countries, and had agents and usually press organs in every country where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken. The Far East was served through the Ostasiatische-Lloyd, which supplied a distributing centre in Shanghai.
Until the United States of America came into the war, there was a very active German campaign to influence American opinion in favour of Germany. A great part of it was conducted from the German embassy in Washington, and through the German consuls throughout the United States. Much work was done by special missions such as that of Dr. Dernburg, a former Colonial Secretary, and every German bank or trading corporation was a centre of organized effort. A very large number of serious books by well-known German authors were translated into English for American readers. These followed certain main lines. They drew contrasts between the peaceful progress of Germany since her unification, as compared with the violence of other Powers. They represented Germany as being engaged purely in self-defence. They offered veiled threats or bribes to the United States with reference to Japan. They insisted on the moral basis of German culture and civilization. Closely similar lines were followed by many leading Americans of German descent. Perhaps the most effective of these American-Germans was Hugo Münsterberg, professor of psychology at Harvard, who advocated the cause of his natal country with eloquence and apparent moderation. His main point was that the war was really a struggle between Russian barbarism and the western culture of Germany, France taking sides because of Alsace-Lorraine, England because of her commercial rivalry and desire for German colonies. If Germany were beaten, it would be a triumph of Asiatic Russia and of Japan over the culture of Europe and America. It was suggested that the task of America was to give Europe an honourable peace, which she could do only by the strictest neutrality, with a leaning to Germany. Some true Americans also engaged in propaganda in favour of Germany. Some of these, doubtless, were mere hirelings; the better were chiefly persons of standing in the literary, scientific and musical world, who had been much in Germany. Some of the exchange professors were leaders in this work, and very naturally advocated with zeal and knowledge the best side of the German character and the great part Germany had played in the arts and sciences. Still more vocal were the Irish-Americans, who devoted themselves with a malignant bitterness to propaganda against England.
As regards direct German propaganda against the enemy, comparatively little was done, as compared with other combatants, in the distribution of propagandist literature from Germany amongst the actual troops opposed to her. The Gazette des Ardennes was the most successful effort. It was a regular newspaper, written in French and often with an illustrated supplement. It was sent into France by balloons, and occasionally by aeroplane, and sometimes gained entrance through a neutral country. It was eagerly sought, as it was baited with genuine information as to French prisoners. Otherwise it consisted of well-arranged propagandist matter of the usual type. The Continental Times, written in English, was founded before the war as a genuine newspaper for Americans travelling in Germany and Austria. During the war, probably with the aid of a German subsidy, it developed into a propagandist organ, chiefly anti-English, and almost ludicrous in its exaggerated malevolence. It was freely circulated among English prisoners in German camps, where, fortunately, it was the occasion of a good deal of amusement. The Russkiya Iszvestia, written in Russian, was distributed to Russian prisoners of war, and to a smaller extent in Russia. It was a competent piece of work, addressed to the task of persuading the Russian peasant that his two chief enemies were England and his own Government, and that the victory of Germany would mean liberation.
Germany's greatest propagandist effort against her enemies was carried out by indirect means. Wherever she thought that there was opportunity, she endeavoured to excite the discontented subjects of her enemies. She sought to get in touch with Irishmen, Indians, Arabs, Egyptians, Boers, Algerians and Georgians, and with various black races. A special organization or committee in Berlin attended to each of these peoples, and to many others. Where possible, representatives were lured to Berlin, and, if thought useful, were provided with funds. Missions, sometimes accompanied by Germans, were sent wherever they could be sent with safety. On the negative side the effort had some success, and existing discontent was sedulously fomented. But on the positive side there was little gain, for the Germans were seldom able to persuade the actual or tentative rebels that their future position would be any better under the domination of Germany.
- (P. C. M.)
- Secrets of Crewe House, by Sir Campbell Stuart (London, 1920), gives an account of Lord Northcliffe's undertaking.